05 Dec 2023
by Joe Hepplewhite

Escape of water continues to be a significant issue for both residential and commercial buildings, with a total of £987 million worth of claims made in the UK in 2022.

The cost of repair has risen in the past few years, largely due to the Ukraine conflict and cost of living crisis, with an increase in the cost of labour and parts.

Changing construction is impacting on recovery time and cost too. Modern methods of construction contain materials that often require a prolonged drying out time and specialist repair.

Research has shown there are many causes of escape of water loss, including cold weather, height of building, poor workmanship, faulty pipework and joints, modern lifestyles, lack of maintenance, and even fraud.

Not only have burst pipes become more common, but the damage they cause is becoming more expensive to repair. The average cost in the UK of repairing damage due to escape of water rose from £8,663 in 2021 to £12,791 in 2022.

Managing escape of water risk

Prevention and mitigation of disruption and trauma from the effects of a water damage loss cannot be underestimated.

Risk assessment

While there cannot be any guarantees against an escape of water, undertaking a regular and thorough risk assessment for every property will help identify key risks.

Occupant education

Educate residents and commercial tenants about escape of water risk when they take occupancy and throughout their tenancy. Provide a best practice 'do’s and don’ts’ list and keep them regularly updated with risk mitigation advice and structural and legislative changes.

Audit programme:

Where appropriate, such as in high-risk properties or those with previous water damage incidents, implement an inspection programme. This could include checking for leaks and signs of deterioration or damage in plumbed in areas. 

Moisture presence can be checked electronically by trained individuals using calibrated moisture meters and thermographic imaging cameras.

High-risk areas worthy of regular inspection and maintenance are soil stacks, drains, roofs and gutters, particularly over the winter, and especially where problems have been experienced previously.

Between 35-40% of all escape of water incidents, whether a slow leak or catastrophic burst, emanate from bathrooms. A focus on these high-risk areas can have a significant impact on reducing losses.

Responding quickly on discovery or notification of an escape of water should be emphasised as a priority for all involved. Even what could seem a minor leak could cause significant underlying damage.

Damage should be assessed immediately, with action taken to stop further damage. Contact your insurer as soon as possible to get expert support and guidance.

A growing risk

Homes and buildings have more appliances and systems that use water than ever before. With an increase in use of dishwashers and underfloor heating for example, the risk of escape of water continues to grow, putting constant pressure on organisations that manage buildings and support residents.

Zurich Mucipal have produced a video that explores ways to help prevent common causes of escape of water in homes and how different prevention methods can help protect properties from its devastating effects.