Drip, drip, drip. It’s the sound we all dread hearing at home—not only frustrating but often linked to significant damage and disruption. Water is one of the most common reasons for home insurance claims—be it flooding or escape of water. But what’s the difference?

People tend to refer to a major leak in their home as a flood, regardless of where the water came from. However, in insurance terms, flooding is when water enters the house from an external source, such as a burst water main or a river bank.

Escape of water is the term insurers use to describe water damage to your home and contents caused by a problem within your property that triggers water to suddenly leak or burst. Damage can also occur due to the escape of water from neighbours’ homes in apartments or terraced houses.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) estimates that insurers pay out £1.8m[1] for escape of water claims every day, and even the smallest of leaks can cause significant damage to a property over time, so it pays to be clued up on why it happens and how to prevent water-related issues.

What causes escape of water?

The most common reasons for escape of water claims are:

  • Pipes bursting due to cold weather or old plumbing
  • Leaks developing from appliances such as washing machines or dishwashers
  • Drains becoming blocked, backing up and overflowing
  • Broken or eroding roof tiles letting rainwater into properties
  • Miscellaneous leaks from taps, water tanks, central heating systems, radiators, or blockages in toilets.

Whatever the cause, discovering and dealing with the aftermath of a leak or burst pipe can be overwhelming and stressful. The damage tends to be disruptive, and its extent isn’t always immediately visible, so it’s vital to act fast when making a claim.  

How to prevent the escape of water

Disasters happen, and sometimes, leaks and burst pipes can’t be avoided, but there are steps you can take to do your best to prevent an escape of water.

The main thing is to maintain plumbing throughout the year by checking pipes for cracks, loose connections, leaks, or drips. This includes places where pipes are boxed in but accessible, such as toilet cisterns, bath panels, and behind kickboards in the kitchen. If you spot any potential issues, keep tabs on where your stop taps are and ensure everyone in the family knows, too. If you experience a leak, shutting off the water at the mains can seriously limit the damage caused, and if you’re going on holiday, get into the habit of shutting off the water if it’s safe to do so.

Avoid blockages by monitoring what you put down the drains, as cooking oil and baby wipes are common causes of issues. You can buy cleaning products designed to unblock drains if you suspect there may be a problem.

If carrying out DIY, always ensure you know where water pipes are before you start drilling—you can use a stud finder, which detects pipes and electrical wires. When it comes to appliances, always get a professional to install any new ones that require plumbing, and remember that it’s safest to use appliances when you are at home in case of a leak or fire.

How to monitor for leaks

As well as regularly checking plumbing and appliances, leak detection devices are available to monitor your usual water use and automatically cut off water if it suspects a leak. Alternatively, you can use your water meter to check for leaks – turn off anything that uses water in the home, then switch off the stop tap and take note of the meter reading. If the meter reading has changed in an hour or two, this indicates that there could be a leak somewhere within the property.

If you have any concerns, contact a professional plumber and for more information on your home insurance cover for escape of water, check your policy documents or contact your insurer.

[1] https://www.abi.org.uk/products-and-issues/choosing-the-right-insurance/home-insurance/burst-pipes-and-water-leaks/

Paymentshield’s Home Insurance can offer financial protection from damage caused by escape of water. Explore our website for more information on our Home Insurance 

Article last updated: 14/05/2024

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