Big Freeze Plays Havoc With Plumbing

AA home insurance highlights £15m claims bill

16 January 2009

thick frost on a car's windscreen wipers

£15m claims in pipeline as big freeze plays havoc with plumbing

The unusually cold start to the year is playing havoc with household plumbing, leading to a 50 per cent increase in home floods caused by frozen pipes, according to AA Home Insurance.

Homeowners have lodged more than £15 million1 in claims nationwide after recent icy weather froze water in pipes, causing them to burst and flood their homes.

AA comment

"After a decade of mostly mild winters it's easy to forget the threat posed to your home by freezing pipes," says Simon Douglas, Director of AA Insurance. "The cold snap is a reminder that burst pipes can cause serious water damage to both buildings and contents such as carpets and furniture. As well as dealing with an insurance claim, you face the major hassle of drying out and repairing your home.

"The good news is that you can reduce the risk by taking some simple precautions to stop pipes from freezing. This is especially important if you go away on holiday, and can save you from returning to a nasty – and damp – surprise."

'Escape of water' inside the home is the single biggest cause of home insurance claims2, accounting for around one in five claims in a normal year. Claims peak in winter due to freezing. Pipes most exposed to the cold are a particular risk, including those supplying outdoor taps and plumbing in unheated basements, lofts and exterior walls.

According to the Association of British Insurers, burst domestic pipes resulted in £80 million in insurance claims during 2007. The total for the whole of last winter was around £30 million.

AA insurance tips to prevent frozen pipes

  • In cold weather, check all your taps from time to time. If little or no water flows there may be frozen water in the pipes
  • Know where to find your stopcock! Then you can cut off the flow of water if a pipe starts leaking. AA research has shown that one in three homeowners don't know where their stopcock is
  • Insulate pipes that are most exposed to freezing and don't forget corners and elbows of pipework – they tend to be the most exposed. You can find supplies at DIY stores
  • If you go away, leave central heating on 'tickover' (by setting the thermostat low) to prevent freezing – don't turn it off
  • Ask a neighbour, friend or relative to check your home while you are away – this will ensure burst pipes are spotted early and any damage is minimised
  • Turn off any indoor valves on pipes that lead to taps outside your home. Then open the outside tap and leave it open to let any water drain. This ensures there is no water in the pipes to freeze
  • Have your central heating system checked and serviced regularly – a leaking radiator valve can also cause water damage


1Source: Association of British Insurers

2Although 'accidental damage' accounts for more claims, this broad category covers a wide range of different mishaps. 'Escape of water' is therefore the biggest single cause of claims.

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20 January 2009