Winter Drainage Guide: How to stop pipes freezing in winter

Every season presents its own unique challenges when it comes to maintaining the health of your property’s drains – and winter is arguably the most challenging season of all. As temperatures plummet, and heavy rainfall and ice damage become a greater risk, it is important to ensure that your drains are properly prepared to prevent frozen pipes and the damage they can cause.

Whether you are a homeowner or a business owner, you will need to know how to keep your external drain and water pipes from freezing, and how to keep your wastewater systems flowing clearly. If you do not take the right precautions, the risk of frozen and burst pipes will increase, as well as cracks and blockages that can lead to flooding and costly damage to your property.

In order to help prevent the risk of frozen pipes in winter, Lanes has put together this Winter Drainage Guide, explaining all of the steps you can take to keep your property’s drainage safe against the harsh effects of the winter weather.

How does winter weather affect pipes and drains?

Water expands as it freezes – it is a simple rule that holds true even when water is contained within pipes or water tanks, and the expansion of the liquid as it solidifies can place considerable pressure on the structural integrity and stability of the frozen pipe.

As such, when cold weather and sub-zero temperatures hit, it can create a range of problems for your property, especially if you have exposed pipes. As these pipes freeze, the solid masses of ice can create stubborn blockages within the pipe, preventing water from moving through the system and leading to flooding. At worst, the pressure created by the frozen water will lead to a cracked or burst pipe, creating much more significant property damage that can be costly and time-consuming to repair.

The problems caused by blocked and damaged pipes will be aggravated by the increased  amount of rain and snow that tends to fall in winter, as well as the presence of dead leaves, branches and other debris clogging up the system. By failing to prepare your pipes and drains properly in time for the cold weather, you could be at risk of a waterlogged property with serious structural damage, at a time when the weather outside is at its worst.

How to prepare your property against burst drains and frozen pipes this winter

Preparing your property for a forthcoming cold spell is vitally important, but fortunately is not too difficult. Taking precautions against winter weather should be a top priority for any home or business ahead of harsh winter weather, but is particularly essential for properties with:

  • Outdoor taps
  • Swimming pool houses
  • Water sprinkler apparatus
  • Exposed pipes in areas of the property that are not heated, such as garages, outhouses and lofts

By taking the following easy steps, you will be able to protect your pipes from freezing or bursting this winter:

Make sure any drips and leaks have been repaired

As winter approaches, it pays to take a look around your property to inspect all of your taps and amenities to check for any existing leakages on your property; if you find any, these will need to be fixed immediately, as leakages waste water and increase the likelihood of  pipes freezing in the cold air.

Drainage defects can sometimes be repaired using a patch kit, but in most cases it is easier and safer to use the services of a professional – especially if the affected pipes service your heating or water mains.

Drain your outdoor pipes to prepare for winter

You should drain all of the water from pipes that service outdoor water-based appliances that are not going to be used in winter, taking the instructions provided by the manufacturer into account. As a rule, this can be done by shutting off the main water connection to the relevant tap, then allowing the water to run until there is none left.

You should be wary of using antifreeze products – these chemicals can damage pipelines and the environment. If you have any hose pipes located in unheated or outdoor zones of your property, these should also be drained and stored in a warmer area of your home. If you have any taps in these areas, the indoor valves should be closed, but the outdoor ones should be left open; this will allow the water to expand safely, thanks to the lack of pressurisation.

Insulate water pipes to prevent freezing

Insulation is one of the best and most affordable ways of guarding against frost damage to any pipes, drains, cisterns and other water-containing structures that are going to remain in use throughout the winter. Circular polyethylene insulation can be quickly and easily wrapped around any at-risk piping and is available from most DIY stores, while heat tape or cable works well for thinner pipes. 

Insulating your pipes ahead of the winter will help protect them from freezing, while delivering the additional benefit of reducing your energy expenditure.

Clear out your drains and install drain protection

The quickest and easiest way to make sure your drains are operating at peak efficiency over the cooler months is, quite simply, to clean them. Remove any leaves, mud or other detritus from the grate to stop any potential freezing and blocking of your drains.

It can also be a good idea to purchase and fit a drain protector, made out of a non-freeze plastic, to help stop any more dead leaves and other debris from entering the pipes.

Keep your heating switched on at a low level

One of the most common reasons why pipes tend to get damaged during winter is the fact that many property owners choose to switch their heating off while it is not in use. This increases the risk of frozen pipes, but it can be avoided by simply keeping your heating on at a low level throughout the winter months, allowing warm air to circulate.

Although many may be concerned that this will lead to higher energy bills, it should be remembered that stop-start periods of heating and sudden cooling require more energy than maintaining a steady, lukewarm state. The cost of heating the property at a low level should also be weighed against the significant expense and disruption that comes with having to repair burst pipes.

Protect your property from draughts

Small gaps between masonry or under doorways, particularly in the garage, can quickly cool down and freeze any at-risk pipes in the home. To avoid frozen pipes, make sure to plug them up using insulation, wood or plastic, in order to ensure these draughts do not contribute to the risk of pipe freezes.

Bear in mind that you should avoid accidentally blocking any exterior vents, such as those connected to the heating system, unless you do not plan on using this appliance at all over the winter.

Arrange a drain inspection

The easiest way to make sure you have properly prepared for all of the risks winter can bring is to arrange a professional drain inspection. By calling on expert drain surveyors, you will be able to establish whether your pipes have any preexisting leaks, damage or blockages, and ensure they have been properly cleaned out to get them into the best possible working condition.

By getting in touch with Lanes, we will be able to thoroughly check the condition of your property and take any actions needed to address any current maintenance issues. We will also provide you with recommendations and guidance on any additional steps you can take to keep your home guarded against the damage that can be caused when pipes freeze in winter.

Taking a vigilant approach to protecting your property means you will have no regrets during the chilliest time of the year. To find out more, just give Lanes a call on 0800 526 488 – we can be reached 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

If you’d rather speak to someone right away, call our 24/7 team on 0800 526 488.

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