Burst pipes cause almost £50 million of damage a year

  • January and February are the most common months for burst pipes
  • Direct Line claims data reveals approximately 2,650 domestic pipes burst across the UK every year
  • Over half of Brits (59 per cent) admit to deliberately using their toilets, drains and sinks as bins
  • A quarter of Brits (25 per cent) have experienced household damage from a burst pipe

Analysis from Direct Line Home Insurance1 reveals that approximately 2,650 pipes burst across the UK every year, resulting in nearly £50 million of costs for repairs and remedial work, with January and February seeing the greatest number of these incidents.  

Almost a quarter of households (23 per cent) that made home insurance claims for burst or blocked pipes did so in January and February, some of the coldest months of the year. Last winter saw temperatures across the UK fall by a third (32 per cent) compared to the previous winter2, with January averaging just 2.2ºC – the coldest average temperate recorded for the month since 2010. This cold weather put added strain on plumbing across the nation, with the average number of claims for bust pipes 51 per cent higher in January and February than the for the rest of the year.

Despite the risk of broken plumbing and repair costs, 37 million people (70 per cent) admit to flushing items they shouldn’t down sinks and drains at home, including medication and paint, with over half (59 per cent) of these admitting to doing so on purpose3. This can be highly expensive, if it causes a problem, with the average plumber call out charge ranging between £55 to £794.  Research amongst plumbers also reveals that they visit an average of eight homes a month, to tackle issues with burst pipes.  

Wet wipes top the table when it comes to the most common cause of drainage issues, with a third (32 per cent) of problems resulting from these getting into the plumbing system. Sanitary products (14 per cent) and excessive toilet roll (10 per cent) are also common causes of blockages. Other common culprits for blocking drains are items such as cosmetics, children’s toys, and toilet air fresheners.

Table one: Items that most commonly cause a blocked pipe 


Percentage of blocked pipes caused by this

Wet wipes

32 per cent

Sanitary products

14 per cent

Excess toilet roll

10 per cent

Fat and grease

Nine per cent


Eight per cent

Food waste

Eight per cent

Hand towels

Six per cent


Five per cent


Three per cent


Five per cent

Source: Direct Line Home Insurance 2021

Dan Simson, Head of Direct Line Home Insurance, said: “We often don’t think about the repercussions of dropping items, especially liquids, down our sinks but they can cause serious, costly and potentially dangerous issues. With January and February some of the coldest months and when pipes are most likely to burst, it is important to take extra care at this time of the year not to put extra pressure on them.

“Most of the items highlighted in our research are things we are probably all guilty of throwing down the toilet or sink , which is why we’re raising awareness of the potential problems they can cause and precautions that can be taken to limit the damage. Knowing how to shut off the water system should you need to will prevent further harm while you get in touch with a professional to fix it.”


It is not just the inconvenience of a blocked sink or toilet that is an issue, over a third (37 per cent) of those whose pipes burst also experienced damage to their ceiling. Damage to floors or carpets (34 per cent), internal flooding (27 per cent), external flooding (25 per cent) and damage to the electrics (18 per cent) are also common and can be dangerous and incredibly costly.

The top tips to avoid blocked and burst pipes are:

·         Protect drains: Use drain protectors to place over the plughole in your sink, bath or shower. This will catch most things, such as hair, which could cause a blockage

·         Know your pipes: Familiarise yourself with your pipe system and read advice on how to care for it. Be aware of how to switch off the water supply in case you ever need to

·         Use responsibly: Do not put too many items down sinks or toilets within your home. Comb hair before getting in the shower and scrape plates into food waste or compost before rinsing them

·         Maintain: Regularly use unblocking treatments to keep your pipe system flowing. Be sure to always follow the instructions

For more information please visit www.directline.com/home-cover.


Notes to Editors

1        Analysis of home insurance claims data by Direct Line focusing on burst pipes between 2019 and 2021.

2        Direct Line analysis of Met Office National Climate Information Centre statistics covering mean monthly temperatures from 1884 to 2021.

3        Research conducted by Opinium among a nationally representative sample of 2,001 adults between 6th to 9th July 2021

4        Phone research commissioned amongst 100 UK plumbers conducted in June 2021

For further information please contact:

Chelsey Wheeler
PR manager – Direct Line  

Tel: 01651 832 095

Email: [email protected]

Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0345 246 3761 or visiting www.directline.com/home-cover