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Fire vs. water: most home claims?

By Jay MacDonald · Bankrate.com
Friday, October 29, 2010
Posted: 10 am ET

As Robert Frost once famously observed, "Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice." But where home insurance is concerned, your home is 10 times more likely to suffer damage from water than by fire, according to a recent study by Travelers Insurance of its home insurance claims in North Carolina.

Travelers crunched the numbers on its home insurance claims, excluding those caused by catastrophes, and found that water accounted for 28 percent of its property claims statewide, while only 3 percent were fire-related. What's more, just 5 percent of its water-related home insurance claims were weather-related, meaning the great majority were caused by system malfunctions.

When we think of water in association with our home insurance, our minds tend to go to extremes, i.e., floods and hurricane surge. And it is absolutely advisable that homeowners in flood-prone areas carry flood insurance, which is a separate policy underwritten by the National Flood Insurance Program. It cannot be said often enough: Home insurance alone will not cover flood damage. If you don't believe me, place a few random phone calls to Nashville, Tenn.

Unfortunately, while we're worrying about the rain outside and the creek rising, the water event most likely to impact our home insurance is slowly preparing to blow inside our homes, where we tend to defer maintenance until it’s too late.

Travelers recommends these top four nonweather-related water damage prevention tips to avoid home insurance claims:

  • Leaks from washing machine hoses. Washing machine hoses should be inspected annually and replaced every five years -- or immediately if they are cracked or bulging.
  • Leaky plumbing around water heaters. Plumbing should be inspected annually and repaired if there are any signs of leaks or corrosion. When possible, water heaters should be installed in an area with floor drains to minimize damage if leaks should occur.
  • Leaks from refrigerator ice machines. Icemaker connections, usually located behind the refrigerator, should be inspected annually and hoses replaced if cracked or corroded.
  • Clogged drain lines on air conditioning units. Air conditioning drain lines should be checked yearly.

Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice. But given our seeming inability to deal with it, from our own basement to global warming, I'll put my money on water.

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