Top tips to avoid frozen pipes

In winter, when the temperature drops, there is an increased risk of frozen pipes, which can cause leaks and flooding in your rental property. A burst pipe can be catastrophic, leading to thousands of pounds worth of damage and major inconvenience for you and your tenants.

Here, we look at why pipes freeze, provide our top tips to avoid frozen pipes and offer advice if, despite your best efforts, the pipes in your rental property freeze.

Pipes usually have small amounts of water in them, even when the taps are not turned on. When the temperature dips below freezing, the water in the pipes freezes and its molecules expand, taking up more space than when they were in liquid form. This creates pressure inside the pipe which can cause the pipe to burst.

Burst pipes are one of the most common causes of property damage, particularly in the winter. At Hamilton Fraser Total Landlord Insurance, 34 per cent of all claims paid out since 2008 have been for escape of water, defined as ‘when water has entered the property by the mains water supply and caused damage e.g. a burst pipe’. This is two and a half times more claims than the next most common claim type.

Some pipes are more at risk of freezing than others; those in unheated interior spaces such as the cellar, loft or garage, for example, are more likely to freeze. But in extremely cold temperatures, or if a property is left vacant and unheated, even pipes running through cabinets or interior walls can freeze.

Fortunately, there are a number of simple steps you can take avoid frozen pipes in your rental property, lowering the risk of a burst pipe and the devastation that can cause.

When cold weather is forecast, follow our top tips to avoid frozen pipes.

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1. Insulate pipes and water tanks

Insulate water tanks and lag pipes. You can buy lagging material from most 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.

If the water tank is in the loft, make sure the loft is insulated so that the tank doesn’t get too cold and cause the water to freeze. If this happens it can expand and cause the tank to split. When the ice thaws, the water will leak.

2. Check insulation in any property that is likely to be unoccupied for long periods

The interior ceilings, walls and floors should feel warm and dry.

If they feel damp the likelihood is that there is not enough insulation. You can check whether you need more insulation in the loft by looking at the floor.

If the insulation level is at or below the top of the floor joists, you probably need to add more insulation.

Top tips to avoid frozen pipes