Why do water pipes burst and how you can stop them bursting?

Published November 5, 2019

Read time 3 mins

Burst water pipes are one of the most common home insurance claims that homeowners make, but what causes them to burst? And, more importantly, how can you prevent the pipes in your property from bursting?

A burst pipe is usually the result of changes in temperature. When water freezes in a pipe, it can expand inside the pipe and cause it to burst. The pipe then begins to leak when the water thaws out. That means that, while the pipe will burst when the water temperature dives below freezing, you may not notice it until it begins to rise again.

Which pipes can burst?

A burst pipe can happen anywhere in your property where water flows, including the hot water pipes. In fact, warm water can freeze faster than cold water, so the hot water pipes can pose a greater risk. Plastic pipes are also at risk of bursting, but much less so than their copper counterparts. Since they are more flexible than copper pipes, they can usually withstand greater pressure, but they still become a risk when they become more brittle in cold temperatures.

How do you know if your pipes are frozen?

If any of your pipes become frozen, you might notice one of several giveaway signs. If you notice a strange smell coming from your drain or faucet and there’s very little water coming out of your taps, this can be a good indicator that the pipe is frozen. You also need to be aware of the air temperature dropping below freezing and keep an eye out for any signs of frost on the outside of the pipes.

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    How to insulate your water pipes

    The best way to prevent a burst pipe is to ensure your pipes are well insulated. One of the most common ways to do this is by using traditional pipe wrap insulation. Pipe wrap insulation comes in a number of different materials, including foam and foil, bubble wrap and flexible foam with rubber backing. Resistance to air flow is measured by the insulation’s R-value, where the higher the R-value, the more effective the insulation will be.

    What to do if a water pipe bursts

    If you find yourself with burst water pipe, you’ll probably want to make a claim on your home insurance. Almost all home insurance policies cover burst water pipes and water damage, but you may want to check yours ahead of the winter weather.

    Water damage claims can be long and complicated, but you don’t have to handle it alone. You’re entitled to use a Loss Assessor service to help you through the entire claims process if you wish, and this can alleviate much of the stress. As well as liaising with your Insurer and any Claims Adjusters, a Loss Assessor will help make sure your home is returned to normal as quickly as possible and support you through the process.

    Click here to find out more about our Loss Assessor services for burst pipe claims or see how we’ve helped other homeowners with their burst pipes here.

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