When the family is huddled around a toasty fireplace, winter is something that only exists outside the window and frozen pipes are probably the last thing on your mind. When temperatures dip, though, frozen pipes can be a real risk and the damage can be costly.
Water expands when it freezes, pushing out against pipes and possibly causing cracks or a burst. A cracked pipe can leak hundreds of gallons per day. Insulating pipes helps reduce the risk as does keeping areas where pipes are exposed heated. If you have pipes outside your home, like those for hose spigots, drain the pipes and turn off the water to those pipes if possible. Some homes have pipes under the house in crawl spaces. Seal these areas off to prevent cold air from entering and insulate the pipes well.
If you do have a water leak due to a burst or cracked pipe, a standard home insurance provides some coverage for the damage. Most policies provide coverage for sudden and accidental water discharge, which can apply to many water risks around the home, including burst pipes. Depending on the location of the burst pipe, you may have damage to flooring, walls, and personal property. Remediation costs can include the cost of drying out your home with special fans. In some cases, you may even be displaced temporarily while your home is being repaired. All these costs can add up quickly.
Fortunately, your home insurance policy can provide relief for all these risks and may even pay for your additional living expenses if you have to “rough it” for a short while in a hotel while your home is being repaired. What your home insurance policy won’t pay for is the cost of replacing the pipe itself. Your policy is designed to cover damage but often does not pay to fix the cause of the damage.
Expect a deductible to apply, which is the part of the claim paid by the insured. Your insurer picks up most of the cost if you do have damage, but part of the expense will have to be paid out of pocket.
Many times, there are warning signs before a pipe bursts. You might find that water is flowing slowly or that water has stopped flowing at all. In many cases, you can thaw pipes with a hair dryer before the pipe bursts, avoiding any damage to your home. Warming the part of the pipe closest to the faucet first and working your way inward, you should be able to thaw the pipe and then take steps to prevent the pipe from freezing again.