Why water pipes burst in winter and what you can do about it

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You’re ready to give the cold winter months the boot when the burst water pipe in your house becomes the straw that broke the camel’s back. Santam has dealt with many instances of frozen or burst pipes which cause leaks and result in loss or damage to, property, buildings, and contents. Most insurers regard burst water pipes as an annual occurrence that is widely regarded as preventable.


“The cold weather has nearly everything to do with a burst pipe. The increased risk of frost and freezing weather conditions can cause exposed pipes to burst or leak. Most pipes are unable to withstand the increased pressure of the water within the pipes which expands when it is frozen,” explains Santam risk manager, Marius Steyn.


While geyser claims are usually the most frequent types of claims Santam receives during the winter months, burst water pipes are often among the most common homeowner claims to occur.


Here’s some advice from Santam’s underwriting team on how to prevent burst water pipes in winter:


  • Letting the water slowly drip from each tap prevents the water from freezing and the increased pressure from ice which would have built up from damaging the pipes; 
  • Complete regular maintenance and improvements to ensure that the plumbing and insulation is in order; 
  • Thermal insulation of pipes will significantly reduce the risk however consider that this would only be effective for exposed pipes; and
  • If you are away from home rather drain all the water from the pipes by closing the main water valve and open each tap to drain all the water. This will prevent any unwanted water or electricity wasted which would otherwise help to prevent frozen pipes from bursting. 


If you suspect that you’ve suffered water damage as a result of burst pipes, you can take the following action: 


  • Turn off your water at the mains by shutting off the main stopcock. This will stop the flow of water into the house and prevent any more water coming into the pipes that would lead to further damage;
  • Switch off your main electrical supply, especially if any electrical sockets could be exposed to water;
  • Report the incident to Santam’s 24/7 SOS and claims line (0860 505 911).  A plumber will need to be dispatched in order to restore water flow, make any repairs needed and install any insulation required. 


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