Reduce the risk of escape of water

18 September 2019

Even small leaks can lead to significant damage to walls, ceilings, floors, electrics and contents, especially if they go unnoticed.

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What is escape of water?

Escape of water is a term used to describe water which leaks from a tank, apparatus or pipe. In some cases, escape of water can cause irreparable damage to historic buildings. 

The most common cause of escape of water tends to be deterioration of the pipework, sometimes due to freezing temperatures. It’s therefore good practice to check your pipes (especially external pipes) before the onset of winter. Some areas to consider in your checks include: 

  • running overflow pipes, which are indicative of plumbing faults. 
  • radiator valves and joints should be checked for signs of rust and wear and tear. 
  • appliances, such as dishwashers, especially hose connectors. If a leak is detected, isolate the water supply and arrange repairs. 
  • leaking taps, you can remedy these by fitting new washers. 
  • roof gutters and valleys should be checked for a build-up of vegetation, leaves and other debris. It is good practice to repeat this every six months. 

Precautions to take during the winter

If temperatures are due to drop below freezing:

  • Maintain an adequate level of heating (minimum 5ºC) to reduce the risk of water pipes and tanks freezing. Heating systems should be regularly serviced. 
  • Where adequate heating cannot be maintained, or in unheated areas, water pipes and tanks should be adequately lagged or fitted with trace heating where possible. Install frost stats and thermostats if not already in place. 
  • Never use blowlamps or any form of naked flame to thaw a frozen pipe. Before you start to thaw the system, do what you can to protect or remove contents which might be damaged by thawing water running from a burst. 
  • If the church is unoccupied there is a greater risk of a water leak going unnoticed. You can avoid this by turning the water off and draining down the water system by opening the taps inside the property. 

Leak detection

Early detection of leaks can limit the damage escape of water can cause. 

Contact a professional - if you are unsure of the condition of the pipes at your church, inspections can be carried out by a competent plumber, such as a member of the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors or the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineers. It’s also handy to keep a note of emergency call out numbers of heating engineers and plumbers accessible.
Install a water leak detection system – devices are small and can be used to notify you of a leak and isolate the water supply, reducing the amount of damage to the property.  

Turning off the water

In the event of a leak, every second counts. Turning the water off at the mains as soon as possible will help to reduce the risk of damage. 

Consider labelling the stopcock so it is easy to find and make key people are aware of its location.  
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