Are Burst Frozen Pipes Covered By Homeowners Insurance?

A lovely winter's day might include a hot cup of coffee, a cozy blanket, and your favorite holiday movie. What it probably doesn't include is rushing water spraying all over your home and ruining your walls, floors, furniture, and ceilings. Burst pipes due to freezing are usually an unexpected and jarring experience for homeowners, which can be devastating not only to the home but also to valuable items such as photo albums, family heirlooms, and other irreplaceable memories.

Sudden cold temperatures can happen without warning, and pipes that aren't protected can quickly freeze and burst. Temperatures don't have to be extreme for pipes to freeze — just 32 degrees is enough to cause unprotected pipes to be affected, warns Hope Plumbing. This is especially worrisome if there are small undetected leaks within the lines, as these weaken the pipes and can make it more likely for the pipes to freeze even without harsh weather. 

Will my insurance pay for frozen pipe damage?

Insurance companies will not pay to have burst frozen pipes repaired, explains Val Choice. However, that is likely the cheapest portion of the damage done if you are in this situation. Typically the most damage is done by the water that consequently floods your home. Water damage is the second most common insurance claim. When water is out of control, whether due to burst pipes, leaky roofs, or overflowing bathtubs, it gets everywhere and moves fast. It also doesn't help that the damage done by water is almost instant. The damage is already done as soon as the water seeps into the floor, the walls, and furniture. It's also common that frozen pipes happen when you are not in the home. So the water may have been spraying for hours or even days before you even notice.

Luckily, McClain Insurance says insurance companies will usually cover water damage, as long as the damage wasn't caused by negligence on your part. For example, if you're away for a long weekend and you turned off the heating to your home trying to save a few bucks, that's considered negligence, and your insurance probably won't cover it. However, if you've done everything right, and a freak accident froze and burst your pipes, you're in luck. You'll have to pay the plumber to fix the actual pipes, but your insurance should pay for the rest of the damages to your home.

How to properly file a claim

Since this is such a nuanced situation, it's essential to know precisely how to file for this type of insurance claim. Val Choice says that assuming the pipe froze and burst due to unexpected and sudden harsh weather, you can file a claim to have your insurance company pay for the repairs that your home will need. However, they warn against using the term "frozen pipes" when filing for this claim. Instead, claim for "water damage" since that is the type of damage that will be covered. 

Unfortunately, if your pipes have frozen and burst due to extreme weather conditions, your neighbors are probably experiencing the same situation. This could cause insurance companies to take longer to settle claims, and they might push back. To prepare for this and combat it as best you can, it's crucial to process the claim as soon as possible. When you've noticed the damage, turn off the water, and take a lot of photos (via The Voss Law Firm). These can be used to prove the extent of the damage.