What to do if there’s a leak in your home

5 minutes

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Every home is prone to leaks. There are usually dozens of pipes running through our homes’ walls for the plumbing and central heating, and they can be temperamental – especially in frosty weather

  • What should you do if there’s a leak in your home?
  • What can you do to prevent leaks?
  • What are you covered for by your home insurer?

We talked to our LV= home insurance underwriter about how you should react if something in your home has sprung a leak, and how your home insurance provider might be able to help.

And fear not; you’re not alone. In fact, England and Wales lose 3 billion litres of water every day because of leaking pipework, according to the BBC.

At LV insurance we logged 22,642 escape of water claims in 2022, with the average cost of a claim being £3,682.

Martin Miller, our GI Claims director states: “Escape of water and oil around the home makes up nearly 40% of our total home insurance claims costs but more importantly can lead to long term damage and disruption to our customers as these things can take months to repair. Acting quickly when you suspect something might be wrong can help minimise harm to your home and the time to put things right. Likewise doing regular checks and basic home maintenance with things such as sealants around shower trays can avoid lots of disruption and significant cost.“

What should you do if there’s a leak in your home?

Usually, the first signs of a leak in your home are a sudden loss of water pressure, mysterious puddles or damp patches appearing on a floor, wall or ceiling. Often, however, the effects of a leak can suddenly show themselves as a bulge in the ceiling or a flood. When this happens, reacting quickly can help prevent further damage.

Not only can a leak cause structural damage in your home, but it can also lead to mould. Mould thrives in humid temperatures so if pipes are leaking in a warm area of the house, mould can appear as quickly as 24-48 hours. Dangerous spores that can affect your health, can form in just three days if left untouched. It’s essential that as soon as you come across a sign of a leak, you act quickly to secure your home and health.

In the case of a leak, our LV= underwriter recommends taking the following three steps:

1. First, locate your stopcock and turn off the water. This will prevent water coming into your home and causing more damage.

2. Run your taps to rid your system of all water.

3. Call your insurer and tell them exactly what’s happened and where the leak has come from, e.g. the water tank in the loft, an upstairs bathroom or under the sink.

‘If it’s safe to do so, try to soak up any water with towels and move any precious items or furniture out of harm’s way, you don’t want the bulging ceiling to burst over your lovely sofa!’

What if the leak is late at night or on a weekend?

Contact your insurer – most insurers have a service available 24/7 to help you.

‘Even if it’s late at night or the weekend, we’re still here to help, LV=’s claims line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so someone will be there to help and give you advice on what to do and how to minimise any damage.'

‘If for some reason you can’t get through to us, follow the tips above, then try to get in touch with us ASAP, or with a plumber – but be sure to keep all receipts and invoices.’ 

How can you find out if there’s a hidden leak in your home?

If there’s no obvious sign of a leak, but you suspect there is one, it’s still wise to do something about it.

One way to find out if you have a leak is by checking the water meter in your home. To do this, make a note of the number on the meter display and then turn off your home’s water supply. Wait for at least half an hour and then check the meter again. If the number on the display has changed, this could indicate a leak. At that point, it’s time to call your insurer, water supplier or a plumber.

‘Even if your leak is a slow drip, you shouldn’t ignore it; slow drips can lead to much bigger problems such as rotten joists and blown ceilings.’ 

You should regularly check the radiators and pipes around your house.  Do they look in a good condition? Pipes should be dry to the touch, if they’re not, this could be a sign of a slow leak.

Top tip: Don’t forget to check the grouting and sealant around baths, sinks and showers. These sealants are not designed to last forever and will need periodic maintenance and renewal.  Failed sealant can be hard to spot, but in many cases, it can visually look raised from the surface or blackened , which is a sign it’s time to replace and reseal the area, before a leak occurs.

What can you do to prevent leaks?

Although it’s often difficult to access and assess your plumbing and central heating, regular services can help you avoid leaks in the future.

‘Make sure your home is kept in good condition – nothing lasts forever so maintaining your home is key,’.

Top tip: Have your boiler, heating and hot water system regularly maintained with annual services by a qualified heating engineer.  A well-maintained system is the best way to keep on top of issues before they happen. The costs of these checks will be far less and you’ll avoid the potential damage and inconvenience a water leak could have on your family home.

‘If there is cold weather on the way, you can prevent your pipes freezing and bursting by keeping your home’s heating on low even when you’re out,’ she continues. ‘You can also lag your pipes (add insulation to them) to prevent them freezing and bursting.’

For instance, one of our customers went on holiday over Christmas and the freezing temperatures caused two of their attic pipes to burst, causing water damage to many rooms below. As you may imagine, that’s definitely something you wouldn’t want to come back home to after a holiday. Like everything in life, prevention is better than cure, so keeping in mind these details can make a real difference. 

There’s also some great tech that can help you monitor your home’s pipes. For example, installing a water leak detector will give you an early warning of any leak. Some, such as Samsung’s SmartThings device, can connect to your smartphone so you can get notifications on the move.

What are you covered for by your home insurer?

Depending on what’s caused the leak, your insurer can help in a number of ways – including covering the cost of repairs.

‘If you have home insurance with us, LV= will cover pretty much all aspects of your claim if there has been a leak, depending on what’s caused it.'

‘LV= will also provide dehumidifiers and pay for any increase in your bills while we’re carrying out work in your home.’   

If a slow leak causes damp, and you don’t deal with it, you won’t be covered for repairs.

‘Damp is caused gradually over time, and typically insurers won’t cover you for damage caused gradually.'

‘There’s a lot you can do to prevent damp, such as keeping on top of general maintenance: clearing gutters, making sure your brickwork isn’t crumbling, keeping your home warm and well ventilated, and trying to avoid too much moisture through hanging clothes to dry inside and taking care when cooking.’

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