Burst drains are a persistent problem during the winter months, and the threat of expensive repairs makes winter arguably the most challenging season of all when it comes to drain health, reports Jacob Larkin of Lanes Group

With plunging temperatures, heavy rainfall and ice damage it is important to ensure that your drains are properly prepared for winter.

Whether you are a homeowner or a business owner, it is important to know how to keep your outside drain pipes from freezing, and how to keep your wastewater systems flowing clearly.

If you do not take the right precautions, pipes and drains can become prone to cracking, bursting and blockages during winter, resulting in flooding and costly damage to your property.

This Winter Drainage Guide will explain 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?

As water freezes, it expands, and the expansion of the liquid as it solidifies can place considerable pressure on the structural integrity and stability of the pipe.

As such, when freezing weather hits, it can create a range of problems for your property. Frozen masses can create blockages within the pipe that prevent water from moving through the system and leading to flooding. At worst, the pressure created by the frozen water will crack and burst the pipes, leading to much more significant property damage that can be extremely costly and time-consuming to repair.

The problems caused by blocked and damaged pipes will be aggravated by the 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 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 essential, but fortunately isn’t 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

Pipes in areas of the property that aren’t 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, in order to check for any existing leakages on your property. If you find any, these need to be fixed immediately, as this will waste water and increase the likelihood of pipes freezing.

These 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 damaged pipe services 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, and then allow the water to run until there is none left.

Antifreeze is not a prerequisite, as 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 your 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 any good DIY store, while heat tape or cable also 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, at a time when energy bills are a major concern for everyone in the country.

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 the pipes freezing over, but this can be avoided by simply keeping your heating on at a low level throughout the winter months.

In addition to protecting the pipes, this is also unlikely to result in a higher heating bill, as stop-start periods of heating and sudden cooling will require more energy than maintaining a steady, lukewarm state.

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. Plug these up using insulation, wood or plastic, in order to ensure these draughts do not contribute to the risk of frozen pipes. Bear in mind you should avoid accidentally blocking any exterior vents, such as ones 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.