Wrap up your home this winter to avoid water leaks

Many of you will be preparing to wrap up warm this winter but, you also need to make sure your house can withstand a cold snap too. Otherwise you might find 2019 gets off to a soggy start if your home has a leak.

Water insurance claims from leaks are hitting a record high, costing insurers nearly half a billion pounds in the first nine months of 2017, while the total cost of these claims grew by 24% compared to the same time period in 2014.1

This jump is due to a variety of reasons. Many homes now boast ensuite or downstairs toilets, as well as two (or more) bathrooms. Some luxury properties have wet rooms, saunas, hot tubs and underfloor heating. All mean more (and more complicated) plumbing and pipework running throughout a house, much of which is hidden from view and therefore more difficult to get to in an emergency.

The average cost of what’s known as escape of water claims has risen by over 30% in recent years to over £2,6002, but for high-value homes they can run into tens, even hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Prestige properties’ high specification mean the cost of repairing the damage and bringing these places back to how they were will be much higher than for most houses. Valuable belongings, including carpets and rugs, artworks and antiques could be damaged and need specialist restoration or storage while repairs are being completed. That work could take weeks, meaning you might need to move into temporary accommodation.

How to prevent leaks 

Be careful of frozen pipes.

It’s good to prepare for any cold snaps by making sure pipes and tanks are lagged, including those in your loft, basements or garage. On bitterly cold days it’s an idea to open the attic or basement doors to let heat from the main house circulate around those rooms, as they’re often where most of your most vulnerable pipework is located.

Don’t turn off your heating.

You might be worried about warming an empty house if you go away, but it can help to prevent the temperature falling to a point where your pipes freeze or burst. Better that than finding yourself ankle deep in water when you get back from your break, which is sure to cost you a lot more.

Phone a friend.

If you choose to escape the wintry weather here to take a break in warmer climes, consider asking a family member, friend or neighbour to pop into your home from time to time to make sure everything’s okay. Also if you’re off on the trip of a lifetime, check your home insurance policy before you go, as some will exclude claims if a home is left unoccupied for certain periods of time.

What to do with a frozen pipe

Fetch hot water and towels.

If you turn on a tap and no water comes out, then it’s likely your pipe is frozen. This can be expensive, as a claim to repair a burst pipe can be as much as £7,500. [2] So switch off your water supply immediately, by turning off your main stopcock (it’s always useful to know where this is in case of emergency). You can try to thaw the pipe by using a hairdryer on its lowest setting, or (if you can find any water) by wrapping a hot water bottle or towel soaked in hot water around the affected area. If you can’t see where the problem lies then call in a plumber, but keep the water turned off until they arrive or the pipes warm up.

Turn your stopcock off and your taps on.

If one of your pipes has burst then you need to act quickly, otherwise a surge in water pressure could quickly turn a leak into a flood. Turn off your water supply and open all your taps to empty the system. If your central heating system is hot-water-filled radiators, then switch it off. If you have emergency call-out cover as part of your home insurance policy then call your insurer. Otherwise, get hold of an emergency plumber. 

You may also want to check whether your home insurance policy provides unlimited trace and access to cover the often expensive cost of finding a leak. Another worthwhile policy feature to look for is pairs and sets cover. This means if a few tiles need to be removed but are no longer available the insurer will pay for a completely new set. 

By making sure your home is well wrapped up against the cold, you can help ensure that your biggest worry is whether this winter will be white, not wet.


[1] https://www.abi.org.uk/news/news-articles/2017/11/water-pressure--tackling-the-rising-costs-of-escape-of-water-claims-must-be-a-key-priority-for-the-industry-says-the-abis-james-dalton/]

[2] https://www.abi.org.uk/news/news-articles/2017/11/worry-less-this-winter--protect-your-home-from-the-misery-of-frozen-and-burst-pipes/