Water damage to homes: Which areas of France suffer most?

We also look at the recommended steps to take to protect your property

Water damage is mainly caused by overflowing gutters, roof leaks, and household plumbing issues
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Over a million cases of water damage are reported in France every year (some 4,000 every day) says national insurance agency France Assureurs. It the most common type of damage to be notified, says the Observatoire de la sécurité des foyers in a report on water damage.

This report comes after the Observatoire looked at the risks of burglary and fire in previous studies.

Corsica, Hauts-de-France, Aquitaine, and Occitanie are the four areas of France that suffer worst from water damage to property, the report found.

Corsica and Hauts-de-France represent 18% of all reports of flood damage, while Aquitaine represents 11%, and Occitanie 6%, show figures from the Sartec group, a specialist in risk prevention and management.

The main causes of property water damage

The report found that the the top three causes of water damage to the exterior of a property are: 

  • Roof leakage, overflowing gutters and drainpipes, as well as protruding balconies (32% in houses and 19% in blocks of flats) 

  • Seepage through façades and buried walls (6% in houses and 2% in blocks of flats) 

  • Sewer back-up (1% in both houses and blocks of flats).

Inside the home, the causes are: 

  • Inaccessible plumbing (29% in houses and 17% in blocks of flats)

  • Accessible plumbing (15% in homes and blocks of flats)

  • Washing machines, dishwashers and water heaters (15% in houses and 14% in blocks of flats)

  • Shower and bath fittings (15% in houses and 10% in blocks of flats).

The Hauts-de-France region is particularly affected due to ageing housing stock and increased storms, one expert said.

“Every year, we record an increase in water damage claims,” said Christophe Dandois, co-founder of Leocare, a digital insurance company, to La Dépêche.

“This is due to France's ageing housing stock, which means a lot of burst pipes, and to global warming, which means repeated storms and thunderstorms, as we've seen in the Hauts-de-France region in recent months.”

How to prevent water damage

The best way to prevent water damage is to keep your roof and guttering in good condition, and regularly check appliances.

  • Maintain your roof

  • Have your gutters and pipes serviced and cleared regularly

  • Check balconies and surrounding pipes

  • Check the water-tightness of openings, doors, windows, chimney flues, etc

  • Clean any ventilation machines regularly

  • Check for leaks on appliances including washing machines, showers, and dishwashers

  • Ensure plumbing is installed by a professional, and that water pipes are accessible if needed

  • Replace any damaged tiles in high-traffic water areas (e.g. showers)

  • Keep pipes well-maintained

  • Bleed water-heated radiators at least once a year

  • Protect pipes from the cold with special insulator coverings to prevent freezing in winter

  • Deal with any signs of leaks quickly, especially if you are not sure where the water is coming from, as a minor issue can easily turn into a major problem if left unresolved

“Water damage can take a long time to repair and can disrupt daily life. We want to offer practical advice and effective recommendations…to help households protect themselves more effectively,” said Jean-Vincent Raymondis, chairman of Saretec, in the report.

Safety first

Never attempt to deal with water leaks yourself unless you are 100% sure of what you are doing, and you have cut all electricity off first. 

In the event of major flooding, structural damage, or significant quantities of water, call the emergency services on 18 or 112, and ensure all occupants of the building are informed and evacuated.

Take photos of all property and damage as you may need them for insurance claims later on.