Running water is one of the most important modern conveniences, but only when it runs where it should. A broken or leaking pipe can cause severe damage to your entire property, leaving your belongings soaked, your structure weakened and your walls moldy. In the event of a burst pipe, an insurance claim may be one of your first priorities to ensure that everything gets dried out and back to normal as soon as possible.

Because there’s never a good time for this to happen, we’re often caught unprepared for the consequences. That’s why it’s important to know what to do when you have a burst pipe in your home or commercial building. When you find your water running where it shouldn’t, here are some tips to help you handle the situation:

How Can You Tell a Pipe Has Burst?

Sometimes you can tell right away that you have a problem, like when you walk into your kitchen or laundry room and find you’re ankle-deep in water. Other times you may need to investigate more subtle indications, such as:

  • An odd smell — If there’s a foul odor coming from your drains, it could be a sign that sewage is leaking into your plumbing system.
  • Unusual sounds — Gurgling, clanking or bubbling sounds when you flush your toilet or use your sink could indicate you have a hidden problem.
  • Odd sights — If you see bulges or stains develop on your walls or floors, they could be a sign of water damage from a leak.
  • Rising bills — If your utility bills are increasing and you can’t figure out why, it could mean you’re wasting water somewhere.

Are You Covered?

Depending on your insurance policy and the circumstances, you may or may not be covered for the resulting damage of a burst pipe. Here are some conditions that may play a role:

  • Location — Some policies won’t provide a settlement if the leak in question is not directly inside or underneath the structure.
  • Type of damage — In some cases, the policyholder may only be eligible for a payout to cover the cost of water damage to property. Fixing the pipe itself may not be covered.
  • Cause — If it is determined that the rupture was due to typical wear and tear, many insurers will not provide a settlement. They may argue that regular maintenance could have prevented it.

What Should You Do?

Knowing what to do if you have a burst pipe can reduce your risk of more serious problems later. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how you should respond:

  1. Shut off the water — This will prevent a bad situation from getting worse.
  2. Assess the damages — Take photos of any affected areas or items.
  3. Call for help — Along with calling a cleanup service or contractor, contact a public adjuster to ensure you get the highest possible settlement from your insurer.
  4. File a claim — Make sure you supply your insurance company with as much documentation of the damages as possible.

Plumbing is one of your property’s most important systems, but it also can be a huge liability if something goes wrong. Keep these tips in mind to avoid a bad situation becoming worse.