Burst pipe, leaks and water damage insurance

Don’t wait until it’s too late to find out whether you have burst pipe, leak and water damage insurance. Here’s how to make sure you’re properly covered before disaster strikes.

Don’t wait until it’s too late to find out whether you have burst pipe, leak and water damage insurance. Here’s how to make sure you’re properly covered before disaster strikes.

Rachel Lacey
Insurance and money expert
minute read
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Last Updated 23 SEPTEMBER 2022

Does home or contents insurance cover burst water pipes? 

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

However, while your contents may be covered under accidental damage, this isn’t guaranteed. If the water damage is caused by a slow leak i.e. something you should have identified and then repaired sooner, then your possessions may not be covered and any claim could be rejected. 

What causes burst pipes?

Freezing temperatures in winter are the biggest cause of burst pipes. Sub-zero 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.

Sometimes your pipes might also burst if they become clogged and the water pressure increases.

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 must 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?

If you find that your pipes are frozen, there are a number of steps you can take to prevent or limit any damage:

  • Turn the water supply off at your stopcock. 
  • Try thawing the pipes with a hot-water bottle or hairdryer. Never pour boiling water directly onto a frozen pipe as it 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. If you don’t know where your stopcock is – locate it now. It’s usually under the kitchen sink or in the downstairs loo.

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 carried out.
  •  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. Find out if it’s included in your home insurance. 
  • Check your excess. Claims for escape of water often have a higher compulsory excess – the amount you pay towards any claim. Check your policy documents to find out where you stand.

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 or at a low level.
  • 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 tell-tale cracks, drips or leaks.
  • Use your stopcock. If your pipes burst, the stopcock allows you to turn off the water and limit the damage.
  • 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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