Does Home Insurance Cover Damage From Frozen Pipes?Posted on Jan 16, 2020
Frozen pipes can do a real number on your home. From a total flood to massive water damage, it’s all bad news.
The only worse news that could come along would be the news that your insurance refuses to pay for the damage. While this isn’t always the case, there are certain circumstances in which your insurance will and will not pay for damage caused by frozen pipes.
Here’s what you need to know about homeowners insurance and frozen pipes.
How Big of a Deal is a Pipe Burst?
CostHelper suggests that the average insurance claim related to water damage caused by burst frozen pipes is around $15,000. In other words, it’s not a small thing to repair the damage this type of incident causes. It’s certainly not something insurers want to pay if it is evident that the pipe burst could have been prevented.
In fact, pipes that burst due to negligence, failing to repair a pipe that has been leaking for some time, can be denied by your insurance company.
The kicker for homeowners to consider, though, is that while many policies will cover the resulting damage from the frozen pipe, the pipe itself is the homeowner’s responsibility to replace under most policies. That means you’ll be responsible for repairing the pipe that froze and then subsequently burst, as well as the cost of bringing the plumber in to make the repairs.
Protecting Yourself to Ensure Your Claim is Approved
There’s nothing more frustrating than having a water damage claim caused by burst frozen pipes denied. Especially when you believe you’ve done everything right. There are things you can do to reduce your risks of a denied claim for frozen pipes, such as:
- Have frequent inspections of your pipes, practice routine maintenance, and conduct swift pipe repairs when needed. Keep documentation related to those inspections, maintenance appointments, and repairs.
- Know where your water shutoff valves are and use them quickly when pipes burst to limit the extent of the damage. Allowing the water to continue flowing needlessly after a frozen pipe has burst creates preventable damage. Your insurer may deny your claim if you did not act swiftly to correct the problem.
- Turn your heat on when the weather calls for it. It doesn’t have to be set high, but it does need to be warm enough inside the home to prevent pipes from freezing whenever possible.
- Insulate pipes in vulnerable areas. This includes pipes in crawl spaces, basements, and along the outside walls of your home.
- Open cabinet doors to allow heat to reach uninsulated pipes on exterior walls. This can help ensure the heat gets where it needs to go to protect your uninsulated pipes.
Even if you’re going to be away from home for an extended amount of time during the colder winter months, there are things you can do to help prevent frozen pipes. They include:
- Set your thermostat to 55 degrees while you’re away from home. Don’t forget to replace the battery for your thermostat before leaving.
- Have a trusted friend or family member check on your home while you’re away. They can make sure that it is warm enough in your home, and there are no signs of frozen pipes.
- Consider winterizing your home by shutting off the water and draining your water system. Do this, especially if you’re a “snowbird” who flies south for the entire winter.
- Consider installing an automatic water shut–off valve that detects water either by monitoring flows in the pipe or by detecting water on the floor. When flow is irregular or moisture is detected, the valve will shut off the water supply to your home. These can prevent a significant amount of the damage that water leaks cause. Some of these devices even come with apps that let you contril your water flow through your phone.
Of course, there’s no such thing as foolproof system when it comes to protecting your home from frozen pipes. The next best thing to know is how to respond in a way that helps to prevent frozen pipes from bursting.
Responding to Frozen Pipes
Acting to reduce risks of freezing pipes is an important first step. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always net the results you seek. You need to know how to respond when your pipes freeze to prevent them from bursting in the aftermath.
First, attempt to thaw the pipes with a hairdryer. Do not attempt this in standing water and never, ever use a blow torch or anything else with an open flame.
However, if the pipes have already burst, it is important to shut off the water at your home’s main shut-off valve and call a plumber.