Owners' Advice: Draining Down & Frost Damage

Posted 15 November by Dan Ellacott

National Association of Caravan Owners

It’s every caravan owner’s worst nightmare – returning to the park to find that a burst pipe has caused catastrophic damage. At this time of year it’s really important to consider the impact of frost damage and ensure that you are prepared.

If your holiday home is to be left unoccupied during the winter months or in cold weather it is necessary to ensure that the water system is drained down when unoccupied to avoid frost damage. 

Check your insurance policy to see how cover is provided during periods when the caravan is unoccupied. Your chosen insurer will be able advise you of any exclusions or restrictions.

Your manufacturer’s handbook will be able to provide specific guidance about your system. If you are unsure about conducting the process yourself, ask your park for assistance. 

Many operators offer a winterisation service and it is worth consideration if you don’t have the ability, time or equipment to undertake the drain down.

Locating the stopcock at your caravan is a very useful exercise. If it is easily accessed, make sure that you turn it off whenever you leave the caravan, especially if you have arranged for the park or a contractor to undertake the full drain down. Turning off the mains water supply will significantly minimise any damage caused by any burst pipes in the interim.

Lots of our members do their own drain down, and having looked at a number of different handbooks, here’s our guide to completing a drain down:

• Turn off the gas supply.
• Turn off the water supply.
• Locate external water drainage plugs underneath your caravan and open them.
• Turn on all taps, including the shower and leave open. Make sure that nothing obstructs plug-holes and leave the showerhead in the shower tray or bath.
• Flush the toilet and ensure that all water is drained from the cistern. 
• The pipework should be ‘blown through’ using compressed air to make sure that all water has been removed from your holiday home.
• It is advisable to add a small amount of non-toxic anti-freeze or salt into any remaining water in the bowl or toilet as well as traps in the sinks and showers.
• Ensure that any water heaters are drained. Having already isolated the gas supply, turn the water temperature control to position 1 (warm) and then, having a suitable container below the drain valve, allow the water content to drain by unscrewing the drain down valve. The drain down valve should not be replaced until the water heater is used again.

It is also advisable to ensure that all exposed piping is adequately lagged. When returning to your holiday home, simply reverse the procedure above.

• It is imperative that water systems are drained in accordance with manufacturer recommendations to avoid a potential disaster and that it is carried out in a competent manner. We recommend that you employ the services of either a qualified local engineer or instruct the park to undertake the drain down.

• If your holiday home is fitted with hot water central heating, you should note that it is a self-contained pressurised system. A qualified engineer should maintain it regularly. DO NOT remove the drain plugs to your central heating system.
• If you have any doubts, consult your park manager for further advice or for direction to a recognised tradesman.


Dan Ellacott
National Association of Caravan Owners