Having water in your home is great when it stays in its proper spots – within your pipes, toilet, sink or tub. But water can quickly create a lot of damage and cleanup expense in your home if it gets let loose. My clients often ask me if their Homeowners policy covers water damage. The answer is that it all depends on where the water came from.
Water damage could come from a leak in a water line (usually covered) or from a leak in your roof (usually covered) or from seepage in through basement walls (hardly ever covered) or from flooding of normally dry ground (virtually never covered without separate Flood insurance). It can also come from water that backs up from sewers or drains or overflows from a sump pump, and that is what we want to discuss in today’s post.
Most standard Homeowners policies do not cover water backup or sump pump overflow automatically. Typically, this is an option that you can add for additional premium. Most carriers will allow you to specify how large of a limit you’d like for this coverage, often in $5000 increments. Depending on your insurance company, the first $5000 in coverage may cost $25 to $100 per year, with higher limits going up from there. (Some carries only offer up to $5000 to $10,000 in coverage, while others offer maximum limits significantly higher.)
Many people in our area live in the country and rely on septic systems. We all know that septic systems sometimes freeze, especially in years where there is not sufficient snowfall to build up a good layer of insulation on top of the ground. If your septic freezes, your sewage may have no direction to go but back into your house, coming out through a toilet or other drain opening.
If you live in town, there could be a blockage that results in your sewage (along with the sewage of all your neighbors) backing up into your house as well. It has been my observation that the city may not be willing to pay for your cleanup or water damage, and you may be on your own if you don’t have the Water Backup option.
If you have a sump pump in your basement, this identifies another possible risk. The job of that pump is to remove ground water that has found its way into your basement. If the pump fails mechanically, loses power or is overwhelmed by extra water during a rainstorm or wet season, you could have quite the mess in your basement. If you have finished basement flooring or walls, your loss could easily be in the thousands of dollars for the repairs.
If you have a water or sewer backup or overflow in your home, the first step is to get everything dry and clean. Many homeowners will try to this themselves – maybe with a shop vac combined with household-grade fans. Unfortunately, this method is often insufficient to dry out flooring or walls, but sometimes homeowners aren’t aware of that until later when mold develops. The best thing to do in this situation is to call in a water restoration company, who can check for moisture content in walls and floors and has the proper equipment to get things dried out right. If dollars is tight, having insurance coverage to pay for this professional assistance can be huge.
Once you do get things properly dried out, there may be flooring, sheetrock and more that needs to be removed and replaced. Again, this can get quite expensive if you didn’t have Water Backup coverage on your policy.
The Water Backup coverage option can vary somewhat from carrier to carrier, but usually it will cover water damage from both the backup of sewers or drains and the failure of your sump pump if you have one. We encourage you to consider adding this valuable protection to your Homeowners insurance policy.
Ken Cobb is owner of Pine Country Insurance and has been active in the insurance industry for over 15 years. Meet Ken.
Coverage descriptions found in this blog are summaries provided for general educational purposes and cannot fully detail the terms, conditions, limitations or exclusions of a specific insurance policy. Please read your policy carefully.