Avoid Home Damage from Frozen Pipes

Tuesday, January 12, 2016 | 11:56am

NASHVILLE – When temperatures plunge across the Volunteer State, insurance claims for frozen pipe water damage are sure to follow. The Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) urges the public to act now to reduce the risk of freezing and bursting water pipes.

“You must be proactive to avoid becoming a victim of frozen water pipes,” TDCI Assistant Commissioner for Insurance Michael Humphreys said. “Most insurance companies do not cover frozen pipe damage that is due to negligence, such as failing to maintain an adequate temperature in the house when the ability to do so is there.”

Tennesseans can avoid thousands of dollars in winter home damage by utilizing the following basic precautions.

Before the freeze:

  • Review your insurance coverage. Check your policy and call your insurance agent or company for clarification on specific coverage.
  • Know how to shut off your water. Locate your main water shut-off valve. You may want to tag or label it so you do not have to search for it in an emergency.
  • Check sprinkler or irrigation systems. Make sure you have turned everything off and fully drained the system.
  • Identify your home’s freezing points. Check your home for pipes in areas that might be prone to freezing, such as crawl spaces, unheated rooms, basements, garages, and exterior walls.
  • Protect your pipes. Where pipes are exposed to cold, wrap them with insulation or electrical pipe heater (even fabric or newspaper can help).
  • Prevent pipes from freezing. Allow a small trickle of water to run overnight to keep pipes from freezing. Consider collecting the water for later use. The cost of a short-term trickle is much less costly than a repair of a burst pipe.
  • Keep your pipes warm. Open cabinet doors to expose pipes to warmer room temperatures to help keep them from freezing.

If Your Pipes Freeze:

  • Shut off the water immediately. Don’t attempt to thaw pipes without first turning off the main shut-off valve.
  • Thaw pipes with warm air. You can melt the frozen water in the pipe by warming air around it with a hair dryer or space heater. Be sure not to leave          the space heater unattended and avoid the use of kerosene or open flames.
  • Be careful turning water back on. Once pipes are thawed, slowly turn the water back on and double check for any additional cracks and leaks. 

If You Have Damage:

  • Contact your insurance agent or company as soon as possible. Determine what forms, documents, and data you will need to provide in order to process your claim.
  • Keep all receipts and damaged property for the adjuster to inspect. If possible, take photos or videos of the damage before making temporary repairs to protect your property from further damage. Don’t make permanent repairs. An insurance company may deny a claim if you make permanent repairs before an adjuster inspects the damage.
  • Remember, most insurance companies will not pay for damage to an unoccupied house unless you prepared your house for the freeze. If you’re           going to be away from your house and it might freeze, you must use reasonable care to heat the house or shut off the water supply and drain the water from plumbing, heating, and air conditioning systems.

Questions? We can help. Contact the TDCI Consumer Insurance Service Division at 1-800-342-4029 or (615) 741-2218.