Shower leak insurance
Found a pesky leak in your shower? Here’s how shower leak insurance can help you deal with it.
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A leaking shower can start as a nuisance and end up as a domestic disaster. Even tiny, hard-to-find leaks can lead to big problems – in your bathroom and around the home – and burst bathroom pipes are a common home emergency.
Thankfully, in lots of shower leak scenarios a home insurance policy can help with the expenses involved – which can be significant, especially if major plumbing work is needed to find and fix the leak (or leaks).
What's considered a shower leak?
Insurers tend to have very specific definitions of leaks. Some home insurance policies will cover burst or leaking pipes but not leaks in shower walls and bases; others will cover (to a capped limit) the costs of locating a shower leak but not the costs of fixing it.
The key points for home insurers in defining a shower leak will generally be:
- The source of the leaking water (this will usually have to be somewhere within your own plumbing system) and where the leak is located (e.g. underground pipe versus shower recess)
- Whether the leak happened over time (e.g. from wear and tear) and could've been predicted or was sudden and unpredictable
- Whether the leak was caused by lack of maintenance (e.g. an unrepaired hole in the wall behind a shower) or happened in spite of regular maintenance
Searching a PDS for terms like "water damage", "leak" and "escape of liquid" will help you find the specifics quickly.
Get cover for shower leaks with home insurance
Which home insurance policy should you buy?
Different types of insurance treat shower leaks, and the damage they can inflict, in different ways.
Home and contents insurance
With most combined home and contents policies, you'll be covered for repairs to certain kinds of shower leaks as well as any water damage they cause to your insured contents.
That is, if your shower leaked overnight and you woke up to find the escaping water had ruined some of your belongings, the right home and contents policy could cover you for the leak as well as any insured items it damaged.
The assets you've insured under a contents policy should be covered against damage caused by a leaking shower – but you won't be covered for the plumbing costs involved in repairing the leak.
Most building insurance policies will give you a similar level of cover for repairing shower leaks as straight home insurance policies, but, like contents insurance, they won't cover any belongings that are damaged as a result of the leaks.
What's the difference between a shower leak and a flood?
Insurers generally distinguish between damage from floods, which come from nature, and damage from "escape of liquid", which comes from your home plumbing system.
Usually, the definitions will depend on the source of the unwanted water:
- If it's from a river, dam, lake, creek or other body of water, it's a flood.
- If it's "escaped" from somewhere within your plumbing system, it's a leak.
What should you do if you notice a shower leak?
Most importantly, if it's a sudden and strong leak (e.g. from a burst pipe) and the escaping water could damage property or become an electrical hazard, switch off your water supply at the mains.
The next step will usually be calling in a professional.
You should also contact your insurer to let them know what happened. Take photos of the affected areas while the leak is in progress – they'll be useful in any claim you end up lodging.
What are the signs of shower leaks?
Shower leaks are usually caused by unsealed taps and shower heads, unnoticed problems with shower screen doors, waterproofing issues, loose connectors or valves, and cracked or burst pipes.
The signs of a shower leak often aren't as obvious as "that dripping-water sound". Some of the more subtle ones include:
- Cracked, peeling or bubbling paint around the shower
- Visible gaps in seals (e.g. of the shower taps)
- Wet, smelly plaster around the shower
- Mould in and around the shower
- Water stains on the ceiling above the shower
- A decrease in water pressure in the shower compared to other taps (a classic sign of a wall leak)
Here's the bottom line
Left unattended, even the smallest shower leak can turn into a full-blown plumbing emergency. Home insurance can't cover you in every leak situation, but it can significantly reduce the repair costs involved when water turns up uninvited in and around your shower.
Frequently asked questions
Does building insurance cover shower leaks?
Yes. Most building insurance policies will cover shower leaks, with similar conditions to home insurance policies.
How do I make a successful water leak claim in Australia?
- It's important to remember the baseline assumption of most home insurance policies: that you've done everything you can to maintain your home and stop small issues from turning into big ones.
- If a shower leak was caused by something that the homeowner should've seen coming and acted to stop (but didn't), insurers might claim – not unfairly – that the homeowner is at fault.
- In other words, your claim is most likely to be successful if you're a responsible homeowner who's attended to plumbing problems (e.g. rising damp, recurring condensation) as they've come up over time.
- An important step is to keep records (i.e. invoices) of plumbers who've worked in your bathroom over time.
How can I prevent shower leaks?
Most importantly, have a reputable plumber install your bathroom and shower and do maintenance work on it as needed over time. Low-quality materials, substandard work and lack of maintenance are the most common causes of shower leaks.
Leaks in walls – which your insurer may not cover – are generally caused by wear and tear and are often preventable through proper pipe installation and maintenance.
If you have some basic plumbing knowledge, or you're willing to try to get some, there are certain things you can do to protect yourself against shower leaks:
- Look for and seal up (with a silicone gun) any cracks in grouting or caulking that water could seep through.
- Watch for leaking taps and, if you can, learn how to seal them.
- Make sure the shower screen door is closing as it should and that it isn't cracked. Water consistently escaping from the shower area can rot a bathroom's subfloor and any support beams underneath it.
Obviously, you shouldn't attempt any work that's beyond your knowledge level; sometimes, all there is to do is call in a pro.
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