The problems with attic water tanks

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Existing Building Issues

As I have stated in previous posts, during my work as an engineer, I have carried out many house surveys for people buying properties in Britain and Ireland. After the survey I provide a written report, called a visual structural inspection report, which lists the defects that need to be rectified. I have found that the same problems with attic water tanks and attic pipe-work crop up in every property.  Water tanks are rarely, if ever installed correctly. In fact as far as I can recall no house I have ever inspected has ever had all of the following in place:

  • A tight fitting lid on the water tank.
  • A fully insulated tank with the base exposed to a part of the attic floor which has been left un-insulated to allow the heat from the house below to keep the tank from freezing in the winter.
  • Fully lagged pipe-work, again to stop it freezing in winter causing leaks.
  • A fully insulated attic access hatch.

All of these issues are easy to fix and most homeowners would have no difficulty doing the work themselves, and yet they don’t. So if you are reading this perhaps you should check your own attic before the really cold weather sets in. I can virtually guarantee you that one of the above needs addressing. It might save your health and some of your wealth.

6 thoughts on “The problems with attic water tanks

  1. Again, I can only agree.
    I have seen a lot of freezing pipes in attics, particularly last winter. A lot of buildings had additional insulation fitted to the attics and walls in the last few years. Whilst this is fantastic in terms of reducing your energy bill, it prevents heat from rising into the attic.
    So what can be done?
    If the pipes and the tank are insulated regular movement of the water should prevent any freezing. This will happen normally in a house by turning on the taps to wash hands, have showers & baths etc. It won’t however happen in commercial buildings such as schools, offices etc. as these may not be used for 2 weeks at Christmas time. In buildings which are closed for the Christmas period it is therefore suggested to drain the tank and then leave the taps open (no water will flow). The draining can be wasteful, but if the supply to the tank is closed a couple of hours before the holiday break, most of the water will probably be used up by flushing WC’s etc. Any taps connected to mains should only be opened if the mains supply is turned off as well.
    Care must be taken to ensure that the heating system has enough water in it to allow it to function, which will prevent freezing. The hot water cylinder may also run dry and it is important to ensure that the immersion is switched off and that the heating system is not trying to heat the empty cylinder.
    Only follow this advice if you are sure that no damage will be done by turning off the water. I recommend to ask your plumber before turning off any valves to ensure that no damage is done to the system by draining the pipes.

      1. Hello Helpful Engineer…l went to stay with family for a few months. Didn’t turn off the water. Now l have had to turn off the water cos l found a leak coming from a pipe that runs from attic to the floor by the back door ( this pipe is boarded in but l heard trickling like a tap was running although when l checked all taps were off). I thought it could be because l had not used the water properly for several months so had the ingenious idea of running all taps at full blast which l quickly stopped doing when the seep under the skirting became much more than a seep. I turned off the water supply and am now terrified l have done terrible damage and as l am poor l have not called out anyone for fear l wouldn’t afford the car out charge never mind the work. My question to you helpful Engineer is…have l got a disaster on my hands?

  2. On the advice of the administrator of this website I did all of the above recommendations and feel very secure now that the tank/pipes won’t freeze in the attic. I also feel great having the lid on the water tank knowing that the glass insulation and any other dust won’t enter the water any more.

  3. my water tank in attic keeps emptying after i turned of mains.
    Can u gave me any avdice wat could b problem.
    Their nothing running everything is turned off.

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