Does homeowners insurance cover frozen water pipes?
by Carol Thompson
With record-breaking cold weather blanketing the northeast, south and Midwest for most of the month of February, frozen water pipes has been a problem for homeowners, especially those who live in areas not accustomed to subzero temperatures.
Pipes break when the pressure from the unfrozen water between the ice and a closed faucet builds. Eventually, the pipe ruptures causing thousands of dollars of damage.
When a pipe does burst, most turn to their homeowners insurance company. But will they pay?
Most home insurance companies will cover damage resulting from a frozen pipe provided the homeowner can prove that measures were taken to prevent the pipe from freezing. For example, many policies say that coverage applies if you can show that you either 1) shut off the water supply and drained the system, or 2) maintained heat to the home during a period when the house is unoccupied.
According to Gaudette Insurance Company, the following is generally covered:
- The cost to access the broken pipe such as tearing out a wall.
- Necessary repairs or replacement for any damaged property such as drying out flooded carpets or replacing destroyed furniture or electronics.
- The cost to repair and restore the wall once the pipe has been fixed.
- If the damage is so extensive that you can’t stay in the home, your insurance company generally will pay for additional living expenses.
The cost of the actual pipe replacement usually isn’t covered by most homeowners insurance.
There are ways to prevent pipes from freezing. Gaudette recommends to:
- Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around un-insulated pipes.
- A trickle of hot and cold water might be all it takes to keep your pipes from freezing. When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip (at a minimal amount) from the faucet served by exposed pipes.
- During extreme cold, keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night.
- If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat set to a temperature no lower than 55ºF.
If water only trickles from a faucet, it’s likely that the pipe is frozen. To prevent the pipe from bursting, keep the faucet open and heat the suspect pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Make sure a heating pad, hair dryer or other electrical devices do not come into contact with water.
Insurance policies have specifics as to what they will cover if a pipe breaks due to freezing. If a pipe bursts due to negligence, such as not heating a home when temperatures are below freezing, the insurance company generally won’t pay for damages.
Image: Flickr/Sandy Branch