If you have a frozen pipe, making a claim should be straightforward. But it isn’t always the case. Find out how you can make sure your claim is paid if you have burst pipes.
Protect your home from burst pipes
Research from insurer Direct Line warns that millions of homes could be vulnerable to damage to the roof, pipework or boiler breakdowns. Here are some tips on how to prevent or minimise the damage of burst pipes or frozen pipes:
1. Lag your pipes This is particularly important if they’re in cold or draughty spots and make sure you lag outdoor pipes or those in sheds and garages.
2. Fix dripping taps. A dripping tap can result in a freezing pipe.
2. Know where the stopcock is. With many properties this will be under the kitchen sink or in a utility room. If you have a water meter it may be in the meter box or it could be outside the boundary of your property.
SAVVY TIP: Some are ‘taps’ that can be turned off by hand, others need a stopcock key (which you can buy from any hardware or DIY shop) before you can turn them off. Speaking from experience, if your property floods, you can limit the damage if you know where the stopcock is and can turn it off quickly.
3. If your water tank is in the loft, open the loft door. If it’s particularly cold open the loft door as this will let warm air circulate. Having a lot of insulation in your loft is generally a good thing, but it can be too efficient in very cold weather and leave the water tank exposed.
4. Leave heating on a low setting. Check whether your policy states what temperature you should leave your heating on. A number of thermostats have a default ‘night time’ setting of 13 degrees, but some insurers seem to recommend that the heating should be left on at 15 degrees if you go away, which seems far too high to me.
5. Drain your system if you’re away for a longer period and don’t want to leave your heating on. There’s a useful guide on how to drain your system on the DIY Doctor website.
SAVVY TIP: If you don’t take some basic steps to protect your home, your insurer may not pay out if you make a claim.
If you have a frozen pipe
Water UK, which represents the water companies, recommends turning off the water supply at the stopcock and seeing if the pipe has burst. If the pipe is just frozen, slowly thaw it with hot water bottles or a hairdryer on the lowest setting. Start at the end that’s nearest the tap. It advises you not to use a naked flame (eek!) or blowtorch.
Check your cover for damage from burst pipes
If you have a burst pipe or water tank in your house it could cause a serious amount of damage. Most insurance policies say they will pay out as long as you haven’t been negligent. But they don’t all provide the same amount of cover.
- Some policies don’t cover all outside pipes. With some policies, if you have a burst external pipe (such as a garden or garage tap) it will only be covered if the pipe starts inside your house — such as in the kitchen. Other policies are more generous and cover all pipes that are situated within your boundary.
- Most policies set conditions if you’re away. Most insurance policies will insist that the heating is left on or that the heating system is drained if you’re away for a more than a few weeks. Check what your insurance policy states you should do.
SAVVY TIP: Insurers can refuse to pay if this condition isn’t met. For example, even if you have left the heating on, if there’s a power cut and pipes in your property burst, the insurer may not pay the claim.
- Check the excess levels. Some insurers impose a higher excess for water damage and escape. These higher excess have been creeping into policies over the last year or so. The excess is the first part of the claim that you have to pay.
SAVVY TIP: Graeme Trudgill of the British Insurance Brokers’ Association says that some insurers are raising excess levels for water damage to £250 and more. “It always used to be the case that you’d have one excess level of £100 or whatever, which applied no matter what you claimed for. But that isn’t how it works for all insurers now.”
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