Does homeowners insurance cover plumbing leaks or burst pipes?

Homeowners insurance covers plumbing damage from a broken or leaking pipe if it’s sudden and unexpected, but gradual water damage generally isn’t covered.

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Pat Howard

Pat Howard

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Pat Howard is a managing editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where he specializes in homeowners insurance. His work and expertise has been featured in MarketWatch, Real Simple, Fox Business, VentureBeat, This Old House, Investopedia, Fatherly, Lifehacker, Better Homes & Garden, Property Casualty 360, and elsewhere.

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Michael Reynolds, CSRIC®, AIF®, CFT-I™

Michael Reynolds, CSRIC®, AIF®, CFT-I™

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Michael Reynolds, CSRIC®, AIF®, CFT-I™, is a financial advisor, principal and founder of Elevation Financial, host of the weekly personal finance podcast Wealth Redefined®, and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius.

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Homeowners insurance covers sudden and unexpected water damage from leaking plumbing or household systems and appliances. That means if your basement is suddenly flooded due to a broken water supply pipe, homeowners insurance can help pay to repair your floors or walls or replace any damaged furniture.

While homeowners insurance will cover several types of plumbing issues, it usually won’t cover preventable water damage like gradual leaks or pipes that freeze up in an unheated home. Additionally, if mold forms due to preventable water damage, homeowners insurance likely won’t pay for its removal or remediation.

Key takeaways

  • Homeowners insurance covers plumbing issues and leaks that are sudden or accidental, but water or mold damage that occurs over a long period of time is not covered.

  • If your water line bursts or your water heater ruptures and causes water damage to your home or belongings, homeowners insurance will likely cover cleanup and repairs.

  • If you have a leak or plumbing issue that the insurance company deems preventable, you likely won’t be covered for repairs.

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Does homeowners insurance cover plumbing and leaks?

Homeowners insurance generally covers plumbing damage and leaks when it’s sudden and accidental. If the water damage is caused by frozen pipes, and your home was properly heated at the time, homeowners insurance will help cover the cost of repairs. If a plumbing leak is hidden away in your walls and unknown to you, you may also be covered for repairs, even if the leak occurred over the course of weeks or months.

Your homeowners insurance policy includes several types of coverages that can protect your home, belongings, and temporary living expenses after a major plumbing accident.

Here are the different ways you’re covered.

  • Dwelling coverage: Pays for damage to the structure of your home. If your house is damaged by a leaking or burst pipe or a water heater malfunction, dwelling coverage can pay to repair or replace drenched floors, walls, and cabinetry up to your coverage limits. However, insurance likely won’t pay to replace your plumbing or household systems if they’re the source of the water damage.  

  • Other structures coverage: Covers damage to structures separate from your main house. That means if there’s a covered plumbing accident in a detached garage or guest house on your property, homeowners insurance will pay for any necessary repairs up to your coverage limits.

  • Personal property coverage: Pays for damage to your personal belongings. If a broken pipe causes water damage to your furniture, clothing, or jewelry, homeowners insurance can reimburse you for new items.

  • Loss of use coverage: Pays for hotel stays, restaurant meals, and other temporary living expenses after a covered loss. That means if a plumbing accident floods your house and makes it unlivable, your loss of use coverage can pay for short-term living expenses while it’s being repaired.

If your plumbing or a household system breaks and the resulting water damage is covered by your policy, you’ll need to file a homeowners insurance claim to be reimbursed for damage or repairs. You’ll also have to meet your policy deductible, which is the amount you’re responsible for paying on each claim before your insurance kicks in to cover the rest.

Water damage claims often result in higher insurance premiums

Water damage claims often result in higher insurance premiums, so it’s advised you only file a claim if you absolutely need to.

If you have a water damage claim for $5,000 and you have a $1,000 deductible, your insurance company will pay you the remaining $4,000 for cleanup and repair costs. This claim might be worth it.

But if your claim is for $1,200, your insurance company would only pay you the remaining $200. In this case, it might make more financial sense to cover the damage yourself instead of filing a claim.

When does homeowners insurance not cover plumbing damage?

Household plumbing, systems, and appliances all require maintenance to operate effectively. If your bathroom sink or washing machine has a minor leak, you’ll need to fix it yourself or hire a professional. 

But what if the leak goes undetected for months and causes thousands of dollars in water damage to your home’s foundation and walls? Can homeowners insurance help cover the cost of repairs? Probably not

Here are some instances where water damage is typically covered, sometimes covered, and never covered by homeowners insurance.

Often covered

  • Fire or lightning

  • Smoke

  • Windstorm or hail

  • Theft

  • Vandalism

  • Explosion

  • Falling objects

  • Weight of snow or ice

  • Freezing

  • Power surges

Sometimes covered

Not covered

  • Flooding

  • Earthquakes

  • Intentional acts

  • Pest infestations

  • Nuclear hazard

  • Wear and tear 

  • Theft from a home under construction

  • Water damage from clogged pipes

Preventable pipe leaks or mold damage

If your pipes leak over a matter of weeks or months and the leak itself is obvious and out in the open, you won’t be covered for repairs. If the leak causes mold growth in your floors or walls, mold removal and repair costs also wouldn’t be covered.

Pipes that freeze and break due to neglect

Homeowners insurance generally won’t cover water damage resulting from frozen pipes if it’s determined your house wasn’t sufficiently heated when they froze. If your pipes froze because you left your home vacant for an extended period of time and forgot to shut off the water supply, that also wouldn’t be covered.

Sump pump or sewer line backups

A standard home insurance policy won’t cover water damage from sewer line backups or clogged pipes. If you have a sump pump and it overflows, that also wouldn’t be covered. For coverage against sump pump or sewer line backups, you’ll need to add an optional water backup coverage endorsement to your homeowners insurance.

Outdated steel plumbing

Polybutylene and galvanized steel are materials that were widely used as supply piping in homes throughout much of the 20th century, but homeowners insurance generally won’t cover homes with these pipes.

Polybutylene and galvanized steel pipes are notoriously hazardous, as chemicals like chlorine in public water were found to make the pipes brittle and cause plumbing leaks and burst pipes. 

Gradual pipe leaks usually aren't covered by home insurance

Insurance companies view gradual pipe leaks and general wear and tear as a home maintenance issue, even in cases where the damage requires extensive repairs. Water damage that occurs over a long period of time is generally not covered by homeowners insurance, including running or clogged toilets, backed-up sewer pipes, or leaky water pipes.

Additional home insurance coverage for your plumbing 

If you live in a home with older plumbing, outdate home systems, or located in an area prone to mold or sewage overflows, there are a few optional insurance coverages that you should consider.

Water backup coverage

A standard homeowners insurance policy won’t cover water damage caused by sewer line or sump pump backups, but you can add a water backup coverage endorsement to your policy to extend your coverage to sewage backups and overflows.

If your sewer line or sump pump backs up and floods your basement, water backup coverage can help cover the cost of cleanup and repairs. It can be added to your homeowners insurance for a small additional cost of around $30 per year.

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Service line coverage

Service line coverage is another optional add-on that covers the replacement of utility lines on your property but outside of your home — including water, steam, sewer, and drain pipes — when they're damaged.

Like water backup coverage, this type of coverage can be added to your standard homeowners insurance policy for a small fee, typically around $30 to $40 per year.

Mold damage rider

While your coverage will depend on your specific policy and state, mold damage is generally covered if it's caused by a sudden and unexpected accident, like a burst pipe or appliance malfunction. You may also be covered if the mold was caused by a leaking pipe hidden away in your walls or beneath your floors. 

Most insurance companies will only pay for mold damage up to a limited amount — usually $1,000 to $10,000. Considering removal and remediation costs can be as high as $30,000, you may want to consider a mold damage rider.

This is an optional homeowners insurance add-on that increases your mold coverage to as much as $50,000. It also covers causes of mold growth that aren’t normally covered under your homeowners insurance, like mold that gradually forms in a damp area.

Flood insurance

Homeowners insurance won’t pay for flood damage that originates outside of your home. So if you live in a coastal community or in a floodplain, you may want to consider flood insurance.

Depending on your insurer, you may be able to add this coverage to your homeowners insurance policy for an additional premium. Otherwise, you can purchase a standalone flood insurance policy through the National Flood Insurance Program — with policies ringing in at an average of $738 per year.

What to do if you discover a plumbing leak

If you discover a leak in your plumbing system, you should act quickly in order to avoid further damage. Here are a few steps to take:

  1. Stop the flow of the water. Follow the leak to its source and take measures to stop it. You may just need to tighten a loose connector to prevent the water from spilling out. But if the option is available to you, you can also turn off your home’s water supply while you investigate the leak.

  2. Take photos of the damage. If you decide to file a claim, you’ll be asked to provide photos of the damage. Take pictures of the crack in your pipe and the water damage from the leak to better defend your claim.

  3. Turn off electricity. If there are electrical wires in the damaged area, turn off your electricity to avoid electrocution.

  4. Move damaged furniture to another room. Once you’ve discovered the source of the leak and gathered all your evidence, you should move furniture away from the source to prevent further damage.

  5. Remove water from the damaged area. You can remove water from the room by dropping towels onto the ground and taking measures to evaporate the moisture in the room. Allow air to flow through the room by opening up your windows and run an air conditioner or a dehumidifier to dissolve the water in the air.

How to prevent broken pipes

There are several steps you can take to protect your home’s plumbing and prevent costly water damage.

Winterize your plumbing

If you own a house that’s vacant during the coldest months, it’s recommended that you winterize your home to prevent your pipes from freezing. This includes shutting off your water, removing excess standing water from your pipes, opening drain valves, draining water from your hot water tank, and checking sink and tub drains that have drain traps.

Replace your plumbing

If your plumbing is old or corroded, you should consider hiring a local plumber or contractor to come by and inspect the pipes. They may suggest you replace certain pipes or appliances, and it will likely save you money in the long run.

Trim any hazardous tree roots

If you suspect tree roots are interfering with your plumbing and causing leaks or potentially hazardous blockages, have your pipes inspected by a local plumber and hire an arborist to trim any invasive roots.

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Frequently asked questions

Does homeowners insurance cover plumbing repairs?

While homeowners insurance covers water damage from burst pipes, it generally won’t cover the cost of replacing or repairing the pipes themselves.

Does homeowners insurance cover broken water lines?

Homeowners insurance will cover damage caused by broken water supply lines for the section of the pipe inside of your home, but coverage generally doesn’t extend to the section that runs under your property. To cover water supply lines and other service lines under your property, you’ll need to add service line coverage to your homeowners insurance.

How much does it cost to replace water pipes in your house?

It can cost anywhere between $1,500 to $15,000 to replace an entire home’s plumbing, according to HomeAdvisor.

Author

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Pat Howard

Managing Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

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Pat Howard is a managing editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where he specializes in homeowners insurance. His work and expertise has been featured in MarketWatch, Real Simple, Fox Business, VentureBeat, This Old House, Investopedia, Fatherly, Lifehacker, Better Homes & Garden, Property Casualty 360, and elsewhere.

Expert reviewer

Michael Reynolds, CSRIC®, AIF®, CFT-I™, is a financial advisor, principal and founder of Elevation Financial, host of the weekly personal finance podcast Wealth Redefined®, and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius.

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