May 19, 2022


Homeowners Insurance Cover Frozen Pipes

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Frozen Pipes

Your pipes can freeze or burst anytime the weather is chilly and cause significant damage. 

According to Tritan Plumbing:
  • Annually, more than 250,000 American homes experience burst or frozen pipes.
  • 11% - 20% of homeowners insurance claims involve water damage or a burst pipe. In some years, it’s more than 20%.
  • The average insurance claim cost for water damage or when pipes freeze is around $7,037.

Typically, your homeowners insurance policy will cover when burst pipes are sudden and accidental. However, that’s not always the case. 

In this post, I will discuss:

  • When your homeowners insurance policy covers frozen pipes (and when it doesn’t)
  • What causes burst pipes
  • How to recognize a frozen pipe
  • What to do when you have a frozen pipe
  • How to make an insurance claim for frozen pipes
  • How much coverage you get
  • What to do if the damage is uninsurable
  • How to prevent your pipes from freezing

Let’s get started with this post.

When Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Frozen Pipes?

Frozen Pipes

Frozen Pipes

A broken pipe due to freezing is covered by homeowners insurance policies whenever the damage is sudden and accidental. You also usually have coverage for any cleaning and required repairs due to water damage from your frozen pipe. Ironically enough, the only thing that’s usually not covered is the cost to repair the pipe itself.

Here are the different ways water damage is covered in your homeowners insurance.

Dwelling Coverage

Dwelling coverage can help pay to repair or rebuild your home’s structure. Your pipes are considered part of that structure and are therefore covered in your home insurance policy.

Personal Property Coverage

These personal belongings are covered if a frozen pipe bursts and damages your furniture, artwork, or other valuables. Often, your insurance company will offer you the actual cash value of your belongings instead of their replacement costs. However, you can upgrade your policy to get replacement cost coverage. 

You should also look over your coverage limitations and sub-limits. For example, you might have $300,000 in coverage but only $3,000 for your artwork. If water damage destroys $5,000 worth of art, you’re only covered for the first $3,000.

Additional Living Expenses

If your frozen pipes make your home temporarily uninhabitable, your additional living expenses will reimburse you for your restaurant meals, hotel stays, and other costs while you’re displaced.

When Homeowners Insurance Doesn’t Cover Frozen Pipes

Your standard homeowners insurance policy doesn’t cover water damage from frozen pipes if:

  • They cause flooding
  • Your sump pump fails
  • There’s sewage backup

You have to purchase add-ons or flood insurance to get covered in these situations.  

What Causes Pipes To Burst?

Frozen pipes are often out of your control, especially when cold weather becomes a regular occurrence during the winter months. Here are a few reasons that your pipes may burst:

  • It gets very cold outside. Water within your pipes is more protected than the water outside. However, it’s still not immune to freezing. Outside freezes at 32°F. The water in your pipes typically freezes at 20°F. While you may be protected until then, sometimes a frozen pipe is inevitable. 
  • Your pipes are located in exterior walls. Pipes running along your outside-facing walls are more susceptible to the cold. This can be worsened with insufficient insulation.
  • Your pipes are in unheated areas. The most common places where your pipes burst are in your attic, basement, or crawl spaces because they’re unlikely to get the heat they need to prevent freezing.
  • There’s a draft. Similar to above, if your pipes are located in draft areas, they’re more susceptible to freezing. 

How To Recognize A Pipe Is Frozen

Man recognizing frozen pipe

Man recognizing frozen pipe

Frozen pipes can be sudden and accidental, but sometimes it’s because your plumbing is damaged. Here are a few signs that could indicate that you’re having plumbing issues:

  • You have poor water pressure or quality.
  • Your water main is loud or rumbling, or you can hear pipes grinding or clanging.
  • Your high water bill is higher than usual.
  • You notice the stench of raw sewage or mildew.
  • You have standing water.

Search for a potential water leak or contact a plumber to inspect your pipes. It’s better to catch your plumbing problems early before they become a larger issue.

What To Do When You Have A Frozen Pipe

 Frozen Pipe

Frozen Pipe

If it’s freezing outside and you’re not getting running water from one or more of your faucets, you might have a frozen pipe. If you act quickly, you can thaw the pipe and even stop it from bursting. Here’s how:

  • Shut off your main water supply valve to prevent more water from coming in. Contact your utility company if you don’t know where it is, and they can help you find it.
  • Try to locate your frozen pipe. It’s most likely in your attic, basement, or crawl space. It could also be under your sink. If you see that the outside of the pipe has frost on it, the water inside is likely frozen.
  • Inspect the pipe to see if it’s cracked or leaking. If it is, call a plumber immediately.
  • Open any faucets connected to your frozen pipe to relieve pressure on the areas of the pipe that aren’t frozen. This will also help thaw your pipe.
  • Thaw your pipe if it’s within reach. You can do this by placing a space heater near it or warming it up with a hairdryer. Don’t use an open flame.

How To Make An Insurance Claim For Frozen Pipes

While insurance policies differ, the process for filing an insurance claim is usually pretty similar. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Reread the above section to minimize damage.
  • Take photos and videos of the burst pipe and any water damage it causes, including any damage done to your personal belongings impacted by the incident.
  • Contact your insurance company and explain your situation. Your insurance agent may recommend a few plumbers in your area.
  • Call a plumber to get the damage looked at and repaired.
  • Your insurance company would pay for your property’s restoration costs. They will likely send a claims adjuster to assess the damage and identify what caused your pipes to burst. They may approve some repairs, but not others. If they don’t approve some repairs, you can contact a public adjuster. They’ll evaluate your insurance coverage and work with your insurance company to help you get the most out of your claim.

How Much Coverage Do You Get?

Luckily, burst pipe costs usually aren’t too expensive. The average range of a burst pipe is between $200 and $1,000, with the minimum fee being around $150 and the maximum cost about $2,000. 

You get coverage for burst pipes in two ways:

  • Dwelling coverage typically covers you in full for any structural damage done to your home.
  • Personal property cover can reimburse the actual cost value of your personal belongings within the limitations and sub-limits of your policy.

What Should You Do If Your Claim Isn’t Insurable?

If your claim gets denied, you can do one or all of the following:

  • File an appeal with your insurance company
  • Get a second opinion from a certified contractor
  • Hire an insurance attorney to dispute the claim
  • Contact your state’s insurance commissioner

If your frozen pipe didn’t cause significant damage, it might be advantageous to pay out of pocket for repairs, especially when you factor in your deductible.

How To Prevent Your Pipes from Freezing

By winterizing your home, you can minimize the chances of your pipes freezing. Here’s what you should do:

  • Open your faucets slightly when it gets cold. This helps relieve the pressure that could be building up in your pipes.
  • When going on vacation, make sure your home stays a little heated. Keeping your thermostat to at least 55°F can help prevent freezing.
  • Seal cracks in exterior walls to provide more insulation.
  • Insulate your attic, basement, and crawl spaces.
  • Insulate the pipes themselves.

Final Thoughts

House covered in snow

House covered in snow

Freezing weather can cause your pipes to freeze or burst at any time. However, by taking preventative measures and knowing what to look for, you can reduce the chances of having one of your pipes burst.

About the Author

As a native Washingtonian, Carlos Reyes’ journey in the real estate industry began more than 15 years ago when he started an online real estate company. Since then, he’s helped more than 700 individuals and families as a real estate broker achieve their real estate goals across Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC.

Carlos now helps real estate agents grow their business by teaching business fundamentals, execution, and leadership.

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