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Blog category: Right at Home

Dealing with Home Water Damage

7 min read

As a homeowner, you do everything possible to protect your home and keep it in good repair. Unfortunately, unforeseen damages are a part of homeownership. Preparing for weather damage or plumbing failure can minimize your stress when facing the unexpected. Water leaks, in particular, can cause lasting, irreparable home water damage if not dealt with promptly.

Does Home Insurance Cover Water Damage?

In many cases, home insurance does cover water damage. If home water damage results from a sudden and accidental leak inside the home, your insurance likely covers the repairs but not the source of the leak. For instance, let’s say your dishwasher breaks down, flooding the kitchen and damaging the flooring and drywall. In this case, your policy will likely pay to repair the floor and the walls but not to repair or replace the dishwasher.

Your homeowner’s insurance may still provide coverage for water damage resulting from general neglect in home maintenance. For instance, if a homeowner fails to address necessary repairs, such as a deteriorating roof or plumbing issues, which subsequently lead to leaks, there's a possibility that the policy could cover resulting damages like rain intrusion or burst pipes. However, it's important to note that the most frequently denied or excluded damage often involves prolonged leakage and seepage, potentially leading to issues such as mold or rot. Additionally, standard homeowner’s policies typically exclude coverage for home water damage caused by surface water or backed-up external sewers. If you're concerned about such risks, you may want to consider obtaining coverage through flood insurance or water backup coverage

Water Damage Costs

Nearly 20% of home insurance claims were attributed to water damage and freezing in 2020, according to the Insurance Information Institute, or III. This percentage translates to about one in 50 covered homes making a claim for water damage. The average payout for these claims was over $9,600, making home water damage one of the most common and most expensive costs to repair.

Home water damage can result from burst pipes, a leaky roof, or busted appliances. Typically, there’s no warning that a leak or water damage is about to occur. Since it is so expensive, a good homeowners insurance policy is essential to help you manage the risk. So, too, is preventative maintenance in helping to prevent sudden appliance or plumbing failures.

Preventing Water Leaks and Home Water Damage

Taking steps to prevent home water damage is essential for homeowners.

Monitor Your Home Water Pressure

The easiest step to avoiding costly home water damage is to monitor your water pressure. High water pressure can cause hoses and pipes to wear down faster than normal. The International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) defines excessive water pressure as pressure measuring above 80 psi in its Uniform Plumbing Code. If your water pressure exceeds the maximum psi, adding a pressure-reducing valve (PRV) can help regulate your water pressure. Contact a licensed contractor to install any water pressure valves or pressure regulators.

Inspect Appliances to Avoid Water Leaks

In addition to monitoring your home’s water pressure, regularly inspecting appliances that use water will decrease your risk for home water damage. Refrigerators, freezers, washing machines, sinks, dishwashers, water filters, and water heaters are all susceptible to wear and tear that can lead to leaky joints and hoses. Water lines to these appliances should never be overlooked. Be sure to replace or repair any joints, pipes, and hoses that show signs of damage or mineral buildup. For older appliances, check pipes and hoses closely, as they are more likely to need repair. Some repairs can be pretty cost-effective, such as exchanging copper pipes for steel tubing or resealing the base of a toilet, if done proactively.

Install Water Sensors

Water sensors, also known as water alarms or flood sensors, are great affordable tools for monitoring your appliances. A water sensor will act like a smoke detector to alert you to any leak before it does too much damage. You can find basic water detection sensors at most home improvement stores. Also known as passive water sensors, these devices are placed near appliances such as washing machines and emit an alarm when they become damp. Exposed metal prongs are attached to a small battery that sets off the alarm when in contact with moisture. These allow you to act quickly should something go wrong with your plumbing.

Handling Home Water Damage

No matter how proactive you may be at inspecting your appliances and replacing worn-out pipes, home water damage can still happen. Sometimes plumbing fixtures and seals are faulty or fail, and you’re left to clean up the mess. Burst pipes are one of the most common examples of unexpected water damage that can happen at any time. Knowing how to handle an emergency water leak or burst pipe may be the difference between short-term repairs and expensive, long-term water damage in your home.

The first thing to do when you experience an emergency water leak, such as a burst pipe, is to shut off the main water valve of your home. This valve is typically found by your water meter. Take the time today to make sure you and other adults in the house know where the main water valve is and how to shut it off in an emergency. Keep yourself and your family safe by always turning off the electricity to the area of your home where the leak occurred. This precaution is essential to prevent severe or even fatal injuries from electric shock.

Once you have turned off the room’s electricity and the water valve, get a bowl or bucket to place under the leak. Turn on a faucet to drain the water that is still in the plumbing system. This will stop water from flowing through the leak and help minimize the home water damage. Contact your insurance provider to inform them of the issue and take pictures to document the leak. Find a reputable emergency plumbing service to repair the broken pipe, valve, or hose. Ask the plumbers also to inspect other nearby pipes or hoses for any issues.

Once the emergency has been resolved, act quickly to clean up standing water and wet surfaces. Cleaning spaces that may trap moisture is essential to keeping mold and mildew away. If your pipe bursts in a wall or has had time to soak into floors, cleanup may require professional help. Dealing promptly with home water damage helps to keep you from experiencing health issues due to mold and bacteria.

How to Tell if Your Home Has a Water Leak

Water leaks and home water damage are not always obvious. Sometimes pipes in the walls leak slowly but consistently at valves or joints. Such leaks may go undetected, or you may be able to hear dripping but be unable to determine the source of the sound. Luckily, there are several ways to determine if your plumbing or appliances are leaking.

Monitor your water usage each month and look back through your records to check for increases in usage. Even if there are no sudden spikes in water usage, a slow but consistent rise in gallons used per month may indicate a slow leak somewhere in your home. You can also check your water bill for increases in price related to usage. A rising water bill with unchanged water-use habits could mean a leak.

Remember that exterior water fixtures can also cause interior water damage. If you see that your meter is rising and so are your monthly water bills, check the outside spigots and faucets as well as interior plumbing. Leaking exterior features can damage internal pipes by wearing them down quicker or leaking into the space where the spigot meets your home. Always take steps to track down potential leaks before they cause water damage in the home.

Homeowners Insurance Protects You from Costly Home Water Damage

Dealing with home water damage can be an expensive and stressful undertaking. While home insurance does cover water damage, it's far better to prevent it when possible. Stay watchful regarding potential water leaks in your home by regularly monitoring your water usage and water pressure. Inspect and replace or repair any appliances, hoses, or pipes that may be corroded or worn out. In addition to preventing water leaks through maintenance and reacting quickly to emergencies, you can safeguard your home from water damage with homeowners insurance.

At Wawanesa, we understand the importance of keeping you and your family safe from the long-term effects and expense of home water damage. Contact your friendly Wawanesa agent to check your homeowner’s insurance policy. Be prepared for any home repair emergency in the future by contacting us today.

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The above content is for informational purposes only and is not a direct representation of coverages offered by Wawanesa or its policies. The information does not refer to any specific contract of insurance and does not modify any definitions, provisions, exclusions or limitations expressly stated in any contracts of insurance. All references within the above content are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. The terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in a claim are determinative as to whether an accident or other loss is covered. To understand the coverage under your current policy, please log into the account management platform to review your policy or contact an agent directly.

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