Protecting your home from burst pipes

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Burst pipes can cause chaos in the home, our guide provides advice on what to do if the worst does happen

Escape of water is one of the most common claims on home insurance, especially in the winter. The smallest of leaks can cause pretty serious damage to a home which is why it's important to know what to look out for.

 

What causes escape of water?

Although escape of water can be caused by a number of different problems, some of the most common causes are:

  • Leaks in the bathroom
  • Frozen pipes caused by cold weather

Spotting a leak in your home

You should always be vigilant especially in the winter as the earlier you catch the leak the better. Signs of a leak include:

  • Hearing the sound of running water
  • Seeing running water or wet patches around the house
  • Spotting plants growing near pipe work, especially when the weather is warm
  • The water pressure in your home falls
  • Water bills increase
  • Mould and damp patches

Preventing water leaks

Although it’s impossible to guarantee your home will remain leak-free, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce the risk:

  • If you’re thinking of doing some DIY you may want to invest in a stud finder which helps you locate pipes behind walls and under floorboards
  • A condition of your policy may state that your unoccupied property should be regularly checked, check policy terms for restrictions during un-occupancy
  • Consider lagging pipes – this can be a fairly cheap way of avoiding frozen pipes
  • You could install flood detection which will notify you of things such as   a leak. It will automatically switch off the water supply if it detects any of these faults, or if the water hasn’t been used in the property for some time
  • Clean gutters or downspouts
  • Make sure you know where the stopcock is and check you can turn it on and off
  • Try to keep the seals around the shower and bath well maintained

External water leaks between property and boundary- whose responsibility is it?

All water companies have a code of practice on this issue.

If there is a leak on your supply pipe, you are responsible for repairing it. If there is a leak on your side of the meter, public footpath or external stop valve, it’s your responsibility to fix the leak.

However, if it’s the first time this has happened to you and it’s not too expensive, your water company may repair it for you but they are not obliged to.

The water company is responsible for the water mains in the ground and normally for the communication pipe. This is the part of the service pipe leading to your boundary from the mains. Outside stop valves are often the property of the water company and should be maintained by them.

If there’s a problem with the water meter then this is the responsibility of the water company. If the leak is due to a damaged water pipe, or if the pipe bursts, responsibility for fixing it depends on which part of the pipe is damaged.

If you rent your property, your landlord is responsible for maintaining the supply pipe. 

If your supply pipe serves other properties you may share the responsibility with others. Check the title deed of your property for more information about whose responsibility it is to maintain the supply price.

Preventing leaks in unoccupied properties

If your property is unoccupied you need to let your insurer know; and in some circumstances you may need alternative cover. Some insurers enforce a 30-day rule where insurers stop covering a property left unoccupied for more than 30 consecutive days, others will restrict cover.

Here are some tips on maintaining your home if you’re away:

  • Turn the water off
  • Admiral’s policy booklet states the house must be constantly heated if you’re away from home for a certain amount of days. Please check your policy booklet to find out what your insurer says. If there’s severe weather forecast then you should leave your heating on day and night at your usual temperature setting, whether you’re home or not
  • If it’s very cold you should think about leaving the loft door open as this will allow warm air to circulate and will help prevent pipes freezing
  • If you have a friend or a relative who could check up on your house every day this would be fantastic. This will mean that if you are unfortunate enough to suffer from a burst pipe when you’re away, it will be seen as soon as possible and damage will be minimised

What should I do if a pipe bursts?

First of all, don’t panic, just use these helpful tips:

  • If you’re unfortunate enough to have a burst pipe, the first thing you should do is turn the water off at the mains and switch off your boiler or central heating system
  • Drain cold water systems by flushing your toilet several times and running all cold taps until the flow dries up
  • If any electrical sockets are affected, turn off the main electrical supply immediately
  • Get in touch with your insurer to find out what your policy covers
  • If your insurance doesn’t cover the claim, contact a plumber or heating engineer

Reporting a claim:

If you are with Admiral you should call 0333 220 2035. We are available 24 hours a day for you.

Each insurer is different, it’s always best to check your policy documents to see what applies to you.

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