Burst Frozen Pipes: Will Your Insurance Cover It?

Frozen pipes and the flooding and water damage that follows rank up with a leaky roof or foundational problem on the list of events most homeowners fear. In some cases, burst pipes might be preventable — but in others, not so much. In 2021, below-freezing temperatures in Texas caused an unprecedented 325 million gallons of water to flood the city’s water system when frozen and burst pipes thawed out, and the leaks began.

Even with weatherized pipes and appropriate precautions, your plumbing could freeze, leaving you with damaged tubes and a flooded basement. But if that happens through no fault, will your insurance still pay for it?

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Frozen Pipes?

Homeowner’s insurance will cover accidental water damage to your house. The damage to the actual pipes and plumbing system, on the other hand, is not likely to be covered. Your typical homeowner’s insurance policy will cover your carpets, drywall, flooring, furniture, and other belongings regarding water damage. It will also cover costs to rebuild your walls and different structures around the pipe, restoration work, and preventative measures against mold. What it won’t cover is the plumbing itself. A typical homeowners insurance policy won’t cover water damage from backed-up pipes or drain seepage.

 Image Source: New Jersey Real Estate Network
Image Source: New Jersey Real Estate Network

Why? A few reasons.

  • A burst pipe is generally considered a necessary part of home maintenance, for which the homeowner is responsible. Claims for burst pipes are also frequently denied for negligence. The insurance company is not obligated to honor the claim if no preventive measures are taken to keep the lines from freezing.
  • Normal wear and tear on pipes are also a common reason for claims to be denied, as this also falls under general maintenance.
  • There’s one more reason why your homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover this kind of damage: because there’s another kind of insurance that does, which is accidental water damage caused by a sudden, unexpected incident, such as a broken pipe, is sometimes covered by a home insurance policy.

Furthermore, cleaning, repairing, or replacing wood floors, plasterboard, and even furniture due to the water damage caused by a burst pipe is usually covered; however, if you disregard a known leak or other long-standing problem.

When can homeowners insurance for frozen pipes be denied?

Typically, your home’s insurance will cover the cleaning and necessary repairs caused by water damage caused by a broken pipe.

If you left your house for a few days and turned off the heat, causing the pipes to freeze as the temperature fell outside, your claim may be denied. Preventive measures to preserve and protect your pipes can help you avoid a freeze-related calamity. When you’re going to be gone from home, replace the thermostat’s battery and set your thermostat to a minimum of 55.

When can homeowners insurance for frozen pipes be denied
Image Source: InsuranceDekho

If you are gone for a long time, consider having a family or friend check on your home and ensure the heat is turned on. Winterize your house if you want to leave for the whole winter. It includes emptying your home’s plumbing system and turning off the water supply.

Does homeowners insurance cover water line breakage?

Most homeowners’ insurance plans do not cover water line breaks unless the line has sustained abrupt and severe damage. For example, if you accidentally break the water line from your meter while digging in your yard, repairs and cleanup may be reimbursed.

However, if a water line on your property breaks due to age, normal wear and tear, faulty original installation, frequent ground temperature fluctuations, shifting soil, or damage from pests or encroaching tree roots, the break and accompanying water damage are unlikely to be covered by your standard coverage. If a water main breaks, the city or municipality repairs or replaces the gap. However, you are frequently liable for repairing or replacing the water main supply line attached to your residence. If your home is damaged due to a public water main break, notify your municipality and insurance carrier.

Flood Insurance

Another water-related mishap that isn’t covered by your average homeowner’s policy is flood damage. The reasons for this are manifold, but the short version is that insurance companies regard flood damage as “gradual” because the flood waters touch the ground outside before they get to your house. Though this may seem like a strange rule, it’s just the way it is for most homeowners insurance policies.

Flood Insurance
Image Source: Skyscraper Insurance

But you can take out dedicated flood insurance or as an endorsement/add-on to your existing insurance. It means extra cost out of pocket, so when choosing your homeowners insurance, you should be aware of the finer details of what your policy covers — one reason why insurance analysts like Ava Lynch recommend comparing homeowners insurance quotes to ensure you’re getting the best value for your money.

If Your Claim is Denied

Insurance companies often make it difficult to file a claim successfully because they aim to maximize profits. New management or policies can exacerbate these challenges, adding to your frustration. To navigate these hurdles, contact a public adjuster. Unlike in-house adjusters who represent the insurance company, a public adjuster works for you, the homeowner. Their goal is to ensure your claim is settled quickly and fairly, minimizing the chances of denial if your claim is reasonable.

What You Can Do to Avoid Frozen Pipes

Preventing frozen pipes is more straightforward and less expensive than repairing the damage they create. Use these five simple ways to protect your pipes before the cold winter arrives:

Keep outdoor water sources safe

Garden hoses should be removed from outdoor water taps. When a hose is linked to a tap, it prevents it from draining correctly, which might cause the fixture to freeze and break. Cover all external faucets after the hoses have been removed. Tap covers are affordable, simple to install, and reusable year after year. Water shut-off values are also available in certain homes, allowing you to cut off water to outdoor faucets. Turn off the water and drain pipes before installing tap covers if your property has an outside shut-off valve.

Pipes should be insulated

Insulate pipes near your crawlspace, attic, and home’s exterior walls. It is the most vulnerable area to freezing. Pipe insulation can be applied in various methods, including snap-on foam insulation and UL-approved heat tape. Make careful you follow the installation instructions provided by the manufacturer.

Pipes should be insulated
Image Source: HouseLogic

Increase the temperature on the thermostat

Even while you’re asleep or out of town, keep your house at 55 F or higher. Allow warm air to circulate under sink plumbing by opening kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors.

Keep the water running

Turn on hot and cold near your home’s outside walls and leave a little trickle of water running overnight. It maintains the water running overnight. It keeps the water flowing through your pipes and relieves pressure if they freeze. Running water freezes faster than stagnant water.

Turn off the water supply and the drainage system

Turn off the main water supply to your house and empty the pipes if you will be gone for a lengthy period. It is recommended for folks with secondary or holiday homes in chilly climates. Ashley Abrams, a former agent, had firsthand knowledge of this. They froze when someone failed to empty the pipes at her cottage in Leavenworth, Washington.

FAQs

frequently asked questions - frozen pipes
Image Source: ThienTu

I’ve had water damage due to the recent cold weather: what should I do next?

If you’ve suffered a loss due to a pipe burst or water damage, document any relevant losses and property loss as quickly as possible and claim with your insurance company. See our most recent blog post here.

My insurance company will only pay for partial repairs. What should I do?

If you contacted your insurance carrier about the claim and it was refused or underpaid, you should immediately:

  • Record all talks and contacts with your insurance provider/agent.
  • Keep a file of all damaging documents/ photos to preserve evidence of your loss.
  • Contact an insurance claims lawyer, such as The Voss Law Firm.

What are some typical reasons insurance companies refuse, delay, or underpay insurance claims?

  • Cosmetic damage due to wear and tear
  • Claiming damage from the previous year.
  • Leaving out certain repairs (the “below your deductible” game)
  • Delay in processing your claim

What may I expect to recover if I engage your firm?

  • Actual damages, penalty interest, and bad faith
  • Damages
  • Fees for your attorney

Does my house insurance cover broken pipes?

Damage from burst pipes is covered by homeowners insurance. Homeowners often have two types of protection: insurance frequently specifically covers damage caused by bursts or damaged pipes. Second, many policies mention power outages to state that if an offsite failure results in insured property losses, the insurer will reimburse the loss. It would be a covered condition if water caused the pipes to break.

Why is the situation in Texas so complicated?

Insurers would not cover plumbing freeze unless the claimant made reasonable efforts to prevent the condition from escalating, such as keeping the heat on and turning off the water.

Will backed-up water be an issue?

People may also have issues if the water damage in their houses was caused by drain seepage or a washbasin backlog. Most carriers specifically exclude this form of damage from coverage without an endorsement or add-on for this type of damage.

What happens if my house floods?

A standard homeowners or renters insurance policy does not cover flood damage, including extra groundwater. A homeowner would require a separate flood insurance policy to claim damage from melting snow, such as discharging back into the property.

What happens if my roof collapses?

Homeowners should be OK. Accidents are covered by homeowners insurance if a policyholder’s roof collapses. Insurers may refuse a claim if the claimant was aware of structural degradation or damage in the home before the collapse. For example, if they were putting off repairs to a leaking roof or a problem that they might generally live with, they were putting off repairs to a leaking roof or a problem.

Conclusion

Knowing your insurance coverage is crucial in the unpredictable world of frozen pipes and potential water damage. Protect your home, finances, and peace of mind by understanding when your policy covers burst pipes. Whether you’re dealing with frozen disasters or unexpected mishaps, being informed empowers you to make the right decisions for your property. Preventing damage is key, so take proactive steps to safeguard your pipes. Stay prepared, stay covered, and navigate the icy waters of homeownership with confidence.

Sandra Johnson

Sandra Johnson

Sandra Johnson was a few years out of school and took a job as a life insurance agent in California, selling coverage door-to-door for Prudential. The experience taught her about the technical components of insurance and its benefits for individuals and society, as well as the misunderstandings people often have about insurance. She has over ten years’ experience in the insurance industry, having worked as both a Broker and Underwriter, assisting clients across a broad range of industries. At Insurance Noon, Sarah diligently gathers all the required information and curates up pieces to provide meaningful insurance solutions. Her personal value proposition is to demonstrate a genuine interest in always adding value for clients.Her determined approach to guiding clients has turned her into a platinum adviser to multiple insurers.