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Winter in Devon

Water ingress or leaks are a real and very present danger to any property and can cause a headache for homeowners. In this owner advice article, Andrew Exelby provides some helpful hints about how to prevent pipes from bursting at your holiday home during the colder months.


How to avoid your property’s pipes burstingBurst pipes at your holiday home

Insurance companies see that one in four domestic claims are for “escape of water”. The damage caused by water can cost hundreds, possibly thousands to repair, depending on the location of the leak, the amount of water and the time over which the leak has been going on. 

When the mercury begins to dip, many homeowners can see more problems arising –darker days and nights with increased rainfall and potential for frost are not ideal for routine maintenanceBuild a plan with works broken down into bite-size chunks and keep an eye on the weather forecast for dry periods where smaller jobs can be completed – this will save time, hassle and money overall. 

Whenever we experience a cold snap, it raises the question of “Will my pipes freeze?” – further to that “Will my pipes burst?”. It is a possibility, so here are some ways we suggest you protect your property from the risk of flooding. 


Install pipe laggingLag your pipes to protect them during colder months

Foam sleeves known as pipe lagging are readily available in most hardware shops, and is also easily installed. If your pipes are hidden, obviously this job becomes more complex, but in essence, by putting a foam jacket around the central heating or water supply pipes, you are insulating them. This extra padding will allow them to retain any warmth and stop them from getting cold to the point of freezing.  


Keep your (central) heating onRadiator controls

In order to retain some heat in the property and most importantly in the heating system or the pipes internally, we would recommend keeping your heating running through the winter months. By maintaining a steady temperature of approximately 13 degrees Celsius, the property’s pipework will never drop to the point where sub-zero temperatures could cause them to freeze and potentially burst. While this results in heating costs, it obviously helps avoid damage, repairs and an awful lot of stress. 


Turn your water supply off and drain the system

If you would prefer not to keep your property heated throughout winter, another way to minimise the risk of flooding is to stop the water supply to your property via the stop tap and then drain the water in your property’s pipes. With no water circulating in the system, your pipes and heating system will sit dormant, but safe from freezing. Of course, maintaining a consistent and steady warmth of around 13 degrees Celsius would always be our recommendation – it not only means you are far less likely to have burst pipes, but also keeps traditionally built properties dry and in good health. 


Arrange for checks to be done regularly

If you are not next door to your holiday home, it is really crucial that there is somebody nearby who is able to attend your property and inspect it every two to three weeks. Many insurance companies will insist that this regular check is done through quieter months. Having a housekeeper or a caretaker who can visit every week or fortnight just to check a short list of things will put your mind at ease and potentially save you a lot of heartache and damage. 

Similarly, keep your heating system repairs and maintenance up to date – annually should be enough unless you are working with an older, less reliable boiler. If your boiler is more than fifteen years old, it is well worth looking around at the various replacement deals – a more efficient boiler will use less fuel and thereby save you money! 


What if my pipes freeze?

If you suspect your pipes have frozen, the first course of action is to locate and turn off your internal stop tap – this should limit the volume of water flowing through the system and which might escape in the event of a pipe bursting. Similarly, if you have a tank in your roof space and this has a tap, turn it off! Switch off your central heating and spend some time looking for any visible cracking or damage to pipes you can access. Pipes can be in walls and under floors, so they can’t always be accessed easily. If you are in any doubt or you find damage to your pipes, call in a plumber. 

If no damage is visible and you feel confident, you can try to thaw the pipes, get some towels and buckets so that you are preparedIt is also worth moving any furniture or valuable items near the frozen pipes which could be damaged if water escapesOpen any taps close to the area where the pipes may have frozen, this will help relieve pressure when the pipe thaws and will allow the water out safely. To identify a frozen pipe, look for a bulge in the pipe. When you are ready to start thawing any sections, warm the pipes slowly and gently using a hot water bottle or a hairdryer – never use a naked flame! 

Once you are certain that the pipe has thawed and there is no leak, you can turn your water supply back on, but if you are in any doubt, please contact a plumber for help.


What’s the Damage?

In one day, if left, a burst water pipe can mean that your holiday home has up to 48 bathtubs of water emptied into it – that is approximately 9600 litres of water!  


Further holiday let advice.

For more useful tips for holiday homeowners, head over to our Owner Advice blog. If you are considering letting your cottage with us, please visit Let Your Cottage.