According to the Insurance Information Institute, roughly one in 50 homes in the United States files a water damage claim every year.. According to insurance experts, although fires, hurricanes, and tornadoes dominate the headlines, the number one risk to property is water damage.
Homeowners insurance protects your home and personal property against damage or loss caused by fire, severe weather, and certain types of water damage. Water damage can be caused by a number of things including frozen pipes, storm damage, sewer backups, and faulty plumbing.
Is Your Water Damage Covered?
Homeowners often assume that all water damage will automatically be covered by their policies, but there are many exceptions that leave homeowners footing the bill for repairs. With the average water damage claim estimated at around $10,000, it’s important to understand what is and isn’t covered by standard insurance policies.
To keep homeowners policies as affordable as possible, coverage does not include losses that can be prevented by sound building practices or as the result of normal wear and tear. Whether a plumbing repair is covered by your homeowners insurance depends on two factors:
- Your specific policy details
- Whether or not the plumbing issue happened because of neglect or lack of maintenance
Most homeowners’ policies will cover water damage when the cause is “sudden and accidental” but not if the damage is the result of normal wear and tear or faulty plumbing installation. That means if you come home and discover a burst pipe in your basement, you may be reimbursed for the replacement costs of pipes, valves, and other repairs.
On the other hand, if you ignore a leaking pipe or improperly install a plumbing fixture and water damage occurs as a result, your claim will most likely be denied.
Damages Not Covered
Water damage typically not covered by standard homeowners insurance policies include:
- Damage Caused by Neglect: If you have a leaky faucet or toilet and put off having it repaired, any resulting damage will not be covered by insurance.
- Broken Pipes: If a pipe breaks due to gradual wear and tear or corrosion, the resulting water damage will not be covered.
- Mold and Rot: Mold, rot, or corrosion that occurs because of unrepaired water leaks is not covered.
- Foundation Seepage: If a crack in your foundation lets water in, a standard policy will not cover the damage.
- Damage from Intentional Acts: If you turn off the heat during the winter and your pipes freeze and burst, your claim will be denied.
Additional Water Damage Coverage
Every homeowner’s policy is different and it is important to understand the clauses in your policy that cover plumbing repairs and water damage. There are no standalone insurance policies exclusively for water damage, but you can add endorsements to your homeowners’ policy to protect yourself from certain types of water damage. Two of the most common endorsements are water backup coverage and flood insurance.
Water Backup Coverage: Also called sump pump or sewer backup coverage, this is a popular endorsement that can be added to provide coverage for water damage caused by sewer or sump pump backups.
Flood Insurance: No type of flood damage, no matter the source of the water, is covered by a standard homeowners policy. Flooding can be caused by heavy rainstorms, over-saturated ground, or surging bodies of water, including creeks, rivers, ponds, and lakes.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that all 50 states have experienced significant flooding and that between 2014 and 2018, more than 40% of flood insurance claims came from homes outside of high-risk flood areas.
If your home is in an area considered at high risk for flooding, your mortgage lender will likely require you to purchase flood insurance. Many homeowners purchase a separate flood insurance policy through the National Flood Insurance Program. Flood insurance isn’t just for those in designated high-risk areas. Your insurance agent can provide specific information on flood insurance options available in your area.
Why Coverage Is Denied
When you file a claim for water damage, an inspection will reveal whether or not the damage was caused by gradual deterioration or “sudden and accidental damage.” Insurance adjusters are trained to spot the difference.
Water damage might seem sudden to you, but damage from plumbing problems often develops over an extended period of time. Most of your plumbing system is hidden inside ceilings, walls, and floors.
If a leak develops in a hidden area, you may not notice it until significant damage has already occurred. This is especially true for small leaks that may not result in obvious symptoms like low water pressure in your home. By the time the problem becomes apparent, a significant amount of water damage can occur and most of it won’t be covered by a regular homeowners policy.
6 Ways to Protect Your Home from Plumbing Issues and Water Damage
There are some steps you can take to prevent water damage from happening in the first place. If you take precautions, it can save you a lot of headaches fighting with your insurance company.
1. Replace Washing Machine Hoses
Burst washing machine hoses are one of the top causes of residential water damage. Most homeowners leave the washing machine water supply line turned on so when a hose bursts, up to 500 gallons of water per hour can discharge, causing major damage in a short period of time. With more people moving their laundry rooms out of the basement to upper floors, the damage from a burst hose can quickly become catastrophic.
Replacing old rubber washing machine hoses with burst-resistant stainless steel hoses is inexpensive and decreases the likelihood of a burst hose. For added protection, installing an automatic shut-off valve equipped with an alarm can prevent costly water damage caused by burst washing machine hoses.
2. Install Water Leak Detectors
There are an increasing variety of water leak detectors available at most home improvement stores. Smart water leak detectors send an alert to your smartphone or email when the smallest amount of water is detected.
Some detectors can even automatically shut off the water to a home to prevent damage. Sophisticated systems often require professional installation but there are a number of affordable, easy-to-install sensors that can alert you when leaks are detected in your basement, utility room, or wherever you place a battery-operated sensor.
3. Prevent Frozen Pipes
If you live in an area with colder temperatures, your pipes can freeze and burst. Keep your heat set to at least 50 degrees and consider other precautions, like wrapping exposed plumbing pipes with insulation.
Pipes in unheated crawl spaces, basements, and garages are most susceptible to freezing temperatures and should be insulated no matter where you live. Inexpensive pipe wrap is an easy way to insulate exposed pipes. Underground sprinkler systems, swimming pools, hot tubs, and outdoor faucets should be winterized to protect them from freezing temperatures and prevent damage.
4. Keep the Water Out
If you experience heavy rainfall, make sure that drains and sump pumps are operating properly. Keep your gutters and downspouts clean and clear so the water flows away from the foundation.
Periodically inspect the area around your foundation to ensure water is draining away from your home. As soil settles over time, the grade around foundations can shift and cause drainage problems for homeowners. Improper drainage can lead to significant property damage whether you have a slab foundation or a basement.
5. Schedule Regular Maintenance
Homeowners can take many preventive measures to avoid common plumbing problems that can lead to expensive property damage if left unresolved. Don’t put off routine maintenance tasks. Clean your gutters, test your sump pump once a year, and repair dripping faucets or running toilets immediately. When you notice leaks, clogs, or other plumbing issues, it’s important to have them repaired quickly to minimize damage.
6. Schedule a Professional Plumbing Inspection
If you live in an older home, a professional plumbing inspection can identify potential problems with hot water heaters, piping, sump pumps, and more. If you experience any plumbing problems including frequent clogs, low water pressure, visible leaks, or rusty pipes, calling a professional plumbing company to correct those issues before a major problem develops will save you money in the long run.
The professionals at Simply Green Plumbing, Sewer & Rooter have the training and experience to handle all of your plumbing needs. Call us at (408) 716-1686 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.
Our technicians have over 30 years of plumbing experience. We understand that plumbing emergencies can happen at any time, that’s why we offer emergency plumbing services at no additional cost.