Winter is well and truly upon us, and with the freezing temperatures, heavy rainfall, wind and snow comes a raft of hazards for both homes and business premises, some of them made all the worse due to lockdown-induced unoccupancy.
If you are looking for advice on keeping your property protected this winter and safe from the perils of frozen pipes, water escape and other potentially costly and devastating issues, the advice that follows should prove helpful.
Escape of water: why you need to be on your guard
Escape of water damage, which can be caused by the likes of frozen pipes bursting, blockages or faulty appliances, is one of the most common types of domestic property damage claims. Insurers pay out £1.8 million for it every day, according to The Association of British Insurers (ABI).
According to AXA, there is a significant increase in burst pipes during freezing conditions. When water freezes, it expands. This can lead to pipes splitting or bursting, causing leaks as soon as the ice thaws. When temperatures plummet, this can be a particularly prevalent problem which needs proper monitoring.
Checking for leaks on a regular basis is essential, especially at this time of year. It is particularly important if you are now working from home and need to protect the business equipment that is vital for your job, and quite simply cannot afford to lose access to your home-based workspace.
If you own a holiday home that’s been empty for some time, either generally because you don’t use it during the winter, or because of lockdown or tier restrictions, it’s even more vital to make whatever arrangements you can to protect and monitor it, in line with current COVID safety guidelines of course.
Where to check for water leaks
There are a number of places to check for leaks. The most common are:
- Under the kitchen sink
- Around the back of toilets and cisterns
- Radiator joints (look for rust)
- The back or underneath of appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers
Also look for damp patches on walls and ceilings, and be mindful of temperamental heating and low water pressure which can all be warning signs of water escape.
How to prevent water escape in winter
The following will help you reduce the risk of frozen and burst pipes during the winter months:
Protect your pipes – ensure your water pipes and tanks are adequately insulated. Anything that’s exposed is more likely to freeze. Avoid insulating below the water tank however, as this can prevent the heating system warming it.
Run your heating system regularly – set your heating system to between 12 and 15 degrees Celsius for a set period each day. This will maintain a constant temperature, which is especially important if the property is unoccupied.
Keep the air circulating – if you are leaving your property empty, open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors and wardrobe doors, and leave the loft hatch open too. This will keep warm air circulating where it’s needed most.
Consider a leak protection system – these systems are designed to detect excessive water flow or escaping moisture and will automatically shut down your water supply when they do. Ideal for unoccupied properties.
Repairing water damage
Research by Public Health England has shown that the effects of a large claim for escape of water can cause the same distress as a flood, with homeowners forced to leave their homes for prolonged periods and damage to property and possessions considerable.
Even small leaks can cause significant damage if they are not detected early on. Repairing water damage is costly and takes time. Pumps and dehumidifiers often need to be installed, remedial repairs will be required, and flooring and furnishings will usually have to be replaced. If items of value, heirlooms or collectibles are damaged and are irreplaceable, this is likely to cause a great deal of upset.
The older and larger the property, the more at risk it will be. Ageing pipework is more prone to corrosion, which increases the risk of pipes bursting unless you take the appropriate precautions. The larger the property, the more likely it is for leaks to go unnoticed.
In the event of water escape at your property, your priority should always be to stem the flow. Always be aware of the location of your stopcock so you can shut the water off in an emergency.
If you have insurance cover through Robert Gerrard, we will guide you through the next steps to take following a water leak. Simply get in touch with your usual contact for the advice you need.