Burst pipes and escape of water claims

Every home can fall victim to frozen or burst pipes and without insurance, even a small leak can be costly for homeowners to repair.

Amanda Bathory-Griffiths

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Key points

  • If a pipe bursts and you’re not insured you face paying to access the leak, repair it and fix the damage caused by the water
  • Cover and excess levels vary and may differ or be in addition to your standard home insurance excess
  • Your insurance might not pay out if your pipes aren’t properly insulated (lagged)

What’s escape of water damage?

Escape of water refers to liquid that’s leaked from somewhere inside your home and caused damage.

That might be caused by:

  • A faulty appliance, like a washing machine, dishwasher, or fridge
  • A frozen and burst pipe
  • Old and corroded pipes
  • Blocked drains
  • Disconnected pipes, like the waste pipe from the sink, shower or washing machine

There’s usually some cover for escape of water claims on your house insurance, but you need to check your policy wording to find out exactly what you’re covered for.

If the water comes from something like an overflowing bath or drilled through pipe you’ll probably only be covered if you have accidental damage insurance.

Cover for burst pipes

When a pipe bursts, there are three typical costs that could arise from it:

  • The cost of locating and accessing the leak
  • The cost of repairing the pipe
  • The cost of the water damage caused by the leak

Each of these costs will be covered by separate elements of your home insurance and you might not have cover for all three as standard features of your policy.

Cover for damage caused by pipes bursting in freezing conditions will almost certainly be included - 99% of 383 policies on Defaqto have this cover. 

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the cost of repairing pipes the burst themselves will be covered, as only 81% of policies include it.[1]

That could mean that you’d have to pay out yourself for an emergency plumber to stop the leak and repair the pipe, before claiming on your insurance for the damage caused by the escape of water.

Read your policy to see what protection you have:

  • A good insurance policy will cover you for both escape of water damage and repairs to burst pipes
  • Also look out for trace and access cover on your policy - it covers the cost of finding and uncovering the source of a leak
  • You can get alternative accommodation in case you need to move out during repairs

Accidental damage and water claims

Accidental damage that causes water escapes might not be covered as standard on your home insurance.

You can have accidental damage cover added to your policy, as an optional extra to cover you for things like accidentally drilling through a pipe, or an overflowing bath.

Claims relating to accidental damage from DIY projects can be a common area of insurance disputes, so make sure you read your documents and check any exclusions.

£1.8m How much the insurance industry pays out each day for escape of water claims

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According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI)

How to make a home insurance claim for a water leak 

Contact your insurer first. If you’re covered, it'll put you in touch or arrange a tradesperson to come to you.

If you need to call a professional to have repairs done immediately and don’t have time to contact the insurer, as long as it’s a reasonable course of action the insurer should reimburse you afterwards.

Your insurer will send a loss adjuster to assess the damage and decide what repairs are necessary.

If you need alternative accommodation because your home is uninhabitable, this too will be verified by the loss adjuster.

Escape of water excess

Some insurers charge a different excess to your standard policy excess for escape of water claims.

Of the policies on Defaqto, 79% charged a specific compulsory excess for escape of water claims. This replaced the standard excess in most cases but was charged in addition to other excesses on 4% of policies.

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Problems with leaking or blocked pipes

What to do if you have a burst pipe

Turn off the water at the stopcock

It’s usually a tap with no faucet under the kitchen or bathroom sink, by the boiler or in the utility room. Failing that, you can turn it off outside under a small square grate labelled ‘water’ or ‘W’.

Switch off your boiler or central heating system

Stop water from pumping round the system while you find the cause of the leak.

Fetch some thick towels

Soak up the excess water before it has time to damage the surrounding floors or furniture.

Call your insurer

If you have home emergency cover as part of your home insurance, look for and dial the 24-hour emergency number. An appointed tradesperson will be sent to assist.

Ways to prevent frozen pipes and leaks

  • Learn how to turn your main stopcock on and off
  • Repair dripping taps
  • Check your pipe insulation (lagging). Any pipes vulnerable to freezing, like the loft or down exterior walls, should be fully lagged
  • If you’re away during winter, set your heating to come on for an hour a day, open the loft trapdoor to circulate warm air, and ask a friend or neighbour to regularly check everything’s ok 
  • Get a pipe locator or stud wall finder if you’re planning any DIY projects
  • Clear your gutters and downpipes
  • Maintain seals around sinks, showers and baths

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[1]Last checked 10 June 2019

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