Does insurance cover burst pipes?

5 minute read Published on Feb 15, 2023 by BrokerLink Communications

A close-up of a copper pipe that ruptured because it had frozen, now spraying water, with a cinder block wall in the background.

Water can damage a home in many ways, from an overflowing sink to the sewer backing up to a malfunctioning dishwasher to worn-down seals around windows or doors. One of the most common causes of water damage homeowners experience is broken pipes. There are a few different reasons a water pipe could burst, and the results are often devastating. While your insurance likely includes some water damage, you may wonder if your homeowners insurance covers a burst pipe. This is where things can get a bit confusing. Don’t fret — BrokerLink is here to help walk you through the complexities of water damage.

Will my homeowners insurance cover burst pipes?

Did you know that not all types of water damage are the same? Whether or not water damage to your home is covered truly depends on how the water got there in the first place and the type of homeowners insurance you have.

Fortunately, if your pipe bursts suddenly and unexpectedly, your homeowners insurance policy should cover it because it falls under accidental water damage. However, if the pipe had been leaking for an extended period of time before it burst, there is a good chance your claim will be denied. Like many other aspects of the home, pipes also need regular maintenance to ensure there are no issues like clogs, cracks, slow leaks or anything else that could lead to burst pipes.

5 common causes of burst pipes

Pipes are just as susceptible to general wear and tear as other parts of your home. Consider just how often they are used daily, from washing your hands and flushing the toilet multiple times a day to washing your dishes or watering your garden. Yet they are often forgotten about and neglected until one of them springs a leak or bursts.

Below are five of the most common causes of burst pipes:

1. Freezing

Probably the most common cause of a burst pipe is freezing. As the temperatures begin to drop below 0’C in the colder weather, the water in your pipes can slowly begin to freeze. The problem is that since they freeze slowly, it is easy to miss the early warning signs because water can still flow through the frozen pipes. It just flows more slowly. As the water freezes, it creates pressure in that area of the pipe, and once that pressure becomes too much, the pipe will burst. Frozen pipes are most likely to happen to pipes that are in unheated areas, such as crawl spaces, underground sprinkler lines or along external walls.

To avoid frozen pipes, ensure they are correctly insulated and monitor them during the colder months. If you plan to go away, turn off your water and drain the system or arrange for a regular inspection. Consequently, if you leave your home unattended for an extended period, your homeowners insurance may not cover any water damage due to burst pipes.

2. Neglect

This is likely the other main cause of a burst pipe. When pipes are neglected, homeowners miss out on early detection of any problems with their pipes. Moreover, if a homeowner ignores early warning signs, such as unexplained water stains (likely due to a leaky pipe), it will likely lead to more significant damage later. For example, coming home to a flooded office.

Schedule annual inspections for your pipes to help spot any issues early on and avoid future headaches.

3. Tree roots

If you have ever been told not to purchase a home with a large tree next to it, this may be why. Root systems can cause pressure on your pipes, leading to possible cracking and leaking. As roots are attracted to water, they tend to grow in the direction of water pipes. If roots get a hold of your pipes, as they continue to grow, so will the pressure on them until they burst.

If you intend to plant any trees or shrubs, make sure you plant them as far away as possible from any underground water pipes. You can also call a plumber to inspect your lines if you suspect any issues with current tree roots.

4. Clogs

Clogs can do more damage than just backing up water into your sink. If a clog forms in a pipe, it can create pressure build-up. The longer it remains clogged, the more pressure will build, leading to small leaks and a burst pipe.

If you notice even a small clog in any of your drains, ensure you take care of it immediately. If your efforts don’t seem to be working, call a plumber to come and clear it. You can also help to prevent clogs by installing inexpensive mesh drain covers.

5. Old Age

Lastly, sometimes pipes get old and can corrode or rust. Old steel pipes are especially at risk of weakened seals, joints, and pipe walls due to rusting and alkaline water. Rusted pipes will eventually crack; once they have, they have a high chance of bursting.

If you spot yellow or brownish water from your taps, it is an early sign of rusting pipes, and you should call a plumber immediately.

What type of coverage do you need for broken pipes?

There are three general categories of homeowners insurance, but only two of them include coverage against burst pipes. Below we have outlined the three categories to help homeowners understand what most homeowners insurance policies include:

1. Basic home insurance coverage

Basic or standard homeowners insurance generally covers your home in the event of a fire, lightning, windstorm or hail, although this can vary depending on your insurance company and what region you live in. For basic home insurance, only the perils specified in your insurance policy are covered.

2. Broad home insurance coverage

With broad coverage, you get a wider variety of coverage, including specific risk protection. This is because broad home insurance is more of an overall protection home insurance policy. It includes what’s covered in basic home insurance but adds even more, such as theft and vandalism. Broad can also include sudden and unforeseen events, like a burst pipe. Make sure you ask your BrokerLink broker about what is and isn’t covered.

3. Comprehensive home insurance coverage

This comprehensive policy will protect your home from a wider variety of risks, minus any that are expressly excluded. This generally includes optional coverage options and uninsurable perils, which are predictable events (e.g., a pipe that bursts after it has been leaking for an extended period). Ask your insurance broker to ensure broken pipes are listed as a specified peril on your comprehensive insurance policy.

Homeowner's insurance for burst pipes

Home insurance policies are different for every homeowner. While some will include accidental water damage, such as a burst pipe, others will not. This is why it is essential for you to speak with your insurance company about the type of coverage you have, what it includes, and how to bundle multiple insurance policies.

Contact BrokerLink to learn more about home insurance for broken pipes

At BrokerLink, our brokers have extensive expertise in home insurance. We can help you get the coverage you need. You can complete an online quote in just a few minutes, and we’ll call you back at your convenience. Call us to get started or visit one of our 200+ community branches across Canada.

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