How to prevent water damage

by Adrian Waters

The most common form of water damage to homes is through burst pipes, caused either through freezing, general wear or accidental damage. The amount of damage caused through a burst pipe, especially if your home is unoccupied whilst you are away on holiday, can be devastating.

Frozen pipes

In many cases the damage caused by burst pipes can run into thousands of pounds. However, the heartache of a burst pipe can be avoided by taking some simple precautions.

It is important to keep an even temperature around the home. In really cold weather removing the trap door will allow hot air to get into the roof space. Opening the doors to the sink unit will also allow warmer air to circulate around the pipes.

Experience has shown that most frozen pipes are found in the roof space and below sink units. If you discover a frozen pipe it is best to thaw it out slowly by using hot water bottles over the frozen area or towels soaked in warm water.

Do not attempt to use direct heat such as a blow torch. This may cause permanent damage to the pipes and could lead to a fire in the home.

Dealing with a burst

If you discover a burst pipe, early action can minimise damage to your home. The first step is to turn off the mains water supply by turning the stopcock clockwise.

Stopcocks are usually located in the working kitchen, generally below the sink unit. In some cases they may also be found in the front or rear hall or in larder units adjacent to sink units.

If the burst pipe is on the main water system the rush of water should stop, although some water may flow for a short period of time as the pipe empties. If the rush of water does not stop or there is still a constant flow the problem is likely to be in the cold water storage system.

You will need to drain down the cold water storage tank, which is usually located in the roof space, to stop the flow of water. This is a relatively simple operation.

  • Make sure the mains water is turned off at the stopcock.
  • Turn on all the cold water taps and flush the toilet cistern several times.
  • Allow the boiler fire to burn itself out and do not relight until the burst has been repaired.
  • Do not use the water heater as this may cause damage to the hot water cylinder.
  • Do not turn on the water supply at the stopcock until the burst has been repaired.
  • If the water has come into contact with electrical parts the electricity should be turned off at the mains and the fittings then tested at a later date.
  • If you will be away from home for more than a day or two during a cold spell it is advisable to drain the cold water system.

A burst pipe can cause serious damage to your home. Following the above simple steps can help to avoid the misery of a burst.

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