According to the Association of British Insurers, escape of water is thought to affect around 43% of domestic properties. In fact, water-related claims have been steadily rising over the past 15 years, with insurers paying out a staggering £930 million a year.
What is Escape of Water?
Whereas flood damage arises from external sources, such as adverse weather conditions, escape of water originates inside a property. There are many factors that can lead to escape of water, but it is often caused by leaks related to property maintenance or frozen pipes bursting.
However, although we often think of escape of water as a winter issue due to the colder weather, some research shows that July and August are common months for claims as they are prime times for people going on holidays. If a property is unoccupied, water leaks can go undetected for days, even weeks, significantly increasing the severity of water damage. With that being said, escape of water should be considered a year-round risk.
The effects of escape of water can be extremely problematic for homeowners. Not only could it damage your home contents, furnishings and even your treasured possessions, it also requires time and money to organise repairs. The good news is that it is preventable. Read on to find out more about the causes of escape of water and our top tips for preventing it.
In Deep Water – Common Causes
Leaking as much as 400 litres an hour, a burst pipe is arguably the most damaging cause of water escape. This happens as a result of cold weather, when water freezes and expands inside the pipe, causing it to split or burst. Other plumbing-related problems, such as faulty boilers, washing machines and radiators are also common causes of leaks in the home.
Blocked drains, from pouring cooking fat, grease and oil down the drain while washing up or human hair clogging up bath and shower drains can cause water to back up. In time, pressure will build and eventually lead to a damaged seal which allows water to escape.
Property age and maintenance as homes and plumbing get older is another factor. Not everyone is aware of where potential leaks could arise or what they need to repair or replace, resulting in a bigger chance of something going wrong.
With the growing cost of plumbing work and people looking to save money, there has been a rise in substandard do-it-yourself jobs which can lead to more mistakes being made. Modern materials, such as plastic, can also tempt people as they are cheaper. However, choosing these instead of copper piping, for example, increases the risk of leaks.
Lastly, as plumbing becomes more complex with people opting for hidden plumbing and adding integrated appliances, en-suite bathrooms and wet rooms, the risk of water escape grows.
Keep Your Head Above Water – 7 Prevention Tips
1) Protect your Pipes
In colder weather, water pipes and water tanks in the roof are more likely to freeze. Ensure they are lagged, or insulated with foam if outdoors, to avoid burst pipes.
2) Temperature Control
Keep your central heating on continuously at around 12°c to prevent the pipes from freezing, especially if the property is unoccupied. Turn your water off if your property is empty or if you are going away to steer clear of big leaks.
3) Circulate Warm Air
The cabinets in your kitchen and bathroom restrict warm air from reaching sinks and adjacent outside walls, so leave their doors open to let warm air circulate. You should also leave your loft hatch open to let the heat in.
4) Upgrade your Home
Small home improvements, such as resealing shower trays, can help fend off leaks. Check your old appliances, such as your boiler and washing machine (not forgetting their plumbing connectors) and upgrade them if necessary. If your water pipes need fixing, hire a plumber, rather than try to tackle the problem yourself, to avoid mistakes.
5) Look for Tell-Tale Signs
There are some obvious signs that will help you detect a leak, such as damp, condensation, ice on outside taps, low water pressure, temperamental heating, suspicious smells coming from your plumbing system, cracks or gaps on plastic plumbing joints and green colouring on copper pipe joints. You should also check your water meter readings for variances in usage, as a significantly higher reading could indicate a leak.
6) Use Modern Technology
Consider installing leak detection equipment into your water system to help you monitor problems. They can automatically shut off the water supply if a leak is found.
7) Check Risky Areas
Keep an eye on the most common problem areas in your home, which are the bathroom, toilet, kitchen, boiler, radiators and washing machines, as well as ceilings, internal walls, under-floor pipes and leaks from your neighbours’ home. You should also check that your stopcock is in full working order as turning the water off is the first thing you will want to do if a leak is detected.
What Should You Do If You Find a Leak?
If you find or suspect a leak, immediately shut off the water supply. If the leak is a result of a burst pipe, please click here for guidance, or contact a professional tradesman (registered HSE-approved competent person) if it’s a fault with your heating system. It’s important that you notify your insurance provider as soon as possible.