Does home insurance cover plumbing issues?

12 minute read Published on Oct 23, 2023 by BrokerLink Communications

Plumber hands holding wrench and fixing a sink

There’s nothing quite like water damage to wreak havoc in a home. That is why understanding the root causes and telltale signs of a plumbing issue, as well as whether plumbing problems are covered by homeowners insurance is so important. We delve into the vital topic of home insurance and plumbing below.

When does a homeowners insurance policy not cover plumbing issues?

Not all plumbing issues will be covered by your homeowners insurance policy. It is important to know which types of plumbing issues and under what circumstances plumbing damage will not be covered by home insurance. The following is a list of scenarios in which plumbing damage is unlikely to be covered by your home insurance provider, meaning that if you filed a claim, it would probably be denied:

Plumbing damage caused by neglect/lack of home maintenance/wear and tear

If you neglect your home and it falls into a state of disrepair, which is what causes the plumbing issue in the first place, your insurer is likely to cover you. For example, if the water damage that occurred was the result of a slow leak that you failed to repair early or normal wear and tear that could have been avoided had you properly maintained your home, your insurer is likely to deny your claim. Ultimately, if the plumbing issue was preventable and an insurance adjuster confirms this, your home insurance probably won’t cover you.

Plumbing damage caused by flooding

Unless you added flooding insurance to your home insurance plan, such as in the form of overland water coverage for sewer backup coverage, plumbing damage caused by flooding likely will not be covered. This means that any water damage that occurs from flooding, whether the flooding is caused by a burst pipe, heavy rain, or other weather-related circumstances, won’t be covered. If flood damage is excluded from your current home insurance policy, you may wish to consider changing house insurance. BrokerLink can help you do this.

Plumbing damage caused by the presence of mould in your home

Mould damage and removal are typically not covered by homeowners insurance unless you purchase an additional rider or endorsement. Therefore, if the plumbing issue relates to mould growth in your home, you may not be covered.

Plumbing damage that is cosmetic

If the plumbing damage is cosmetic and does not actually affect the proper functioning of your home, your insurance provider will likely deny your claim.

Plumbing damage that occurs during renovations

If your home is undergoing renovations, and you have not notified your insurance provider, and the plumbing damage occurs during the course of renovations, your home insurance provider probably won’t reimburse you for the cost of repairs.

Plumbing damage that occurs while the home is empty or vacant

If a plumbing issue arises while your home is vacant, and you did not inform your insurance provider or purchase additional vacant home coverage, you may not be compensated for the cost of the damage.

Home insurance and plumbing damage

Some plumbing issues are small and don’t cause any major damage, but if you’re dealing with a major plumbing issue, then the subsequent water damage could be extensive. In fact, it could be so extensive that you need to repair part of your home’s foundation or replace personal property that has been damaged. Depending on the severity of the damage, you might even need to temporarily relocate while the issue is resolved. Luckily, you might be covered for these expenses thanks to your home insurance policy. There are a few different home insurance coverages that can protect policyholders from water damage, and they are:

Contents / personal property coverage

Personal property or contents coverage may protect your belongings from water damage caused by a plumbing issue. This type of coverage is designed to generally protect a policyholder’s personal belongings from damage caused by an insured peril, like fire, wind, lightning, or theft. Therefore, if items inside your home are damaged due to a plumbing issue like a burst pipe, you could be covered by your home insurance policy. Examples of items that may be covered include electronics, sporting equipment, clothes, furniture, jewellery, decor, and more.

Dwelling coverage

Dwelling insurance is another type of home coverage that could protect you from the cost of plumbing damage. Dwelling coverage pertains to the physical structure of your home. This means that if water damage from a plumbing issue damaged the foundation of your home, its walls, ceilings, roof, floorboards, etc., you could receive compensation for the cost of repairs. This could be the case even if the leak didn’t directly cause the damage but resulted in you having to remove part of your wall or ceiling to repair the leak.

Other structures coverage

Other structures coverage could come in handy in the event of a plumbing issue. How? Other structures coverage is designed to protect additional structures on your property from damage. These structures may include detached garages, sheds, workshops, fences, gazebos, swimming pools, and even septic tanks. Therefore, if a plumbing issue arose that relates to your septic tank, you might be covered by the other structures portion of your policy. To learn more about septic tanks coverage, or for more information on other things covered by home insurance, contact BrokerLink.

Loss of use / additional living expenses coverage

Additional living expenses (ALE) coverage or loss of use coverage can reimburse policyholders if a plumbing issue causes water damage that forces them to temporarily relocate. For instance, if the plumbing damage is so extensive that you and your family need to move elsewhere while the issue is fixed, your home insurance company may cover these expenses under the loss of use portion of your policy. Specifically, additional living expenses coverage may pay for food, travel, and accommodation.

Flood insurance

Although plumbing damage may be covered by basic home insurance coverage in the form of dwelling or personal property coverage listed above, it may also be covered by flood insurance. There are several types of flood insurance that can be added to home insurance policies in Canada as riders or endorsements. Two of the most common examples are sewer backup coverage and overland water coverage:

Sewer backup coverage

Sewer backup coverage is the first kind of flood insurance, which can often be added on to property insurance plans. As you might suspect, it is specifically intended to protect policyholders from the reality of a sewer backup. Sewer backups occur when pipes become blocked and wastewater or sewage backs up and comes out of the sinks or faucets in your home. It is worth noting that adding any type of extra coverage, such as flood insurance in the form of sewer backup coverage, to your home insurance plan, is likely to increase your insurance premium, there are ways to minimize how much it increases. For instance, if you ask a BrokerLink broker to help you add sewer backup coverage to your policy but you install a sewer backup detection device in your home at the same time, you could qualify for a property insurance discount. Plus, a sewer backup prevention device could also mitigate the severity of water damage if a sewer backup did occur.


Overland water coverage

Overland water coverage is a second kind of flood insurance that can be added to home insurance policies in Canada. It is best suited to policyholders whose homes are located in areas near major bodies of water or areas that experience heavy precipitation in the form of rain or snow. Overland water coverage offers protection in the event that your property suffers water damage due to a nearby lake/river, overflow, heavy rain, or rapid snow melt. For instance, this type of coverage can cover a flooded basement due to the aforementioned perils, and we all know how expensive repairing a flooded basement can be. For more tips on avoiding basement flooding, get in touch with BrokerLink.

To learn more about how flood insurance works, contact BrokerLink. A BrokerLink home insurance specialist can help find comprehensive water damage coverage and can even debunk some of the most common flood damage myths.

The most common signs of household water damage

Knowing the most common signs of water damage is crucial if you want to avoid a plumbing issue going from bad to worse. The telltale signs of a plumbing problem in your home are below. If you notice any of the following, be sure to contact a professional plumber as quickly as possible. The problem will likely only get worse, which could mean extensive water damage that costs an arm and a leg to repair:

Stains or watermarks

If you notice stains, watermarks, or discoloured patches on your walls or ceilings, chances are water damage is the culprit. These stains may appear beige, yellow, or brown in colour. They may also be arranged in a ring pattern. Note that stains or watermarks aren’t just ugly to look at, they indicate a serious problem - likely one that relates to your plumbing system. Therefore, even if you took steps to fix the cosmetic damage, the problem would likely recur. Therefore, we recommend calling a plumber if you notice stains or discolourations in your home.

The sound of trickling water

The sound of running or trickling water at times when no one is using the water in your home is another sign of water damage. If you notice the sound of running water late at night when none of the toilets, sinks, or laundry machines are in use, this could spell trouble.

Paint that is flaking or peeling

Another telltale sign of water damage in a home is paint that is flaking, peeling, or bubbling. Drywall is not waterproof, which is why the presence of water can have such an effect on the paint on your walls. If the paint is lifting off the surface of the drywall in any way, water damage likely isn’t far behind, and the affected area will only continue to grow if left untreated.

A rise in your water bills

Have you noticed a jump in your hydro bills? Unless your water usage has increased drastically, a spike in your monthly utility bills could mean that you have a plumbing issue, such as a leak, on your hands. Reach out to a local plumber who can inspect your home and test the pipes for a leak. If left untreated, the leak could get worse, which would mean having to pay increased water bills for longer coupled with a hefty plumbing bill to fix the extensive damage.

Drywall that is warped or soft

When water gets into your home, especially into the walls or ceilings of your home, the drywall will try to support it by absorbing it. This results in drywall that appears warped, soft, or even swollen. If you notice sagging drywall, be sure to contact a plumber to confirm the presence of water and determine where the water is coming from.

Strange or musty odours

Water damage is often accompanied by strange or musty odours. Take note if you’ve started to smell any new odours in the home, especially if you notice them in dark, damp parts of the home, such as in bathrooms, attics, or basements.

The presence of mould

If you spot mould in your home or suspect its presence, this is a major problem and is likely indicative of water damage. Mould is not only a hazard to human health but it can be a sign of serious property damage. There are a few ways to identify mould in your home. First, by sight. Mould often appears green, black, grey, or blue. Look for mould in dark crevices or corners, such as behind furniture or on baseboards. Second, by smell. As mentioned above, a new musty smell in your home could be a sign of mould related to water damage. Make a note of any new or strange smells in your home. Given the dangers of mould, it’s best to have your home inspected by a professional ASAP if you suspect a mould problem.

What to do if you identify a plumbing issue

If you identify a plumbing issue, such as a burst pipe or leak, it’s important to follow the steps below. Acting fast is critical if you want to prevent further damage. Keep reading for exactly what to do if you notice the telltale signs of water damage listed above:

Stop the flow of water

Do this by locating the problematic pipe and attempting to tighten it. After all, some leaks are caused by pipes that have been loosened over time. If tightening the pipe doesn’t work or you aren’t sure which pipe is responsible for the leak, then you will need to locate the water shutoff valve in your home and turn it off. Water shutoff valves are typically located in basements or near HVAC units, such as furnaces.

Document the damage

Before attempting to fix the problem but after stopping the flow of water, take some time to document the damage. This will be important for insurance purposes. Take photos and videos of all the water damage, including minor or secondary damage.

Remove the water as best you can

After you’ve documented the water damage in your home, it’s time to remove the water as best you can. To do so, while avoiding further damage, remove any personal property from the affected area. This might mean removing furniture, rugs, decor, clothing, electronics, or other personal belongings. Next, increase the airflow as much as possible to start drying the area. To do this, we recommend opening all nearby windows and running a fan, air conditioner, or dehumidifier. Next, consider using a shop vac or sump pump to remove any standing or pooled water. If you need help understanding sump pumps, contact BrokerLink. Finally, if water is located near any electrical wiring, turn off the power in your home to avoid electrocution.

Call a professional plumber

The last step if you are dealing with a plumbing issue in your home is to contact a professional plumber in your area. Plumbing systems are complex, so unless you have plumbing experience, we recommend calling a professional to inspect your home and resolve the issue. If you’ve got a plumbing emergency, make sure to call a local plumbing service with a 24-hour emergency line so that they can send someone to your home as quickly as possible.

Reach out to BrokerLink for more information on plumbing damage and home insurance

Plumbing systems are essential to the functioning of homes. Unfortunately, when a plumbing issue arises, the results can be catastrophic, especially considering how much damage water can cause. To prepare for this worst-case scenario, it’s important to understand how home insurance covers plumbing damage. A BrokerLink insurance advisor who knows the ins and outs of property insurance in Canada would be pleased to discuss plumbing damage and home insurance. They can inform you of the circumstances when plumbing issues are and are not covered by home insurance. A BrokerLink insurance advisor can also suggest types of coverage that may be worth adding to your policy if you want greater protection against flooding, water damage, and plumbing damage. Beyond water damage and home insurance, the BrokerLink team can discuss the basics of home insurance, explain the difference between home insurance vs homeowners insurance, and even help you with tasks like renewing a house insurance policy. To find out more about what we can do for her, get in touch with BrokerLink today. We can be reached over the phone, online via our website, or in person at any of our 200+ Canadian branches.


FAQ on homeowners insurance and plumbing damage coverage

Does homeowners insurance cover plumbing issues from burst pipes?

Depending on your home insurance coverage, your policy may cover the cost of repairs stemming from emergency plumbing issues like burst pipes.

What happens after I file a plumbing damage or water damage claim with my home insurance company?

This depends on your coverage, as well as your specific insurance provider. Please note that home insurance companies will not cover plumbing or water damage that occurs as a result of neglect or wear and tear. Further, unless you have flood insurance added to your policy, you are also unlikely to be covered. If the damage falls into any of these categories, then your claim has a good chance of being denied.

That said, anytime you file a water damage claim with your home insurance provider, they will do their due diligence to investigate the claim. This involves the insurance provider sending an insurance adjuster to evaluate the cause of the damage, the severity of the damage, and the cost of repairing the damage. Specifically, an adjuster will evaluate the location of the source of the damage (e.g. the burst pipe), whether any of the damage was the result of an old leak or if it all stems from a new leak, and whether there are any telltale signs of wear and tear, such as rust, that could have indicated a future plumbing issue to the homeowner. Once they have investigated your home and asked you a few questions, they will make a judgment call as to whether the damage could have been reasonably prevented by the policyholder or whether it was accidental and unexpected. Ultimately, if the adjuster finds that the water damage could have been prevented, your home insurance provider is likely to reject your plumbing damage claim, leaving you on the hook for the cost of repairs.

If you have any questions, contact one of our local branches.