How to prevent water damage in your home

While many Home and Contents Insurance policies may help provide cover for water damaged items, the criteria isn’t always clear.
Flood insurance
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We’ll take you through how you could prevent your home and contents from water damage, and the ins and outs of how it all fits in with Home and Contents cover.

What’s typically considered as ‘water damage’?

Insurers typically consider water damage to include sudden or accidental damage from water that’s either come through a burst pipe, overflowed from a water source, or damaged household items through a flood or storm.

It’s important to remember that generally insurers put great emphasis on sudden or accidental water damage, which means that it would have had to occur unexpectedly and come out of the blue.

So, if you’ve had gradual water damage in your home, then it may not necessarily be covered under many Home and Contents Insurance policies. Read through the product disclosure statement of any home and contents insurance policy before purchasing so you understand the policies inclusions, exclusions and limitations.

What’s typically not considered as ‘water damage’?

Here’s an example. You might have a leaky gutter over your balcony and find that it’s a particularly rainy winter. Gradually, water seeps through the leaky gutter, pooling onto your balcony and inside onto your floorboards.

Over time, you may find that your floorboards begin to lift because of the constant moisture. Oops!

In this scenario, the gradual water damage may not typically satisfy many insurer’s criteria of sudden and unexpected water damage.

Tips to prevent water damage at home

  1. Replace or fix leaky gutters

    As mentioned earlier, gutters may deteriorate and allow rainwater to seep through over time. Installing strong, curved gutters ensures you limit the amount of dirt, debris and bugs that could otherwise clog up your gutters over time and contribute to their malfunction. If you notice a small leak, you may need to contact your local plumber to fix it with a sealant before it gets worse.

  2. Be careful with what and where you choose to plant

    Since garden beds are heavily watered, as a general rule, keep them as far from the house as possible to prevent water getting inside.

    And if you’re thinking about planting trees, keep in mind that the maximum distance for the tree’s height is the same distance you should keep for its roots!

    For more information on planting trees in your front or backyard, take a look through this guide to planting trees at home.

  3. Protect the inside of your home

    Know where your main water valve is so you can switch it off if you need to. (They’re usually located around the back of the house, or at the bottom of an apartment complex.)

    Make sure your bath and shower are watertight, and if you notice any cracks, it could be a good idea to get them repaired as soon as possible.

    It could also be worth keeping an eye on your plumbing and hot water systems in case they start playing up.

But if there is a case of water damage at home… these are the types of event you may be able to claim:

Burst taps or pipes in kitchens or bathrooms Broken kitchen or bathroom appliances which then cause water damage in the home Damage to the home or personal belongings from a storm Sewer backup (this can happen when something blocks household wastewater from flowing into the main sewerage system.)

Is water damage covered under Home and Contents policies?

Depending on your policy, it is typically divided into three different types of cover:

  1. Flood cover – This often comes as an optional extra, so it may be worth considering if you live in a flood-prone area.
  2. Storm and rainwater cover
  3. Escape of water

Typical inclusions and exclusions for storm and rainwater cover

What you’re typically covered for 

What you’re not typically covered for 

Loss or damage caused by storms and rainwater, including from the following:  

  • Earth movement that occurs within 72 hours of a storm or heavy rain, and as a result of that storm or heavy rain 
  • Surface run-off rainwater from surrounding areas that occurs within 24 hours of a storm or heavy rain 
  • The escape of rainwater from any water pipe, drain, or gutter 
  • Wind damage caused by storms or heavy rain. 

Loss or damage caused by the following: 

  • Flood (unless your insurer offers or provides this as an extra) 
  • Rain, hail, wind, snow, or dust due to:  
    • An opening that was not created by the storm or any other insured event 
    • Defects in design, structure, materials, workmanship, or construction that you knew about or should reasonably have known about 
    • Rain entering the building due to construction, alteration, or renovation work being carried out 
    • If the home is in a poor condition, including guttering and drain pipes.  

You typically also won’t be covered for any loss or damage to the following:  

  • Artificial grass or turf  
  • Courts designed for sports with fixed surfaces (such as a hard court) 
  • Fences and gates that are not in good condition  
  • Garden borders, driveways of any length, paths, or gardens  
  • Jetties, wharves, and pontoons 
  • Retaining walls  
  • Water in a swimming pool or spa, and their liners and/or covers. 


Typical inclusions and exclusions for escape of water cover

What you’re typically covered for 

What you’re not typically covered for 

  • Loss or damage at the insured address caused by the sudden escape of liquid.
  • You are also covered for damage from liquid that has escaped slowly over time that you couldn’t be reasonably aware of. 
  • The escape of liquid from the following things:
    • Appliances: washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, and water collection trays inside refrigerators or freezers.  
    • Fixed items: baths, sinks, toilets, basins, other fixed plumbing apparatus, pipes, taps, gutters, and drainpipes. 
    • Fixed systems: drainage or sewage systems, heating or cooling systems, or sealed portable units or tanks. 
    • Water-filled items: aquariums and waterbeds.
  • Reasonable costs to investigate the escape of liquid if it is causing damage to your home or contents. If you don’t know the source of the water escape, then many insurers will pay reasonable costs to locate the source. (But this doesn’t typically include any burst pipe or other leak source.) 
  • The cost of repair or replacement of the item that the water escaped from, nor the water itself. E.g: leaking shower floor, base, walls, glass screening, doors, tiles, pipes, or grouting.   
  • Loss or damage caused by the following: 
  • Leaking shower floors or bases, shower and bath combinations, tiled roman baths, or shower recess walls. 
  • Liquid from a garden watering system or hose. 
  • Water splashing from baths, basins, recesses, or tubs during use. 
  • Damage to retaining walls. 


Okay, so how can I make a claim?

If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, here are some general steps you could follow to assist with your claim:

  1. If you can, try to control the leak and dry out your home wherever you can to prevent any further damage.
  2. Contact your Home and Contents Insurer as soon as you spot the damage.
  3. Send them photos of the damage as well as any items that have been damaged as a result.
  4. Submit your claim online through your insurer’s website.
  5. Your insurer might send someone to your home so they can assess the damage.
  6. Wait for the outcome/update from your insurer. – This can take anywhere between 24 hours up to 10 business days.
  7. If your claim is approved, your insurer may contact you to make some arrangements for repairs, replacing damaged goods, or reimbursing you to complete these tasks yourself. This can vary between insurers.

Where can I compare options?

You can start comparing a range of Home & Contents Insurance policies with us at iSelect! Click here to view our range of Home & Contents providers and policies, and select the one which suits you.

Last updated: 07/06/2022