Burst pipes and water leak insurance (escape of water claims)

Don’t wait until it’s too late to find out if you have burst pipe insurance. Here’s how to make sure you’re properly covered for such an event. 

Don’t wait until it’s too late to find out if you have burst pipe insurance. Here’s how to make sure you’re properly covered for such an event. 

Chris King
From the Home team
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Posted 18 FEBRUARY 2020

Am I insured for water damage?

Most buildings insurance will cover you for water damage as standard. Insurance providers often term this as an ‘escape of water’, whether it’s caused by burst pipes in winter or a leaky washing machine. 

What causes burst pipes?

Cold weather in the winter is the main cause. Freezing temperatures cause any water that’s sitting in your pipes to freeze and expand – eventually causing a crack or rupture. When the ice melts, the water leaks out.

What if the burst pipe is a mains water pipe?

If a mains water pipe bursts and cuts off your water supply, the water company must restore your supply within 12 hours. If it’s a strategic main pipe, that time limit extends to 48 hours but your water company has certain obligations. For instance, it has to tell you:  

  •  where you can access an alternative water supply
  • when it will have your supply up and running again
  • who to call for more information.

If your water company doesn’t fulfil these obligations, you could be entitled to compensation – £20 for the first 24 hours and £10 for every extra day that you’re without a mains water supply. 

My pipes are frozen. What should I do?

There are a few steps you can take, if you find your pipes have frozen:  

  • Turn the water supply off at your stopcock. 
  • Try thawing the pipes with a hot-water bottle or hairdryer, but never pour boiling water directly onto a frozen pipe as this itself may cause a crack. 
  • Turn off your water and central heating, then call an emergency plumber. 
  • Call your insurance provider. Most have a 24-hour helpline, so you can reach them at any time of the day or night.

Acting quickly is the best way to prevent the potential damage caused by a burst pipe. For that reason, it’s a good idea to make sure you know where your stopcock is, ahead of time.

My house is flooded. What should I do?

If you come home to find your home flooded, try not to panic. The first thing to do is:

  • Turn off your water supply and mains electricity to limit the damage.
  • Open your taps to drain the system.
  • Try to mop up any excess water using towels or sheets.
  • Call your insurance provider.  

Depending on the level of damage, your insurance provider may send a loss adjuster over to assess the damage and, if necessary, arrange somewhere for you to stay (your buildings insurance should cover this, but check your policy).

How can I make sure I have adequate insurance cover if my home’s flooded?

If you’re looking for a new home insurance policy, or just want to make sure you’re adequately protected by your existing cover, there are a few things to keep in mind: 

  • Make sure your home is insured for the full rebuild cost. For more information, read our guide on how to calculate the rebuild cost of your home.
  • Check you’re covered for alternative accommodation, should you need to move out while repairs are being made.  
  •  Check you’re covered for the cost of repairing or replacing burst pipes. This isn’t the same as ‘escape of water’ insurance, which may only cover you for any damage the leak causes.  
  • Trace and access insurance can be extremely useful. This will cover the cost of finding the source of a leak.  
  • Check your excess. Claims for escape of water often carry an additional compulsory excess – the amount you pay towards any claim you make. The details will be on your policy documents.

How can I prevent burst pipes and leaks? 

While burst pipes and leaks are sometimes unavoidable, there are a few ways you might be able to reduce the risk. These include: 

  • Leaving your heating on if you’re away during a cold snap – even if it’s just for an hour a day.  
  • Have a plumber install your appliances. Don’t try to do it yourself unless you’re confident of doing everything correctly.
  • Install a leak-detection device. This monitors your water use and cuts off your supply if it senses a sudden spike. You can ask your plumber to fit one.  
  • Check for visual signs of a leak. Look under sinks and behind bath panels for any cracks, drips or leaks.
  • Use your stopcock. If your pipes burst, the stopcock allows you to turn off the water and limit the damage. The best action is to find it before you need to use it.
  • Don’t use your dishwasher or washing machine while you’re out. That way you can hopefully spot a leak before it becomes a major problem.  
  • Turn off the water if you’re going away for any length of time.

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