Every winter seems to bring with it news that it looks set the be the coldest in years. The temperatures plummet, the nights draw in, and many businesses find themselves caught out by a cold snap – most often it’s issues with frozen or damaged water pipes.

So what should you be doing to help keep from claiming against your business insurance for damage caused via the cold weather?  The Insurance Octopus has gathered some handy hints and tips to help business across the UK over this coming winter prevent their pipes from seasonal issues..

What can I do to prevent my pipes from freezing? 

The easiest and most effective way to avoid freezing pipes is by keeping your heating on, even if you are not at the premises.  Keeping the temperature set to a minimum keeps the heat flowing through the pipes as a preventative.  Running cold taps regularly and draining any outside taps where possible to prevent the water freezing in sub-zero temperatures can help.

The drainage of taps is particularly important for anyone involved in vacant properties, whether second homes, sales, lettings, or business premises. Keep the heating on its lowest setting or make sure the system and all of its components are fully drained by a professional tradesman or they risk freezing.

Can well-lagged pipes or plastic ones be affected, too? 

Pipes can freeze even if they are well-lagged and insulated.  If there is no heat entering the pipework they run the risk of freezing.  Insulating or lagging is only a barrier not a preventative.

My pipes are frozen solid, what should I do? 

The most important message is to switch the stop-cock off straight away. Then, if you are able, let nature take its course.  Unfortunately, we have to wait for things to warm up! Switch everything off and wait!

If your pipes do freeze, get an experienced tradesman to trace all the pipe work for splits or damage.  If they are not checked correctly, when the weather begins to warm up and the pipes begin to thaw you may have a leak.  

Are there any dangers in trying to thaw them?

DIY thawing is not advisable but people will often try many DIY ways to thaw pipes quickly which run the risk of more damage occurring – examples of which are people setting fires to materials with blowtorches when they have been trying to thaw pipes.

A point to note: If pipes are thawed in this ‘DIY’ way, you will unblock what pressure is in the pipe too.  Copper pipes can easily burst, and if gas is involved you must use a Tradesman on the Gas Safe Register or someone who is Corgi Registered.

How is the cold weather affecting Plumbers & Tradesman?

All tradesman and contractors that are within the plumbing, gas and electricity industry are very busy during the cold spells of the winter months.  Finding a tradesman at such short notice and in an emergency can be costly and distressing and The Insurance Octopus do sympathise with anyone having this problem.

What’s worse would be finding out that you’re not sufficiently covered should this ever happen to you. That’s why The Insurance Octopus recommends you to check that your Insurance policy is fully up to date and that you have the correct level of cover should a emergency of this nature ever happen to you. If you’re unsure of whether your insurance covers you for weather damage, get in touch with our specialists who can help.

What can people do to minimise their plumbing bills?

Consider whether you are really facing an emergency as you will possibly have to pay over the odds and more if it is an out of hours call. If you can manage to take your time and get three quotes for the job you want done you can often save money.

Try to use a tradesman recommended by someone you trust. Ideally use a member of a trade association such as APHC and, even better, one who is a member of a Competent Persons Scheme.

Are there any other pitfalls to consider?

Unfortunately, distraction burglars do take the opportunity presented by cold weather to steal people’s valuables, according to the Trading Standards Institute (TSI).

Criminals are gaining access to people’s homes and premises claiming to be from a water company and looking at frozen pipes. Once they have gained access to the home, they distract the householder and make off with their belongings.

Does my business insurance policy cover me?

You will need to check you policy documents in relation to your business insurance.  Check that you are covered for any ‘risk’ factors.  If you would like to discuss your current business insurance policy or you are looking for a quotation, you can obtain quotes on line here or again call one of our business insurance specialists.

How can my insurance help me at this time?

As mentioned, the most important thing is to make sure your business insurance policy is fully up to date. Make sure the facts are correct and you are covered before anything happens that puts you at risk of financial instability.

Check and double check to make sure your business insurance policy includes all the cover that you require.  There are insurance policies that look fantastic value for money but when you come to claim the policy may not be as comprehensive as you first thought. That’s why it’s important to get comprehensive cover that’s tailored to your business needs.

Should you need to make a claim, ensure you declare this to your insurer or broker as soon as possible.  By declaring all details required as soon as possible, you will enable your claim to be dealt with quickly – remember, however, that some policies will require more information than others will.  For example did you need to report to the police in order to get a crime number? Was there any damage in which case a police report will be needed?

If you are a residential property owner, it may be worth checking the emergency cover you have within your insurance policy. This would help make your property safe should something happen and stop any further damage or risk. Such emergency cover is sometimes included ‘as standard’ in your landlords insurance but you would need to check your policy documents. However, if this is not included you will have to purchase this separately.  It can be an inexpensive inclusion onto your landlords insurance and could save a huge amount of time, hassle and worry – for both you and your tenants.