If you own your home, you bear the full responsibility when something goes wrong. Make sure you have sufficient insurance cover in place to protect your home and contents in case of strong winds, snow and ice. Making sure your home is insulated and heated can reduce the risk of water damage in your home during a bad winter.
Weatherproofing the property
The main risk to any property in periods of cold weather is water damage due to burst pipes. You can minimise the chances of damage occurring by taking a few key steps.
- Leave the heating on for certain periods during the day,
- Open any trap doors to ensure warm air can circulate around pipes in the roofspace,
- Keep doors in the property ajar to allow warm air to circulate,
- Keep the cupboard under the sink open,
- Find out where your stopcock is and how to turn it off.
Reduce the risk of pipes freezing by ensuring that you have enough gas or oil to heat the property. Your local council or credit union may run a savings scheme which aims to help you with the cost of heating your home.
If you know you are going to be away from your home during a period of bad weather, think about giving a spare key to a friend, family member or neighbour who can keep an eye on the property if the weather takes a change for the worse.
Be prepared and be insured
Check your home insurance policy to make sure that you are sufficiently covered. Check if there are any clauses relating to weather damage that could make it harder for you to make a claim or if there are any clauses that mean the company may not pay out if you haven’t taken the necessary precautions.
Make sure you’re covered for damage to the structure of the building, fittings, furnishings and other consumables such as electronics.
NI Water has produced a useful video which shows you how to find your stopcock.
Dealing with frozen or burst pipes
If your pipes do freeze, you will need to act quickly to reduce the risk of them bursting. You should
- turn the water supply off at the stopcock
- try to thaw the pipes, by placing warm towels or a hot water bottle on them or using a hairdryer on its lowest setting. Pipes must be thawed slowly, never use a blowtorch or exposed flame.
If the worst happens and the pipes burst, you should
- turn the water supply off at the stopcock,
- try to stop any escaping water with blankets, buckets or towels,
- turn off your central heating, immersion heater and any other water heating systems,
- drain the system by turning on all your taps and flushing the toilet several times,
- check if there is a risk of electrocution and switch of the mains electricity supply if there is
- inform any neighbours who may be affected.
Emergency contact details
If your water or electricity supply has been affected, you should contact NI Water on 0845 744 0088 and PowerNI on 08457 643 643.
If your property has been damaged you should contact your insurer as soon as possible to report the problem.
Try to find a tradesperson who can deal with the situation, but remember you should only carry out temporary, emergency repairs without your insurer’s consent. Usually, the insurance company will want an adjuster to carry out an inspection of the property before authorising any payments. Insurance claims can take a long time to process, so it may be some time before your home is back to normal.