As the weather turns colder it is prime season for one of the most common homeowners insurance claims, water damage. In the winter time many homes in the U.S. will see temperatures drop below freezing over night which can cause sudden burst in water pipes. Without a doubt this usually happens when we are away from home or sleeping which makes it hard to minimize the damage by shutting off the water source. Many homeowners and landlords don't know what they should do when a water pipe breaks and how to handle the insurance claim.
Limit More Water Damage
First things first you need to try and stop any further damage from occurring which is usually done by shutting off the water main valve to the house. If this does not stop the flow of water then you need to contact a plumber immediately to get assistance. When dealing with a broken water pipe it can be hard to determine where the break is unless it happens where pipes are visible like the basement.
After shutting off the water you will need to call a few people to get things fixed. First call your home insurance company to notify them of the damage and most companies will be able to refer you to a reputable water restoration company or even dispatch one for you. Next you will need to contact a water restoration company if the insurance company does not and a plumber to fix the water pipe.
How To Protect Your Home From Freezing Temperatures
As temperatures drop and days become shorter it marks the time of year that each house is vulnerable to freezing weather. It is important to make sure your house is protected from freezing temperatures so you can minimize potential damage caused by broken water pipes or higher energy bills. There are many things you should do each fall to ensure your home is ready for winter but we will discuss the most important.
- Blow out sprinklers - This simple step can save you thousands of dollars in repair costs next spring. As ground temperatures fall below freezing the water in your sprinklers pipes will expand and if there is enough water it can break the line causing unseen damage. While sprinklers are not covered by your homeowner's insurance they can cause flooding into basements so it is very important to blow out your sprinklers prior to the first freeze in fall.
- Insulate water pipes - There may be water pipes that run close to the exterior walls of your home which do not have insulation on them. A good example would be your kitchen sink which usually it placed on an exterior wall but is not insulated. Even if you have insulation in the walls this may not be enough if the temperature drops well below freezing. A simple solution is to wrap these type of pipes with insulation and make sure the inside temperature of the home is at least 60 degrees.
- Seal cracks around doors and windows - One of the major culprits of a high energy bill is leaks in doors and windows. This is another simple solution that will not only save you money on energy costs but also keep your home more comfortable. Each fall do an inspection of all windows and doors for gaps in sealant around the frames both inside and outside. With a small amount of caulking you can save hundreds of dollars in energy costs.
- Replace furnace filter - A furnace is only productive if there is proper air flow which is limited by the air filter. It is recommended to replace your air filter every 3 months for proper air flow and air quality. Proper air flow will allow your furnace to operate more efficiently and cost less to burn gas.
- Disconnect exterior hoses - Many people use hoses outside to water plants but forget to disconnect them when the weather turns cold. If a hose is connected to the water line outside and freezes it can break the spout causing flooding inside the home. Be sure to disconnect your hose once the weather falls below 35 degrees and bring all hoses inside during winter to protect them until spring.
These are just a few of the many things you should do to protect your home during the winter months. Hopefully this will help you remember to make some simple changes which can save you headaches and money each year.
Don't Fix The Pipe Until Insurance Company Does This
Do not attempt to fix or change the broken pipe prior to the insurance adjuster reviewing the damage. If you attempt to fix or adjust the pipe before the adjuster can see the damage it may not be covered by the insurance. Most of the time insurance companies will be able to get an adjuster out to your house within 24 hours unless a major storm is in the area. If they cannot come out quickly be sure to get permission to get the pipe fixed and take pictures of the damaged pipe along with the water damage.
In most cases the home insurance company will pay for damages caused by the sudden burst pipe including water damage to property and the restoration costs. The adjuster must determine that the pipe broke due to a sudden and accidental burst instead of wear and tear. This is why you must not touch the pipe until the adjuster has seen the damage and approved the claim under the policy.