Cold Weather Tips For Churches

Guest blog by church insurance broker Francesca Kirkham, Cert CII.

Cold weather will bring the usual related problems for churches and associated properties. This risk guidance offers you practical advice for some of the most common issues.

Burst pipes

The cost and inconvenience caused by a burst pipe can be considerable. Just a small fracture can release many gallons of water, damaging masonry and plaster, carpets and other contents. The chance of suffering these losses can be reduced by following a few simple steps:

  1. Ensure water pipes are well lagged.
  2. Make sure the boiler and heating system is serviced regularly and check that the frost thermostat is working correctly.
  3. Make sure you know where to turn off the water supply. If you discover a frozen pipe, don’t wait for it to burst. Turn off your water supply and then slowly thaw the affected pipe by introducing gentle heat to the area, e.g. by using a hairdryer, space heater or hot water bottle.
  4. Do not attempt to thaw the pipe with a blowtorch or other open flame. If the worst happens and you do have a burst pipe, turn off the water supply at the stopcock and try to catch any excess water in a bucket or other container. Do not use any electrics if you believe they may have been affected by the escaping water. You will need to have these checked by a professional electrician.

Building maintenance

Keeping gutters, gullies and drains clear Autumn brings with it fallen leaves, which fill gutters. Those gutters have downpipes which only work if they are clear of obstruction. Inevitably, if they are not maintained, blockages will occur and the accumulation of water will eventually cause damage. Additionally, if there is a blockage in a downpipe, any trapped rainwater may crack or shatter the downpipe if it freezes.

Please remember to add to your list of jobs checking your valleys, gutters, hoppers and downpipes for blockages so that they can carry water away quickly and efficiently. Signs of soil being washed away at ground level or splashes of soil at the base of walls can be an indication that water is not being caught by the gutter. If blockages are identified, please arrange for a local contractor who is able to work safely at height to clear the problem.

Keeping an eye on your roof, loose or missing slates and tiles may mean that water is getting into the roof. Replacing a loose/missing slate or tile is much cheaper than repairing or replacing roof timbers.

A pair of binoculars may help you to check your gutters and roofs effectively!

These are all simple protective measures which, if undertaken regularly, can save a great deal of time and trouble later by avoiding expensive repair or replacement costs. Keeping the pathways clear You have a duty of care to ensure staff and visitors are safe.

Unfortunately, slips and trips can happen, particularly when there is ice and snow on the ground. Introduce suitable procedures to make access routes which are affected by ice, frost or snow, safe.

This will include identifying the outdoor areas used by pedestrians that are most likely to be affected; monitoring the temperature and weather forecasts to identify when adverse weather may affect access routes; gritting areas prone to be slippery in frosty or icy conditions; diverting pedestrians to less slippery walkways and cordoning off those that are unsafe; and keeping visitors informed of which car parks and access routes are open.

Provide adequate lighting to ensure people are able to see and avoid hazards on the ground. This is particularly important, during winter months with darker mornings and evenings.

If the church is unoccupied

  • Keep your property heated to reduce the chance of a pipe freezing
  • If you are going away for an extended break, drain down and shut off your water system
  • Ask somebody to check on your property daily. This may not prevent a loss but early identification of an escape can help reduce the ultimate cost

Ensure you have complied with any unoccupancy conditions or warranties listed in your policy. If you need any clarification, call us on 01206 760780 or email

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