Water Damage Statistics

Quick Summary

Americans underestimate the threat of water to their property and homes, even though the average insurance claim costs more than $10,000. Homeowners who fail to prevent water damage may be stuck with the bill.

Water Damage Statistics Overview

Water damage is one of the biggest threats to American homes. In 2017 alone, insurance companies paid out $13 billion to repair homes, buildings and properties damaged by water. Additional damage occurred that wasn’t covered by property insurance.

Water damage is typically caused by failing plumbing or pipes, but many Americans ignore water infrastructure maintenance.

Even though this type of damage is usually preventable, homeowners frequently overlook potential water damage, even though it is significantly more likely to occur than a fire, vandalism or theft.

Even small water drips can be costly. Consider the following statistics from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

  • The average home leaks close to 10,000 gallons of water every year
  • 10% of households will waste over 90 gallons of water each day through minor leaks and drips
  • Fixing these drips can represent an average of 10% savings on your water bill

Despite the clear benefits of prevention, water damage continues to be a significant problem and homes in the United States leak over one trillion gallons of water every year.

The Top Causes of Water Damage

Many Americans consider flood damage and storm damage as their most significant water-related risk. Yet, weather phenomena are not the leading cause of water damage in homes. Most water damage is more subtle and occurs during everyday routines without warning.

According to recent insurance claims, the most common types of water damage is from leaks or flaws in:

  • Roofs
  • Toilets
  • Sprinklers
  • Water heaters
  • HVAC systems

Additional common causes of water damage include overflowing gutters, leaking air conditioning units, sump pump failure and weather-related incidents.

Aging Infrastructure

Many of these leaks are caused by aging pipes and water infrastructure, as sturdy American homes outlive their pipes’ lifespan. Unless homeowners proactively upgrade their pipes, faucets and fittings over time, aging homes are prone to water damage problems.

Lifestyle Changes and Busy Schedules

Factors like high-density living and less time for maintenance have both contributed to the rising rates of water damage claims in America:

  • Increase in condo living: More people live in condos, where water supply lines feed into multiple homes with private washing machines and other appliances. If one condo has an issue, it often impacts several other units.
  • More basement suites: Unfinished basements have gone out of style and are now replaced by water-dependent living spaces. Basement rental suites require comprehensive kitchen and bathroom plumbing. Even basements that don’t need a water supply are more likely to house valuable electronics and belongings expensive to replace.
  • Busier lifestyles: Americans also tend to be busier than in the past, leaving less time for preventive maintenance in the home. In many cases, it takes a significant leak or burst pipe before homeowners devote their attention to their water systems.

One survey found that today’s homeowners are less likely to check appliance hoses, inspect their heating systems or maintain their water heaters than in the past.

Rates of Water Damage Incidents and Claims Are Rising

Water damage is an ongoing issue for Americans, and the problem is worsening over time. According to reports released by the insurance companies, water damage incidents and insurance claims are on the rise, with more issues today than in the past.

Consider these statistics on the rates of property and water damage claims:

  • 98% of insurance claims are for property damage
  • Water damage is the second most common type of insurance claim after wind and hail damage
  • One in 50 insured homes submit a water damage insurance claim each year

Water damage claims are also more expensive than in past years:

  • Six-figure water damage claims are more frequent than in past years, leaving many homeowners underinsured
  • Water damage claims exceeding $500,000 have doubled since 2015
  • Claims over $1 million have tripled since 2015

In some instances, these damages are not covered by insurance companies. Even homeowners with adequate insurance coverage are paying more for the rising cost of damages through their insurance premiums. Premiums continue to rise as water-related incidents remain a serious issue for homeowners.

Property Owner Attitudes Toward Water Damage Risks

Most Americans are not adequately prepared to deal with water damage due to numerous misconceptions that influence their attitudes and perceived risk.

Consider some of the results from a national survey conducted by a leading insurance company:

  • 90% of homeowners said they were confident in their ability to discover maintenance issues or potential damage in their homes
  • Only one in five respondents said they routinely perform any best practices for water damage prevention

Instead, most Americans wait for storms or other major weather events before they attempt to prevent water damage to their homes. But homeowners also don’t trust weather reporters, believing that most impending storms are exaggerated. As a result, preventative action is often delayed or ignored entirely.

Homeowners Underestimate Water Damage Costs

Further survey results found homeowners also underestimate the impact of water damage on their financial stability.

On average, homeowners thought appliance or plumbing leaks result in less than $5,000 in damage when the actual average is $10,849. 

A different insurance provider disclosed the costs are even higher for most water damage issues. The cost of water backing up averages $45,000, while the average water leak cost more than $55,000 to repair.

Ignoring preventative maintenance can be costly for homeowners. Insurers typically cover leaking pipes, mold growth, flooding or other forms of water damage only when it is sudden and unexpected. If the damage is caused because plumbing maintenance was neglected, the claim is likely to be denied.

Commercial Water Damage Rates Are Increasing

Residential properties are not the only ones experiencing an increase in water damage. Commercial water damage rates in the hospitality, healthcare and commercial real estate industries are also rising.

One leading cause of water damage within these properties is plumbing. The top contributors to plumbing problems in commercial properties include:

  • Burst pipes, such as from an increase in water pressure
  • Failing plumbing due to poor installation or maintenance
  • Corroding pipes, often caused by lower quality pipes

Within the hospitality and commercial real estate industries, overflowing toilets, leaky roofs and leaking appliances result in millions of dollars in damages each year. Hospitals and health services experienced the same water-related challenges, in addition to freezing pipes, in environments where water and mold can cause irreparable harm.

Regardless of the cause, commercial water damage is a severe issue that can lead to business interruptions, reputation damage and costly repairs.

Find Water Damage Restoration Help When You Need It

Water damage is one of the leading causes of home insurance claims each year. If your home or property has suffered water damage, you are not alone, and there are experts ready to help. Professional water remediation experts will respond to your water damage emergency, restore and repair the damage to your home and implement measures to prevent future water damage.

Find a water restoration professional near you to get started.

Water Damage Advisor

The Water Damage Advisor content team is made up of multiple contributors, writers, and editors. We are your resource hub for anything related to water damage, mold and restoration needs that you may be challenged with facing.

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