'MOT' Your Home

Burst pipe the most feared emergency, says AA

preparing your home for winter

18 November 2010

At this time of year, many motorists take their car in for a pre-winter check to help it withstand the months of cold, damp weather. But how many people ever think to do the same for their most valuable asset – their home?

a burst pipe is the most common call-out during winter According to the AA's Home Emergency Response experts, a burst pipe is the most common call-out during winter. Last year, homeowners faced an average bill of £343 for home emergencies, as a result of winter weather* but the total cost of a burst pipe incident often far exceeds this.

The damage and distress it would cause also makes a burst pipe the most feared emergency – either in the home or on the road – with more than three-quarters (76%) of 18,251 AA members in a recent AA/Populus poll** rating it one of the worst imaginable scenarios.

Tom Stringer, Head of Home Rescue for the AA, says: "A burst pipe needn't be such a worry, though. Help yourself by spending an hour giving your home a basic 'MOT' – as with your car, it does make a difference and could save you from the cost and distress of a household emergency."

Internal checks on your home

As well as checking pipes for missing insulation to help prevent a burst pipe, there are a number of other quick and easy steps to prepare the home for winter. If you have a gas-fired boiler, get it serviced regularly to make sure it's up to the demands of a long winter; bleed radiators to improve their efficiency; check windows for any draughts and seal as necessary; and make sure you know where your mains water stop valve is – it's normally under the sink or stairs.

External checks on your home

Just as you would walk round and check your tyres, lights and wiper blades on your car, it will pay for homeowners to do a visual check from ground level of their roof for any missing or broken tiles and guttering for signs of overflowing; clear drain gratings and check walls for any cracks that could let water seep in.

Stringer says: "The checks are all common sense and easy to do but with Christmas on the horizon, they are easily overlooked. If you haven't got the time or are unsure what to do, call for professional assistance."

Preparing your home for winter

Tips from AA Home Emergency Response on how to prepare your home for winter

If in any doubt, seek professional advice and assistance.

Interior of the home

  • Get your boiler serviced regularly by a qualified Gas Safe-registered engineer – if it's due its annual service soon, get it booked in before the weather gets really cold
  • If you regularly use an open fire or log-burning stove, get the chimney swept
  • Familiarise yourself with the location of your mains water stop valve (it's usually under the sink or stairs), in case you need to shut it off in the event of a burst pipe
  • If you know how to, bleed your radiators, as air pockets reduce their efficiency
  • Check pipes and water tank for missing insulation and arrange replacement if necessary
  • Check windows and doors for draughts – fit draught excluders or repair seals as necessary
  • When required, wipe condensation off windows to help prevent build-up of mould and damp – consider buying a de-humidifier if the problem is persistently bad
  • If your home is going to be empty for a while (for more than a few days) or if you have a second property, keep the thermostat set to low, to stop temperature dropping too low
  • Make sure you have adequate home insurance cover on your home
  • Keep a torch and spare batteries in a convenient place and have emergency contact numbers to hand, including home emergency response supplier or numbers for a local plumber, electrician and gas engineer.

Exterior of the home

  • Walk round and do a visual check of the roof for any missing tiles or damage
  • Check guttering from ground level by looking for signs of water overflowing during heavy rain. Get someone in to rectify if you're not confident on a ladder
  • Check exterior walls for any damage that could let water in and inspect windows for cracked panes – arrange repair work as necessary
  • Make sure that brick air vents are clear from obstruction
  • Clear as necessary any drain gratings and pathways
  • Consider purchasing sand/salt and shovel to clear driveways and paths
  • Turn off and drain external water taps and store garden hoses in a frost-free place
  • Lubricate external locks and padlocks with a water dispersant
  • If in any doubt, seek professional advice and assistance

The AA also has comprehensive motoring advice to help prevent a breakdown this winter.

Join the discussion in the AA zone


18 November 2010

* Source: Daily Telegraph, 1 February 2010

** Populus received 18,251 responses from AA members to its online poll between 15-23 October 2010. The question that ranked a burst pipe by far the most feared emergency was based on a pre-determined list of five scenarios: three in the home and two on the road.