Escape of water is a common home insurance claim. Even the smallest leak can cause significant damage to your home. To help protect your property this comprehensive guide will show you what to look out for and provide you with tips to prevent a potentially damaging leak.
What is escape of water?
‘Escape of water’ is the technical term used to describe a leak in your home. It could include situations such as a burst pipe or a faulty washing machine connection. If water has escaped from where it is meant to be and caused sudden damage to your home, then we’re talking about an ‘escape of water’ claim on your home insurance policy.
Is escape of water covered by buildings or contents insurance?
This depends on what has been damaged by the escape of water.
If the building is damaged, such as the original wooden floorboards have been soaked and warped, it will be covered by buildings insurance.
If any contents are damaged, such as drenched carpets, or water from a pipe in the ceiling has come through onto your TV, then these will be covered by a contents insurance policy.
If the building and its contents have been damaged, then you’d need combined buildings and contents insurance to be covered for both.
What’s covered by escape of water cover?
If you own both your building and its contents, then both your buildings and contents would be covered for escape of water under your buildings or contents insurance. But as stated above, which policy you make a claim against, will depend on what has been affected by the escape of water.
The common causes of escape of water:
- Water tanks
- Burst pipes
- Central heating boilers
- Washing machines
- Blocked toilets
- Shower or bath
You’ll need to check your policy wording, but these items may be excluded from escape of water cover:
- Cesspits, septic tanks and associated fittings
- Mains service which is the responsibility of a public service company
- Dripping taps
- Escape of water outside of the home, which is not causing damage to the interior of the home or its contents
Common causes of escape of water and how to prevent them
DIY gone wrong is one of the most common causes of escape of water.
So, be thorough when carrying out maintenance on your property. If you’re doing the work yourself then make sure to have the required skillset to do the work. Otherwise, your efforts may be rewarded by a very expensive bill for an embarrassing water leak.
Similarly, if you intend getting the work done by professionals, make sure they are professionals.
Incorrect installation of pipes, such as valves not being shut off prior to changing your water supply can lead to escape of water.
Remember, ‘maintenance and wear and tear’ is not covered by our policies. So regular checks of pipes, water tanks, washing machines, showers, baths and toilets, etc. is essential when preventing possible escape of water.
Always use authorised contractors with the correct level of certification. For example, any work carried out on your gas boiler must be carried out by Gas Safe registered engineer.
How to prevent escape of water
- Do regular checks on any work carried out to plumbing, cisterns and pipework.
- Check shower cubicles for failing sealant
- Never disregard a faulty or dripping tap
- Ensure your water tank and pipes in the roof are properly insulated to prevent freezing and bursting
However tempting it may be to pour cooking fat, grease and oil down the drain when you’re doing the washing up, don’t.
This can cause blockages which may lead to escape of water. Instead, pour it into a container and leave to solidify before disposing carefully.
Blockages in showers and baths can also cause water to back up and are often the result of human hair clogging up the drain, so make sure you clear yours out on a regular basis.
Pouring bicarbonate of soda and vinegar down the drain, then flushing through with warm water is the first step you can take before resorting to stronger solutions.
A burst pipe can be one of the most damaging causes of an escape of water in the home. This is due to the sheer amount of water that can leak at staggering speed, as much as 400 litres (around two bathtubs) an hour.
The most common causes of burst pipes are freezing temperatures and corroded copper piping, which can eventually buckle under pressure. Pipes and water tanks should be insulated during winter to avoid this, paying close attention to joints and bends.
Regular checks of central heating
It is also a good idea for the central heating to be kept on continuously at around 12°c during particularly cold snaps.
If you are going away for a period of time throughout the winter, Christmas perhaps, you could set your heating to come on for an hour or so each day to prevent the pipes from freezing.
Examine pipes for signs of wear and tear and fix any dripping taps before outside temperature drops. In particularly cold spells, open your loft hatch to allow the heat from the house to penetrate this space.
Water escaping from fixed appliances, such as washing machines, dishwashers, radiators and boilers, are also common causes of water damage in the home.
Check pipework regularly for leaks and signs of bulging or cracking. The risk increases with the growing number of appliances in modern homes, with more pipework that needs to be properly installed and maintained.
How to detect a leak
There are several ways to detect a leak within your home and it goes without saying that the earlier a leak is detected and dealt with, the less damage is done.
Check your water meter
It’s easy to perform a simple leak check using your water meter.
Make sure water is turned off inside and outside the home, then record the water meter reading.
Wait 15 minutes before checking again and if the meter has recorded water use during the test, it might be due to a leak which will need further investigation.
Check your pipes
Regularly check your pipework, especially during the winter months, for signs of deterioration, cracking or bulging and if you notice any damp patches or bulging on your ceiling, investigate the cause as soon as possible.
Check behind kitchen fittings and cupboards
Check in the cupboard under your sink for any signs of water, such as a small puddle under the join on a pipe, which could suggest a small leak.
What is Leakbot?
There are even high tech solutions available to help you detect and prevent a leak in your home.
Leakbot is one such example and aims to let you know about even the smallest of drips so that you can hopefully address the problem before it becomes a real issue.
Simply clip the box to the pipe near your stop tap and Leakbot will detect any change in the flow of water through your pipes. You can even receive alerts to your phone for 24/7 peace of mind.
What to do if you have an escape of water
If you have an escape of water in your home, such as a burst pipe, there are a number of steps you can take to deal with the situation before calling in professional help and your insurer.
1. Turn the main stopcock off immediately – this is usually located under your kitchen sink but it is a good idea to identify its location and practice turning it on and off before you need to.
2. Open cold taps and flush toilets a few times to empty water from the system before closing the taps again, switch off the central heating and don’t touch any wiring or switches that you think may have been affected.
3. If in doubt, turn off your electricity by the mains fuse board just to be sure. You should also move any furniture or personal items away from the water to prevent further damage being done.
This is where Home Emergency Assistance is useful. It comes as standard with MORE THAN Home insurance and covers you up to £200 should a pipe burst, and you need help fast from a MORE THAN authorised tradesperson, no matter the time of day.