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Protection of Residential Property against Non-Weather related Water Damage [Hardfacts]


Older households have ageing plumbing systems prone to leak while modern living includes households with washing machines, dishwashers, multiple bathrooms or en suite facilities, wet rooms and the use of the latest plumbing systems and materials including push-fit fittings - all of which have helped increase the likelihood of water damage in the home.

Every year insurance companies pay out millions of pounds to policyholders following water damage to their property and contents due to accidental overflows, or defective plumbing installations and appliances.

Repairing water damage can be difficult and protracted, as an adequate drying period is often required while damp can cause rot and mildew which can be very invasive.

This Hardfacts provides general guidance for a residential property owner on reducing non-weather related water damage risks on existing premises though the principles can be used by householders generally.

Causes of non-weather related water damage include:

  • Blocked drains allowing sinks, baths and showers to overflow
  • The failure of door seals in washing machines and dishwashers
  • A lack of adequate overflows to cisterns or tanks
  • Leakage from copper pipe joints
  • Catastrophic failure of plastic pipe joints
  • A lack of general central heating maintenance
  • Accidental damage to hidden pipes
  • Corrosion

Key Action Steps

Some practical steps to reduce the risk of the escape of water and minimise its impact can be undertaken:

  • Identify equipment and installations capable of causing a problem
  • Know where all stop cocks are located, keep them clear at all times
  • Establish appropriate regular documented checks and regular preventative maintenance programmes
  • Only use appropriate competent contractors
  • Provide householders guidance on best practise around the home, what to do in the event of a leak, who to contact and how to isolate water supplies

Copper v Plastic Piping

Both materials have advantages and disadvantages. The advantages of copper piping with soldered joints include the fact that it tends to be more robust, have a longer life, does not attract bacteria, has less bulky fittings and better withstands pressure increases. The disadvantages include that it needs more expertise to install, is more expensive, and can corrode in alkaline concrete.

On the other hand plastic piping has advantages which include the fact that it is less expensive, easier to install, is more flexible, and does not attract limescale. Its disadvantages include the fact that less skill is required for its installation, push fittings can be more pressure sensitive and fail catastrophically, while piping needs more support and should not come within close proximity of a boiler. It is also important that the fittings used are compatible with the pipe and the right type of plastic is used depending on the nature of its use.

Preventative Measures


Have any installation or repair work carried out by a competent plumber who has appropriate third party accreditation such as APHC (Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors) or The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE)

  • Avoid DIY work unless competent and the location of pipes is known otherwise damage to pipes can easily occur from nails, screws and the like

  • Make sure the location of the water supply shut off stop cock is known, exercised regularly and, if necessary, provide with identification

  • Avoid placing copper pipe in cement (which can corrode the copper) without appropriate protection

  • Replace washers in leaking taps and overflowing cisterns as soon as possible

  • Householders should be provided with written guidance on prevention measures including:
    o What to do in an emergency
    o Necessary contact numbers including plumbers
    o Action required when leaks are identified

  • Internal and external drains to be checked at least annually for adequate flow and cleaned as necessary

  • Ensure all water tanks and cisterns have adequate fully operational overflow pipes / facilities which can discharge water to a safe area

  • Don't ignore water dripping or flowing from a pipe on the outside of a building. It is probably coming from an overflowing cistern where all that is required is to replace the washer - as long as it is done promptly.

  • Consider using a recognised annual service and maintenance scheme which includes emergency repair of leaking and blocked pipes with a guaranteed standard of workmanship

  • Consider installing a leak detection water management device

  • During any building refurbishment work consider and take the opportunity to design out any unsatisfactory features that may be present with any water pipes or apparatus e.g. location and design of any water tanks, location of water pipes, location and routing of pipework, number of isolation valves etc


  • Install, use and maintain equipment in accordance with the manufacturers instructions
  • Make sure that the water inlet pipes and outlet hoses for appliances are correctly fitted, in accordance with the manufacturer's guidance, without kinks and without extensions
  • Check the inlet and outlet fittings on appliances on an annual basis for leakages and hose splits. Replace damaged parts immediately
  • Regularly check and clean door collar seals on washing machines and dishwashers. Replace immediately if any damage or wear is noticed
  • Check and clear the filters in washing machines and dishwashers regularly. Use the special self-cleaning programmes when provided.
  • Avoid pouring fat and grease down drains


  • At least annually ensure that the seal between the bath/shower cubicle base and the wall is watertight to prevent leaks
  • Avoid leaving the bathroom when running a bath
  • Ensure taps are ‘off' and plugs are not placed in drain holes when leaving the house unoccupied
  • Immediately replace or repair leaking ball valves - which should be evident from a failure to stop filling the tank or cistern
  • Cure any ‘water-hammer' (a banging noise heard when a toilet cistern or tap shuts off ) as this can ultimately damage joints

Central Heating

  • Check tanks and cylinders periodically for signs of corrosion and have the complete central heating system (boiler, radiators etc) maintained on an annual basis by a competent contractor
  • Know the location of drain valves (from central heating systems and any cylinders) which may be needed in the event of an emergency
    Shut-off Valves
  • In line quarter turn service isolation valves fitted on hot and cold water supply pipes are useful for isolating individual outlets
  • Where possible shut-off valves should be strategically fitted on every floor
  • Valves always to be easily accessible and clearly marked with the areas that they isolate
  • Know which way to turn to successfully close the valves
  • Carry out periodic checks to make sure that valves close completely - some don't due to age or lack of use and may require maintenance
  • Know the location of external stop valves which are usually the responsibility of the water utility provider
  • Concierge staff in residential blocks should also be trained to provide an early emergency response and have knowledge of where and how to shut down systems and if appropriate have access to main shut-off valves, tanks etc
  • When leaving the home for long periods such as holidays in the frost free summer months consider switching off water supplies using the main house stop cock. Any associated dependent central or water heating systems will also need to be switched off.

Actions to Take on Discovery of a Leak

A burst pipe or uncontrolled escape of water from water appliances can cause serious damage to the structure of the building, electrical wiring, fixtures and fittings as well as damage to the contents of a home. The following steps detail the typical actions to take as soon as a burst pipe etc is discovered:

  • Turn off the water supply shut-off stop cock which is often but not always located under the kitchen sink, in a downstairs bathroom or cloakroom or close to where the water supply pipe enters the building.
  • If you live in a flat and there is no shut off stop cock located inside your own flat then you may possibly have a shared water supply so make sure you can get to the stop valve - this is normally located where the water enters the building. It is strongly advisable then to immediately check with your neighbours that turning off the water has not affected their own water supply and if it has it may be necessary for them not to use certain apparatus until reinstatement of the water supply.
  • Turn off central heating, immersion heaters and any other water heating systems.
  • Let any solid fuel fires which directly or indirectly heat water die down
  • Drain water pipes and tanks. Once the water heating systems have been shut down, turn on the taps to help drain the system fully of the remaining water to minimise the damage.
  • Turn off the electrics, particularly if the escape of water is near your electrics or any electrical appliances. If any live electrical equipment is wet, do not touch them. Electrical wiring and equipment damaged by water can be very dangerous and you will need to engage a qualified electrician should this happen.
  • It may be prudent to warn any neighbours who may be affected by the burst so that they can take steps to reduce the likelihood of any damage to their homes.
  • If water starts to seep through the ceiling try and collect it in a bucket. If the ceiling begins to bulge, it may be advantageous to pierce through the plaster with a wooden broom handle or suitable pointed object to let the water out and prevent the ceiling from collapsing. Care may need to be taken against disturbing any asbestos contained in artex covered ceilings.
  • Notify your Insurer, landlord, or maintenance company as appropriate as soon as possible and find a reputable plumber to repair the burst pipe or tank etc - your insurance company or management company may be able to provide you with details of competent contractors.
  • Remember to make sure that your hot water system is completely refilled again without airlocks before switching on boilers, or switching on immersion heaters in tanks etc.


APHC (Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors)- Tel. No. 0121 7115030 or

The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE). Tel no. 01708 472791 and their Register of Plumbers

Roofing - ‘Constructionline' 0800 240 0152

Note- a separate Hardfacts 1021 - Residential Weather Related Damage has been issued
Please visit our Knowledge Store for further Hardfacts

Next Steps:

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Please Note
This document contains general information and guidance and is not and should not be relied on as specific advice. The document may not cover every risk, exposure or hazard that may arise and Aviva recommend that you obtain specific advice relevant to the circumstances. AVIVA accepts no responsibility or liability towards any person who may rely upon this document.

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