Plumbing issues can cause a wide range of damage to your home, from ruined sheetrock walls to warped floors to flooded basements. All of these fixes are costly. So when does homeowners insurance cover plumbing? Keep reading for a detailed breakdown.
When You’re Covered
Typically, a basic homeowners insurance policy will cover plumbing if the damage is sudden and accidental, rather than gradual. “Sudden and accidental” is a phrase that most insurance carriers use to determine which plumbing claims are covered and which are not.
For example, if a pipe suddenly bursts and drenches your floor, your insurance carrier will probably cover the cost of cleanup and repairs. That’s because you, as the homeowner, had no way of predicting that it would happen. The opposite would be a slow leak that you’re fully aware of, but never get around to fixing.
When You’re Not Covered
Homeowners insurance won’t cover plumbing damage that develops over time due to poor maintenance or neglect. The thinking is that you could have taken steps to prevent the problem from happening in the first place.
Let’s say you’ve had a leaky faucet for a year. Gradually, water from the leak drips down the wall until one day you notice mold and mildew behind the vanity. In this case, your homeowners insurance company could easily deny your claim, arguing that you neglected to fix the leak in a timely manner.
Here are the plumbing claims that your homeowners insurance carrier may deny:
- Long-term leaks
- Sump pump backup
- Water or sewer backup
- Older pipes
You can protect yourself against most of these problems by purchasing optional add-on coverages.
Plumbing Damage: Covered vs. Not Covered
Additional Coverage Options
Homeowners insurance policies only cover certain plumbing problems, as described above. The following add-on coverages can help fill those gaps, so you’re well-protected.
- Flood Insurance
- Water or Sewer Backup
- Sump Pump Backup
- Mold Coverage
- Utility Service Line
For the most part, standard homeowners insurance covers water damage that is caused by a broken pipe or water leaking through the ceiling. It doesn’t cover damage caused by water coming up from the ground—from a natural source, in other words. This is why you need a separate flood insurance policy.
Flood insurance protects your home and its contents from damage caused by rising water, such as an overflowing lake or river. Therefore, if you live near a large body of water that could potentially overflow, or if your area is prone to heavy rain, flood insurance may be for you.
Water or Sewer Backup
Homeowners insurance usually won’t cover damage to your home caused by sewer, septic tank or drain backups. That’s unfortunate, because these types of backups can cause thousands—even tens of thousands—of dollars of damage to your personal property.
These backups happen due to a variety of reasons, such as clogged drains, aging sewer systems and tree roots getting into underground pipes. You can protect yourself by adding water backup coverage—also known as sewer backup coverage—to your homeowners insurance policy.
Many homes have sump pumps that drain standing water out of the basement. When these pumps fail—either from a power outage or a mechanical problem—it usually leads to flooding. Unfortunately, standard homeowners insurance policies won’t cover damage caused by sump pump failure.
To protect yourself, you may want to buy an optional sump pump coverage endorsement. For extra peace of mind, you can also buy a backup generator to keep the sump pump running during a power outage.
Mold damage isn’t covered by homeowners insurance because mold grows over time. Usually, it’s the result of a long-term leak or flooding—and not a sudden or accidental event. The good news is that you can add an optional coverage to your policy that will pay to replace items damaged or destroyed by mold.
Utility Service Line
As a homeowner, you’re responsible for the exterior underground pipes and lines that bring critical services into your home from outside the structure. This includes drainage pipes and sewer lines. If these pipes and lines become damaged over time, you’ll be on the hook to replace them—unless you purchase utility service line coverage.
This optional coverage will provide payment if physical damage results in a leak, break, tear, rupture, collapse or arcing of a covered utility service line leading to your home.
How to Prevent Plumbing Damage
Proactive maintenance is always the best defense against plumbing damage. Here are some ways you can protect your home’s plumbing system: