Avoid frozen or burst pipes

Find out how to protect the pipes in your home in freezing weather and who to call if the worst does happen.

frozen and burst copper pipe

Who to call if you need help

Emergency plumber - WaterSafe
In an emergency, use this website to find an industry-approved plumber in your area.

For pipes outside your property, contact your water supplier
If you have a frozen or burst pipe outside your property boundary, your water company will help. Here's a list of suppliers.

How to avoid frozen and burst pipes

  • Insulate water tanks and lag pipes (lagging material is available from all good DIY stores). Make sure there are no gaps at bends, valves or fittings.
  • Pay special attention to water tanks and pipes in unheated areas like loft spaces and garages, and check insulation in any property likely to be unoccupied for long periods.
  • Fix dripping taps - even a small trickle can result in a frozen pipe.
  • Find your property's internal stopcock or valve and make sure you can turn it off if necessary. Most stopcocks are fitted under the kitchen sink and close by turning clockwise.
  • Check your boiler has been serviced.
  • Minimise draughts from outside and close doors and windows to unheated parts of the property.
  • If you have tanks or pipes in the roof space, open the loft hatch to allow warm air to circulate.
  • Leave the heating on low when you are away and get a friend or neighbour to check the property regularly.
  • Keep a separate supply of drinking water for emergencies.
  • If a property is going to be unoccupied for long periods, turn off the water at the stopcock and consider draining down the system so there is no water left in the pipes.

If a pipe freezes...

  • Turn off the water supply at the stopcock.
  • Check to see if the pipe has burst.
  • Slowly thaw the pipe with hot water bottles or a towel soaked in hot water, starting at the end nearest the tap.
  • You can also use a hair-dryer (lowest setting) butNOT a naked flame or blowlamp.

Remember: don't leave taps dripping or running as the water may not drain down the plughole if the pipe below is frozen.

If a pipe bursts...

  • Turn off the water supply at the stopcock.
  • Open all taps to reduce flooding.
  • Soak up/block off escaping water with thick towels.
  • Call a qualified plumber.
  • Turn off taps once pipework is repaired to avoid further flooding.

More advice online

Read the official government advice on the Met Office website.

Watch a video about What makes pipes burst to find out what steps you can take to prevent frozen pipes and how to deal with pipe if they do freeze.

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