Winter plumbing problems - top tips for prevention

rain gutter full of autumn...

There's nothing like getting warm and cosy in your own home on a cold winter's evening, but a burst pipe or blocked drain can soon turn things into a nightmare. Proper preparation will ensure that your home stays problem-free no matter what the weather throws at us this year.

Gutters and drains
Now that the evenings are dark and the weather less favourable, it's tempting to put outside jobs on hold. But autumn debris such as leaves can quickly clog up drains and gutters, which could cause a problem down the line. Too much clutter can also lead to ice forming in frosty weather, and that could lead to a break or worse. Ahead of the worst of the weather, clear out leaves and other debris, and if necessary install gutter guards to help prevent further build-up.

Pipes and tanks
If the weather turns cold as it did two years ago, cracked or burst pipes are a real danger. Check pipes and water tanks (don't forget the loft, basement and any pipes outdoors), to ensure that they're properly insulated, ideally with lagging that is at least 50mm thick. If pipes in the loft are particularly prone to freezing or bursting, consider leaving the door open every now and then to allow warm air to rise up and minimise the risk. It is also worth checking to see that there aren't any as yet unnoticed leaks in your loft. Even a small leak can turn into a big problem if left, so check flashing for any possible imperfections and flat roofs for problematic puddles.

Boiler breakdown
There's nothing much worse than finding you've got no hot water and the central heating has packed up. According to British Gas, a boiler breaks down every 20 seconds. Without cover you could be faced with a bill in excess of £185.00. Get yourself some insurance or alternatively pay a one-off, up-front fee to your supplier. Always check your engineer is Gas Safe registered.

Get rid of grease... properly
You might have your roasting pans at the ready for Christmas, but do take extra care over cooking grease and oil. It's more likely to solidify and clog up your plumbing when the weather is cold, so avoid a clogged sink by pouring excess fat, grease and oil into a plastic tub and allowing it to cool before you chuck it in the bin.

Lastly, if you are going away this winter, it's a good idea to either leave your heating on very, very low, or set the timer, even if it is just for half an hour a day, to reduce the risk of central heating problems. Alternatively, ask a friend or relative to pop in every now and again to check your home is free of leaks.

Have you had a winter plumbing problem? What advice would you give to others? Leave your comments below...
Tips to Keep Your Pipes from Freezing