Planning ahead

Damage caused by water escaping is one of the most frequent causes of household claims in the winter. Regular maintenance will reap rewards, so;

  • Have a professional plumber check your plumbing joints for leaks. Remember those which are hidden such as on dishwashers and washing machines and keep an eye out for green discolouration on copper pipes – this could be a sign of a leak. Pay special attention to plastic plumbing joints as they erode quicker than metal ones.
  • Review your insulation to protect your pipes from freezing.
  • Prevent your water supply stopcock from stiffening by testing it from time to time.
  • Carry out regular inspections of water tank ball valves for signs of erosion.

Leaving your property vacant

If you're leaving your home vacant for an extended period of time over the winter months, consider the following:

  • Don't lower the heating too much. It may save on the heating bill, but is it worth the risk of a frozen pipe? Leave your central heating on low at around 15°c to prevent existing water from freezing.
  • Alternatively, particularly in the event of an extended absence from your home, you could drain the plumbing system entirely. If you're considering doing this, you should seek professional advice.
  • Make sure that pipes in unheated areas like lofts and, where accessible, under floor spaces are insulated with high quality foam lagging.
  • Have someone keep an eye on your home, who knows where the stopcock is, should they find a leak.

Watch out for frozen pipes

Tell-tale signs of a frozen pipe include no water coming from the tap, frost or ice on the outside of the pipe and if the pipe is bulging. If you act fast, a frozen pipe doesn't always mean a burst pipe:

  • Turn off the stopcock.
  • Remove any furniture or equipment from the area, which may get damaged by the water.
  • Open the tap closest to the area and begin gently warming the tap with a hairdryer or hot water bottle, starting from the end closest to the tap and working away from the faucet.
  • Remember, although damage to pipes occurs when they freeze, bursts only become apparent when the pipe begins to thaw.

In the event of a burst pipe

If it's apparent that a pipe in your home has burst, you should:

  • Turn off the stopcock and drain the system by opening taps in baths and sinks.
  • Seek professional advice.

Find out more

For more information on how you can prepare your properties for severe winter conditions, see:

Planning ahead can help reduce the chance of your home being damaged by storm and floods. Here are some steps you can take in the event of a storm or flood warning that you can also pass onto your clients.
Flood preparation

  • Create an emergency plan for your property and your family – if there is a flood, what do you need to do and who do you need to contact?
  • Prepare a ‘flood pack’ to include a torch, first aid kit, warm clothes, blankets and water and make sure your mobile phone is fully charged.
  • Make sure your insurance documents and any other important contact details are in a safe dry place.
  • Subscribe to the Floodline direct warnings service provided by Environment Agency (EA) and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). You can sign up to receive free advance flood warning messages direct to your landline or mobile phone, which will alert you when a flood warning message has been issued for your local area.

When a flood hits

  • Listen to local radio or search the internet for up-to-date information on the flooding situation in your area.
  • If you fear flooding, move your car to a sheltered area if you can do so safely. Never start the engine if your car is or has been flooded before it has been checked by a professional.
  • Move property from lower floors to higher levels but do not risk hurting yourself.
  • Be prepared to turn off essential supplies – gas, electricity and water – at the mains.
  • Have sandbags ready to block doors. Some councils provide these for ‘at risk’ homes or they can normally be obtained from building supplies retailers.
  • Listen to the advice of the authorities and follow any instructions they give to leave property.
  • If you are told to wait for the rescue service please do so. Flooded streets can be dangerous in ways that you cannot immediately see.
  • Be warned that a small amount of moving water is enough to sweep you off of your feet.
  • Contact your insurer as soon as possible after your property has been damaged. Record as much of the damage as possible by taking pictures using a camera or smartphone.

Storm advice

  • Prevention is always better than cure, so check in advance for problems such as loose roof tiles and have repairs made if you need to.
  • Listen to local radio or search the internet for the latest information and updates on the situation in your area.
  • Put away garden furniture and any other items kept outside that might get blown around and cause damage.
  • Secure gates, fences and shed doors.
  • Be ready to turn off essential supplies – gas, electricity and water – at the mains, so make sure you know how to do this.
  • Prepare an ‘emergency pack’ to include a torch, first aid kit, warm clothes, blankets and water and make sure your mobile phone is fully charged.
  • If your property has been affected, contact your insurer as soon as possible. Taking photographs of the damaged items is helpful and can help to settle claims quickly.

Find out more 

Government flood warning information:
Allianz resources:

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