Whether it’s running out of your shower or helping you make a cup of coffee, water is an essential part of our day – but when water leaks in your home, or a pipe bursts, it can be nothing short of a disaster. But what does your home insurance cover you for?
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Are Water Leaks an Issue?
The Association of British Insurers suggests that insurance companies pay out over £1.8m for water-related claims every single day – making it one of the most common significant problems we face as homeowners or tenants.
The trouble is, we tend not to think about water damage until it’s too late – sometimes leaving ourselves liable for any repair costs.
To avoid being out of pocket, it’s important to understand a few water-related terms – along with exactly what your home insurance policy covers you for.
‘Escape of water’ vs ‘flooding’
Not all water damage is considered the same by insurance companies, and as such, they usually refer to either “escape of water” or “flooding”.
Escape of water
This is used to describe any situation in which water has leaked from somewhere it shouldn’t – for instance, a washing machine, a blocked toilet, central heating system, frozen and damaged pipes, and so forth.
It’s worth noting that escape of water claims generally don’t automatically include instances where there’s an element of negligence involved – if you’ve accidentally let a bath run over or you’ve drilled into a water pipe while doing some DIY for example.
You should double-check with your insurance provider – but situations like these generally need ‘accidental damage’ cover on top of the basic policy.
Often flooding affecting your home happens quickly, perhaps for example from anriver bursting its banks as a result of torrential rain.
A flood doesn’t though have to happen quickly. It can be as a result of water entering or building up in a property slowly and steadily. The cause isn’t always a natural event.
Before you can effectively protect your home from flood damage, you must first understand the level of risk your property faces.
Once you’ve identified your home’s flood risk, the next step is to implement suitable flood-proofing measures.
These can range from simple, low-cost options to more extensive, high-cost measures. For more information, see our article ‘How to Protect Your Home From Flood Damage‘
Particularly if your home has previously been flooded or if you live in a flood-prone area, it can be more difficult to access affordable insurance, standard home insurance policies won’t cover you.
Check the terms of your policy carefully but for flood damage you may need to purchase additional coverage.
Find The Problem Causing the Water Leaks – Trace and Access
Water can be a tricky customer to deal with.
While a damp spot that’s showing on your ceiling might lead you to believe you know where the problem’s coming from, the evidence of water leaks often show up a long way from the source of the issue.
‘Trace and Access’ is the process involved with both finding the leak – and getting into the root of the problem to fix it.
You may need a specialist company with water detection equipment to come to your property and spend a little time tracking the leak down.
Some home insurance policies include cover for trace and access.
That said there may be a limit on the amount of cover you have, for example £5000 or £10000. You’ll need to check the policy details.
If trace and access is not included you can usually add it as an extra to your policy. Obviously you’ll need to decide from your own perspective whether the extra premium cost is worth this additional cover.
Without trace and access cover, the process of finding a leak can be a bit of a ‘lucky dip’ that may involve lifting your floor, opening your walls, or digging under gardens and driveways.
Because of this, it’s well worth checking to make sure it’s something included in your policy – it has the potential to save you a lot of money and disruption.
Undertake Regular Maintenance
Home insurance policies require a homeowner or tenant to make sure the property is maintained in a way that helps to prevent leaks.
Make sure you regularly check for any signs of leaks.
Reason being it helps should you need to make a claim.
If, for example, you have to make a claim for a water leak, the insurance company providing your cover may ask to see evidence that your central heating system has been properly maintained and that any damage done isn’t something you’ve been ignoring for months or years.
Frequently dropping boiler pressure can often be a sign that there’s something wrong – as can suddenly noticing that your water meter is clocking up more water use than normal.
Keep Pipes in Good Working Order
Here are six simple steps to help keep your plumbing system and pipes functioning well all year round:
- Know The Location and How to Control Stopcocks
- Understanding the location of your stopcocks and testing them regularly can be a real lifesaver, especially in the face of water leaks. Regular testing ensures they remain functional, aiding in averting water damage in emergencies by timely shutting off water supply.
- Invest in Leak Detection Devices
- Leak detection devices are your vigilant watchdogs that monitor water usage and promptly shut off supply if a leak is suspected.
- Get Professional Installation of New Appliances
- Get the installation of new appliances done by professionals to ensure that they are correctly plumbed, reducing the risk of subsequent water leaks or damages.
- Undertake Regular Inspection of Appliance Connections
- Make it a routine to check the pipes connected to your appliances for any signs of looseness, leaks, or drips, especially in accessible covered areas like behind removable bath panels or underneath kitchen units. Early detection of minor issues could prevent major problems down the line.
- Look After Your Drains
- Be careful about what you put down your drains. Common substances like fats, oils, sanitary products, and hair are notorious for causing blockages. Regular cleaning and avoiding these and any other potential blockage culprits helps keep your drains flowing freely.
- Routinely Check for Seals and Joint Leakages
- Inspect seals around taps, toilets, sinks, and bathing areas for any leaks or damages is crucial. Replace damaged sealant or fixtures to minimise the risk of water damage.
Pipes always have a little water in them and when temperatures drop significantly that water freezes and effectively blocks the pipes.
How to Prevent Frozen Pipes
- Keep your heating on – set your thermostat to a low temperature
- Insulate your pipes and water tanks – this will also help save money and keep warm
- Turn your taps on regularly – turn your taps on and off every day to prevent freezing.
Signs That Your Water Pipes are Frozen
- You can’t get your boiler to turn on.
- Your central heating makes a range of gurgling like sounds when it’s on.
- Only a trickle of water or no water is coming out of your taps.
- You have a block sink and/or your toilet flushes slowly.
- There are water marks or water patched on your ceiling.
What to Do if You Have a Frozen Pipe
- Turn off the water supply.
- Locate the frozen pipe.
- Prep for thawing the pipe and start to thaw it. Use such as a hot water bottle or haridryer set on the lowest setting.
- Once the water has melted and flowed through the tap, reverse these steps – turn off the tap, check for any leaks still and if all fine then turn the water back on.
What to Do if You Have a Burst Pipe
- Turn off the water supply and drain the water from your pipes and heating system.
- Turn off the electricity.
- Call a plumber.
- Contact your insurance company for advice on what to do about making a claim and the process for fixing the pipe and damage. You’ll need to keep records, photos and any receipts for money spent on fixing the problem.
You could be faced with ‘Escape of water’ or flooding of your home.
In the case of Escape of water, home insurance will cover you, of course this is subject to the specific details of your policy.
For example, you may not have trace and access cover unless you have specifically added this.
Flooding is unlikely to be covered by your home insurance as standard. You will likely need to get specific cover for this.
Ensure you keep up the maintenance on your home and be proactive in checking for water leaks. Prepare your pipes too for winter to help avoid having a burst pipe to deal with.