Escape of water is one of the most common causes of damage to a property – and one of the most expensive to repair. In fact, nearly one in five claims made on buildings and contents insurance is for damage caused by leaks*.
Water can escape for many reasons, from pipes bursting in cold temperatures to faulty appliances leaking after breaking down.
Changing lifestyles mean that damage from escape of water is a greater risk for UK homes than burglary. Forty years ago, only 30% of UK homes were fitted with central heating; today the figure is closer to 95%*.
When you take into account the value of the average household and its contents, such as wooden floors, fitted kitchens, furniture, carpets and TVs, the damage even a single burst pipe can cause can be very costly.
As long as you take the right precautions, you can limit the risk of water damage, or even prevent an escape of water. We’ve put together this brief guide to help you understand the main causes, and have included tips on how to reduce the possibility of it happening in your own home, so that you can avoid the hassle of making a claim.
Nearly one in five claims made on buildings and content insurance are for water damage caused by leaks. And leaks are more common than you might think – in fact, UK householders suffer enough water leaks per year to fill 3,880 Olympic sized swimming pools.
Source: John Lewis Insurance EOW claims considerations May 2017
How escape of water is caused
Frozen pipes left unlagged in winter can burst when the water inside them starts to thaw, damaging the surrounding walls, floors and furniture. This is particularly common in unoccupied properties when the pipes are not regularly warmed through heating.
Although all properties are at risk of water damage, 87% of escape of water claims come from those living in detached, semi-detached and terraced houses**. This is often because such properties are fitted with new plumbing after the initial build was completed. Under-floor heating can also pose additional risk if not properly maintained.
Poor construction also heightens the risk of escape of water. Modern plumbing methods, when applied incorrectly, can lead to faulty installation or joint failure. And, of course, simple human error – leaving valves open prior to changing the water supply system, for example – can cause a leak.
Tips for preventing an escape of water
Leave the heating running in winter
When the temperature drops to freezing or below, leave your central heating running in all rooms at a constant temperature. If you’re going away and the temperature is likely to drop below freezing, set your central heating to a minimum of 10°C (50°F) for a few hours each day.
Check and bleed your radiators regularly
Bleeding radiators helps to prevent air bubbles forming, which can prevent heat circulation. This can lead to frozen pipes. Over time, trapped air and residue can also result in a leak.
Switch the heating on briefly in summer
You may want to run your central heating system occasionally, even during the warmer months. Simply turning on your heating for 15 minutes a month will help to keep water flowing smoothly.
Leave your loft hatch open
This allows warmer air to circulate. Good insulation can also reduce the risk of freezing. The Energy Saving Trust recommends it should be at least 27cm thick.
Check your washing machine every 6 months
Washing machine hoses can become brittle over time, which can lead to leaks. Spotting the source of a leak can prevent a build-up of unsightly mould.
Insulate exposed pipes
Some pipes are vulnerable to the cold if fixed to the inside of external walls or in unheated areas such as lofts. You can use foam sleeving to keep them from freezing, though in extremely cold conditions this may not be enough. As an extra preventative measure, you may want to fit additional trace heating under any lagging.
Find out where your stopcocks are
There’s usually one inside and one outside your home. In the event of a burst pipe, you should quickly turn off the water supply to reduce the damage caused. If you’re going away, you may also want to invest in an approved device to automatically cut off your water supply if a burst pipe is detected.
Have your boiler serviced annually
This will highlight any issues to help avoid a breakdown and potential loss of heating during frosty conditions. Just before autumn is usually the best time to check both your boiler and your policy.
Switch your water off if you’re going away
And if you’re going away for an extended period or staying in a second home, arrange for a trusted friend or neighbour to check your home periodically.
What happens in the event of a claim?
We have a specialist team that manage escape of water claims and coordinate the suppliers involved in a claim. We use experts to dry and restore both buildings and contents to minimise disruption to your life. This can save you from unnecessary hassle, like getting walls replastered, or sofas treated for mould spores.
As part of your policy, our team can get you into overnight accommodation if your home is made uninhabitable due to an approved claim for water damage.
If you’d like to make a claim or you have any questions about escape of water damage, you can make a claim online or call us on 0330 102 2749, we're open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 5pm Saturday.
Alternatively, if you have Home Emergency cover as part of your policy, you can call us on 0330 102 2750, we're open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
* Source: policyexpert.co.uk
** Source John Lewis Insurance EOW claims considerations May 2017
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