The UK’s leading rural insurer, NFU Mutual, has warned that a fast thaw could lead to burst pipes for homes recovering from the UK’s big freeze. Households could find a sudden rise in temperature bringing frozen pipes to bursting point, causing untold misery and an average mop-up cost of £5,000 (according to latest NFU Mutual claims data).

“Few things are more depressing than waking up to the smell of wet plaster, dripping water and the realisation that a pipe has burst in your loft,” said Jon Cawley, Head of Claims at NFU Mutual.

“The costs of drying out the house and replacing damaged fixtures and fittings can be met by home and contents insurance. But that doesn’t compensate for the loss of treasured possessions, or the heartache of drying out a water soaked home in the middle of winter and seeing furniture and photographs consigned to the skip.”

And as the UK recovers from the one of the coldest snaps of the year, the rural insurer is urging homeowners to make sure their water pipes and tanks are protected. It is also warning that the plumbing in some properties may have been critically weakened by the big freeze.

Recognising the misery caused by mopping up after a pipe burst, NFU Mutual has issued the following advice:

1. Locate your stopcock

This will normally be located below your kitchen sink, or wherever the water supply enters your home. Make sure you can access it and close it easily.

2. Lag above pipes in your loft

Well insulated loft spaces will get very cold in winter and so it’s important you give your water pipes extra lagging to help prevent them freezing and bursting.

3. Maintain central heating

Keeping the thermostat at a normal setting overnight or while your home is unoccupied will help to keep the building temperature above freezing.

4. Check your plumbing

Checking your pipes for signs of freezing or bursts such as leaking or dripping joints, will help you to react to a possible problem or nip it in the bud. Asking tenants to do the same will help to protect rental properties too.