Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Pipe Replacement?
Yes! If a pipe bursts in your house, your homeowners insurance will cover the cost of the pipe's replacement as well as the plumber's house call.
However, the cause of the pipe's rupture must be sudden, unexpected and unforeseeable—in short, it must be accidental water damage. Most homeowners insurance policies will only pay for your ruptured pipe if the rupture was totally out your control.
What Else Will Homeowners Insurance Cover When a Pipe Bursts?
If your happy home is subject to the ill effects of a burst pipe, your homeowners insurance policy will pay for more than just the pipe replacement and the plumber.
Most home insurance policies include dwelling coverage, personal property coverage, liability protection and insurance for additional living expenses. When water damage occurs as the result of a failed pipe, water heater, washing machine or other home appliance, the dwelling and property coverage pony up loot for the following areas:
Services or rental equipment to pump out the water
Services or rental equipment to dry out your house
Structural wood, support wood, and wood flooring
Walls, wall treatments, drywall, and insulation
Electrical outlets, fixtures, and wiring
Paint and wallpaper
Carpets, rugs, and furniture
Note: If the plumber has to cut into a wall or the ceiling to fix the pipe, your homeowners insurance policy will reimburse you for that further damage.
What Does Personal Property Insurance Cover?
If your home's plumbing suddenly causes an liquid explosion and soaks, say, your living room in standing water, this type of home insurance will cover your clothing, furniture, electronic equipment, sports gear and other personal items.
Your insurance company will most likely provide coverage for 50% to 70% of the amount of insurance on the structure of a home, according to the Insurance Information Institute. (Dwelling coverage comprehends "the structure of a home.")
Jewelry, furs and other high-ticket items are usually covered to a predetermined amount and no more, but you can always insure those items under a special policy that pays out for those items' appraised value. Ask your insurance company.
When Will Insurance Companies Not Cover a Burst Pipe?
Most insurance companies assume normal homeowner maintenance will take care of any problem that occurs gradually. The property owner is responsible for gradual damage, making sure pipes are generally maintained, screwed tight, and kept unclogged and unfrozen. Further, the property owner is expected to discover any small crack or fracture in the house's plumbing long before a leaking pipe becomes a disaster.
In other words, your insurance company will refuse to honor a claim that is the result of negligence on the part of the homeowner—the very person who must look out for leaks, mildew, and the wear and tear of gradual damage. Further, your insurance company may deny coverage if the plumbing is ancient or, for example, no steps were taken to stop the pips from getting frozen.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Mold Damage?
Many insurers cover mold damage, especially if the mold is a result of accidental water damage. Even if mold damage is covered by your home insurance, your policy probably has strict limitations on what insurance claims it will honor. Once again, a homeowner's improper or insufficient maintenance will not be covered by homeowners insurance.
However, not all insurance companies cover mold contamination, especially if it's due to poor maintenance of the home's plumbing.
Learn To Identify Potential Pipe Problems
Water damage that results from a leaking, corroding, rusting or generally decaying pipe is not covered under homeowners insurance. And depending on the water pressure, that damage can accumulate pretty quickly in just 24 hours:
Up to 1,400 gallons from a refrigerator's ruptured water line
Up to 4,000 gallons from a toilet's ruptured water line
Up to 12,000 gallons from a washing machine's ruptured water line
When it comes to plumbing, the savvy homeowner relies on constant vigilance to avoid having to make a claim on their homeowners insurance policy. But what should you be looking for?
Frozen pipes are the most common cause of a pipe burst, especially in northern climates. But pipes don't typically burst because of freezing water; in fact, they burst because of the increasing pressure of thawed water between the ice blockage and the closed faucet.
WARNING SIGNS: Freezing northern climates, frost on the pipes and low water pressure
Rusted and Corroded Pipes
Over time, rust and corrosion weaken pipes and makes them vulnerable to a water leak. (Iron rusts, while other metals and non-metals corrode.) The rate of decay depends upon various environmental factors. If your home was built before 1960, you probably have galvanized pipes, which are made of steel and dipped in zinc—perfect for corrosion.
WARNING SIGNS: Rust spots and discolored water
If your water has a high concentration of minerals, you have "hard water." For example, magnesium and calcium can accumulate within your house's pipes and faucets, restricting the water flow.
WARNING SIGNS: Low water pressure and rust spots
If the pipes are not properly soldered or fitted together, then leaks and even broken pipes could be in your future. While a homeowners policy will not cover the cost of fixing faulty installation—you'll have to sue your contractor to get that straightened out—it may, in some cases, cover the damage that results from that faulty installation, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
WARNING SIGNS: Rattling pipes and leaks
Other Signs of Failing Pipes
You should always be looking for a leaky or rusty pipe, discolored water and low water pressure. Here are some other warning signs:
- High water bills
- Slow drainage
- Nasty odors emanating from the drain
- Brown spots on the ceiling
- Peeling paint or wallpaper in the bathroom
- A constantly gurgling toilet
- A constantly clogged toilet
If you notice these red flags, you should act immediately and call a licensed plumber to avoid any broken pipes.
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How Much Does a Burst Pipe Cost?
Here's a little joke an insurance adjuster once told me: A plumber fixes a ruptured pipe in a doctor's house and charges $350. Doctor: "Even I don't make so much money in such a short period. And I'm a doctor!" Plumber: "I know, sir—I used to be a doctor myself!"
All jokes aside, plumbers charge about $500, on average, to replace a pipe. But that bill could be $1,000 or more, depending on the cost of the pipe, where the pipe is located and your plumber's rates. The best way to cover water damage is to prevent it from happening in the first place. If that fails, your home insurance policy should kick in to pay for any repairs.
Get Your Plumbing Inspected Regularly
You should have a licensed plumber inspect your plumbing on a regular basis; spring and fall are a great time to perform regular maintenance and inspections. If your pipes have outlived their years of service, get your pipes replaced. If you live in a northern climate and plan on leaving your home unattended for an extended period of time during the winter, keep your house's heat on low to prevent your pipes from freezing.
Further, you should keep all your receipts of inspection, repairs and maintenance. Indeed, you may need this paper trail if you ever make an insurance claim regarding your plumbing: Your records will help to prove that your plumbing's normal wear-and-tear has been maintained in a responsible, consistent manner.
Review Your Homeowners Policy with Your Insurance Company
If you're unsure whether your homeowners insurance policy covers water damage from a broken pipe, you should review the exact wording of your policy with your insurance agent. You should also ask about any stipulated limits or exclusions. After examining your insurance policy, you may decide to up your current coverage or purchase other home-focused insurance products.
Other Homeowners Coverage To Consider
"Other structures" insurance pays for the same stuff as dwelling insurance, but it only applies to a guest house or some other detached building on your property.
"Loss of use" insurance pays for hotel and food expenses if water damage has displaced you from your home.
What Does Apartment Insurance Pay For?
Basic renters insurance usually covers serious water leaks, burst pipes and damage to your personal property. A leaky roof from a storm or damage from roof ice are also typically covered, but insurance coverage rarely extends to water damage to another unit. As always, the only damages that will be reimbursed are caused by the perils covered in your policy.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Sewage Backup and Sump-Pump Claims?
Just as most policies don't include water backup coverage and any resulting water damage, most policies don't cover sewer and sump-pump backups, according to the Insurance Information Institute. If your policy does not, you can always add a sewer backup rider, or endorsement, to your homeowners or renters coverage.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Flooding?
No, it does not, unless it's a flood caused by an accidental and unforeseen burst pipe. In order to mitigate the risks associated with flooding as a natural disaster, you would have to purchase flood insurance as a separate product. Even if a flood's water damage damages your home's structure and the Federal Emergency Management Agency declares your county a disaster area, you will still need flood coverage to pay for any water damage.
If you live in a flood-prone area, you can purchase flood protection from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) as well as from some private insurers.
What To Do If a Pipe Bursts
Burst pipes bring water damage—and absolute chaos. Before your home is inundated, review this list of things to do in the event of a burst-pipe emergency:
Shut off the water. Find out where your water-shutoff valve is right now! (You may have to turn off the electricity.)
Call a plumber!
Open a faucet to relieve any remaining pressure.
Grab the mop, buckets and a shop vacuum to start to get rid of the water as soon as possible to avoid toxic mold.
Turn up your home's heat, setting up fans to blow heat into cold rooms.
If your pipes are frozen, use a hair dryer to warm up the most vulnerable pipes, which are usually in the crawl spaces, near exterior walls and in the basement.
Open doors. If you have exposed pipes inside closets or your pantry, leave the doors open. Open vanity and cabinet doors so warm air can reach the pipes under sinks.
Clamp a piece of rubber over the leak in the broken pipe.
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