Your home insurance usually covers burst pipes when the damage is caused by perils already included in your policy. That’s lucky considering frozen or burst pipes can be some of the most devastating things to happen to a homeowner.
Once a pipe bursts, an avalanche of creeping damage can affect almost any area of your home with wet, moldy, and frozen walls, floors, and belongings. Even more unsettling is that water damage and freezing claims account for over 23% of losses incurred by homeowners.
When does home insurance cover burst pipes?
Homeowners insurance typically covers water damage if it is caused by:
Rain or snow.
Plumbing (e.g., burst pipes, frozen plumbing, faulty plumbing, accidental overflow).
Water damage from extinguishing a fire.
A leaky roof.
Accidental overflow of an appliance or fixture (e.g., toilet, sink, washing machine).
Mold that results from covered water damage.
Most insurers consider plumbing to be a home maintenance issue. So if your insurance company feels that you were at fault or failed to take precautions to protect your pipes, your claim could be denied.
But in general, homeowners insurance covers burst pipes much like roof leaks: you'll likely have coverage if the damage is sudden and unforeseen. If water damage occurs gradually due to a leaky or rusty pipe that you should have been aware of and taken steps to fix, you may find yourself without coverage.
Remember that your coverage is for the water damage, not your plumbing system. If a burst pipe causes water damage to your flooring, cabinetry, and other personal possessions, then your claim is probably covered. Moreover, you'd likely have coverage for the destruction necessary to get to the plumbing system (e.g., digging a ditch in your garage or tearing through a wall) but not for replacing pipes or plumbing equipment.
When does home insurance not cover damage from burst pipes?
Most home insurance policies don’t cover every instance of burst pipes. A home insurance policy won't cover burst pipe damage if it’s caused by neglect or improper maintenance. Moreover, normal wear and tear isn’t covered by your homeowners insurance.
Suppose you've failed to notice a pipe leak for several months, causing damage to worsen. In that case, your insurance company probably won't cover all of the damage that could have been prevented had you been appropriately engaged in the condition of your home and noticed the leak earlier. Likewise, damage from older pipes that need to be replaced may not be covered. Your insurer may classify that as normal wear and tear.
Another situation that may not be covered? Frozen pipes bursting if you left your home with the heat off when it’s cold outside.
Essentially, if your pipes burst after you've failed to take care of minor issues like leaks, fractures, or other regular maintenance, don't expect your home insurance to cover the damage.
What coverage do you need for burst pipes?
Three main types of home insurance coverage may apply to damage caused by burst pipes. These are:
Dwelling coverage. Dwelling coverage helps pay for repairs to the home's physical structure. In the case of burst pipes damaging floors, walls, or other structural parts of your home, your dwelling coverage will help pay to repair the damage.
Personal property coverage. Personal property coverage helps pay for repairing or replacing your belongings, such as furniture, clothing, and electronics if they’re damaged or destroyed by a covered event—in this case, a burst pipe.
Loss of use coverage. Loss of use coverage helps pay for living expenses if you're temporarily unable to live in your home after a covered event. This may include hotel costs, meals, and other essential living expenses.
Does home insurance cover water line breaks?
Like burst pipes, homeowners insurance typically only covers damage from water line breaks when the break is caused by sudden accidental damage.
A water line breaks on your property likely doesn’t fall under your regular coverage if it’s caused by:
Regular wear and tear.
Frequent ground temperature changes.
Damage from pests or encroaching tree roots.
When a city water main breaks, the municipality is typically responsible for repairing the break. But you're likely responsible for repairing or replacing the part of the water main that's connected to your house. In these cases, you'll need to work with both your local government and your insurance company to ensure the appropriate party pays for the damages.
Does home insurance cover frozen pipes?
Damage caused by frozen pipes is usually covered by homeowners insurance unless you fail to take appropriate precautions to prevent it, such as leaving the home vacant for an extended period and failing to shut off the water and heat the home appropriately.
Frozen pipes are often the cause of a serious burst. The three leading causes for frozen pipes?
Quick temperature drops
Keeping your thermostat set too low
You must take precautions to avoid frozen pipes before you leave your home for any significant amount of time in the winter. And even if you're home all winter, keep your home and pipes properly heated and remain diligent during periods of extreme cold.
What types of water damage aren't covered by home insurance?
While some water damage is covered by home insurance, including water damage caused by burst pipes, several types of common water damage are not covered, including the following:
Sump pump failure
You can, however, add a water backup coverage endorsement for a reasonably low cost. The specifics of a sewer backup endorsement varies by insurance company.
Flood insurance may also be an option if you live in a flood-prone area.
How do I file a claim for a burst pipe?
The most important step when you first notice a burst pipe is to do whatever you can to stop further damage from happening, if possible.
Every insurance company has a different process for filing a claim. You'll likely begin the claim process by contacting the insurance company by phone, email, or online. This is called a first notice of loss. Be sure to have your policy number ready, and it's always a good idea to have photos of the damage available.
You'll be assigned a claims specialist to inspect your damage and explain the available coverage.
Remember, if you have covered water damage from a burst pipe, it doesn't mean that you won't have to pay anything out of pocket.
Before any coverage kicks in, you must pay the deductible you chose when you purchased your policy. Your policy's applicable coverage limits also apply. This means that your policy only pays for repairs up to the limit outlined in the policy for a particular type of loss. Any repair or replacement costs exceeding these limits must be paid out of your pocket.
How to prevent burst pipes?
The best way to avoid the mess of burst pipes, water damage, and the ensuing insurance claims is to make every attempt to prevent burst pipes in the first place.
Simple, regular maintenance goes a long way toward preventing burst pipes. For instance, you may want to:
Regularly check the home's hoses, faucets, or water lines for general wear and tear. Immediately fix or replace these components if you find signs of rust or other problems like cracks or leaks.
Turn off your supply when you go on vacation, and try not to leave your home while the washing machine or dishwasher is running.
Look closely for active leaking. In addition to visible leakage, you may see signs of leakage, like calcification on the outside of pipes and moisture or darkening of the surrounding wood.
Good home maintenance is the first step to protecting your home. The second is quality insurance – and we can help with that! Enter your address for a quote.