The homeowner's guide to maintaining your water supply pipe

Our water supply is something many of us take for granted. We use it in everyday activities such as cooking a meal, running a washing machine, or just for making a relaxing cup of tea. Almost every household in the UK relies on a supply of clean water to their home.

However, many homeowners are unaware of their responsibilities or what to do if they have a water supply problem.

A guide to your supply pipes

Water is carried to your property via three different types of pipe.

The orange pipe – The water mains pipe
This pipe typically runs under the main road/highway and carries water from the local pumping station.
The blue pipe – The communication pipe
This pipe carries water from the water mains pipe to the edge of your property boundary where it meets the water supply pipe (the external stop valve typically marks this point).
The red pipe – The water supply pipe
This is the pipe which runs from the communication pipe or edge of your property boundary into your home.
What is a water supply pipe?
  • The red cube – Internal stop valve
  • The grey cube – External stop valve
  • The dashed line – Property boundary

Where is your water supply pipe located?

Water supply pipes are generally located up to 1.35m below ground. They run under the foundations of a property to meet with the internal stop valve, which is often located in the kitchen. With some older properties they can often run under buildings and other structures that were erected after the original supply pipes were laid. Your water company may not be able to tell you the exact location of your water supply pipe.

* This diagram is for illustrative purposes only.

Could my water supply pipe be covered by my Home Insurance Policy?

Here's what the Association of British Insurers (ABI) have to say:

Home insurance offers wide ranging cover. It is essential that customers cover their homes against events like floods, fire, subsidence, storms, escape of water etc. Its also very important to insure your possessions through contents insurance. However, these policies will not protect you against damage to underground pipes which results from corrosion and wear and tear.

You may already have some protection against damage to underground pipes from your local water company, some of which offer to make some of these repairs free of charge, so you may wish to check the situation before you decide if you need extra insurance cover for this. This type of cover is known as home emergency insurance. You can often buy it as a "stand–alone" insurance, or as an "add–on" to your home insurance for which you will pay an additional premium. Your water company may also offer this type of insurance. The type and scope of cover varies, so shop around to find a policy that best suits your needs. Some home emergency insurance covers plumbing and boiler repairs as well as damage to underground pipes.

The bullet points below highlight some key differences between home insurance and home emergency insurance:

  • Many water supply pipe problems are caused by corrosion and wear and tear. HomeServe's research suggests that the vast majority are caused this way. Household insurance policies cover accidental damage to underground water pipes. They do not cover corrosion or wear and tear on water supply pipes.
  • A standard household insurance policy isn't likely to cover for reinstatement of the garden or driveway. It is likely that the hole would be filled in and paths, drivesways etc. reinstated because they are part of the building definition, therefore covered, but the garden (e.g. lawn, plants etc.) may not be fully reinstated, unless the policy covered this (some do have garden extensions, but most don't).
  • A standard household insurance policy is unlikely to cover hotel accommodation in the event that the customer doesn't have water supply, although alternative accommodation costs are covered if they result from an insured event like a flood or escape of water.
  • A standard household insurance policy is unlikely to cover the rising main typically coming up from a concrete floor in a kitchen to the internal stop valve.
  • Home insurance policies also include an excess which will have to be met by the customer.

Source: ABI

Does the responsibility for your water supply pipe lie with the water company or you as the homeowner?

An explanation of the responsibilities of the water companies and the homeowner can be found on the next page.