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Protecting your home from winter weather

Periods of cold winter weather place pressure on the Council's Housing Repairs and Improvements Service. By following some simple tips you can help make sure that avoidable repairs are minimised and staff are available to respond to emergency repairs.

Avoiding winter damage

Long periods of cold weather can cause damage to your home.

The most common cause of damage is when household pipes freeze up and burst, causing water leaks. There are some simple things you can do to stop pipes freezing.

  • Check you know how to use the heating system properly, and where your stop valves are. If you don't know give our Repairs Centre a call and they can tell you.
  • Keep the heat in. Fit draught proofing, insulate your home and lag your pipes.
  • Keep your heating on overnight at a low temperature so pipes won't freeze - simply turn your thermostat down to 15c.
  • Repair dripping taps helps prevent freezing pipes, and so does salt placed in the waste traps of sinks, baths, basins and toilets.
  • If you're leaving your house unoccupied for more than a few days in winter, ask the Repairs Centre to turn off the water and drain the plumbing. Leave keys with a trusted friend/neighbour and, if you can, leave your heating on while you are away. If you do this ensure pre-payment meters have enough credit.

If pipes do freeze:

  • If pipes which are part of the hot water system become frozen turn off or extinguish the source of heat (immersion heather, gas boiler, coal fire back boiler).
  • Turn off the supply of water at the stop valve.
  • Before attempting to thaw the pipe remove or protect anything which might be damaged if the pipe bursts.
  • Gently heat the frozen section of pipe using a fan heater, hairdryer, hot water bottle or heated cloths wrapped round the pipe.

If pipes burst:

  • Turn off the water at the main stop valve in the house. Turn on the taps. Switch off the boiler and switch off the immersion or water heating systems (extinguish your coal fire if you use a back boiler).
  • Turn off the electrical supply (electricity and water is a bad combination).
  • Contact the Repairs Centre on 01738 476000.
  • Warn neighbours if they are likely to be affected.
  • If water is coming through the ceiling, collect it in buckets/containers and move items likely to be damaged.

Please be aware that if you fail to take reasonable precautions to prevent burst pipes you may be held responsible for the damage caused to the property. Your neighbours may also have a claim against you for any damage to their property and contacts caused by the burst pipe.

You should always make sure you have adequate insurance to cover your household goods and personal belongings. The Council's insurance for your property only covers the structure and fittings owned by us, you need your own insurance to make sure your contents, including carpets and re-decorating costs, are also covered. Take a quick look around your home now and add up the cost if you needed to replace all your clothes, or all your electrical goods.  You need insurance which will cover the replacement of all those things if your pipes burst.