Freezing temperatures can cause damage to water pipes, both at home and in the wider water supply network. On this page, we’ve outlined the simple things we can all do to reduce the risk of pipes freezing or bursting, and the steps you can take to make sure you get the right support from your water company should anything go wrong.
Preparing for winter
- Find your stop tap – knowing where it is can help you turn your water off if you need to. The stop tap is usually located under the kitchen sink, but could be somewhere else in the house (even outside).
- Lag any exposed pipes, and cover outside taps with a tap cover.
- Protect water tanks, cisterns and boilers with insulating jackets.
- Fix any dripping taps.
- Have the number of a registered plumber handy.
Signs there may be a frozen pipe
- There is no running water, or only a trickle.
- If there is frost on a visible pipe, such as a water pipe in the outside of your home. This is more difficult to spot on pipes that may be hidden.
- Odd smells? If a pipe is blocked because it’s frozen it may cause unpleasant smells coming from the taps or drains.
- The boiler or central heating won’t switch on, or make gurgling sounds when in use.
What to do if a pipe freezes
- Turn off your water supply at the stop tap and switch off your immersion heater (if you have one) and central heating.
- Leave the cold tap on so thawed water can escape (don’t forget to close the tap after it’s been thawed).
- Use a hairdryer (on warm), hot water bottle or a heated cloth wrapped around the pipe to thaw it slowly. Never use a naked flame or blow torch.
- Contact a registered plumber before your pipes burst.
What to do if a pipe bursts
- Turn off your water supply at the stop tap if you haven’t done so already, and make sure your central heating boiler or immersion heater is turned off.
- Turn on all the taps inside your home to reduce the risk of flooding, and use towels to soak up any water that has leaked. Remember to turn the taps back off before you turn on the stop tap.
- You must call in a professional plumber to sort out any burst pipes.
- Get in touch with your insurance provider and take photos or videos of the damage.
If you find yourself with no water
Water companies should be working to restore your water supply as soon as possible, but it’s still worth calling to let them know you’ve been cut off. You can find contact details for your water company here.
If you need extra assistance
All water companies in England and Wales have schemes which allow customers to register for free additional support so that – whatever their circumstances – they have appropriate access to water and sewerage services.
If water supplies are interrupted during icy or snowy conditions, not everyone is able to leave home to get to a water company’s bottled water collection point, or to carry bottles of water home. By signing up to your water company’s Priority Services Register you can ask for bottled water to be delivered to your door. That’s just one of a number of additional free services you can access through these schemes – our information note can tell you more.
WaterSafe – to find your nearest accredited plumbing business.
Met Office – to keep an eye on the latest weather warnings.
Met Office weather ready advice – for further advice to get you ready for winter.