As a homeowner, you know the importance of having homeowners insurance. Your house is likely one of the largest investments you'll make, and you want to protect it. Unfortunately, many homeowners fail to understand what their insurance actually covers, and what may need an additional policy or endorsement. When it comes to water damage, you may not know what is typically covered, and you do not want any surprises in your coverage when disaster strikes. Our goal is to help you understand what a standard home insurance policy typically covers, and how you can ensure that your home is protected.
Of course, not all home insurance policies are created equal, so it is important for you to read and understand what your policy includes when it comes to water damage. Thankfully, some common incidents that are not covered by standard homeowners insurance can be covered by supplemental policies that may be available to you.
A good rule of thumb is that homeowners insurance will likely cover damage that is sudden and accidental and will not cover damage due to normal wear and tear. In addition, most water that comes "down", such as rain, will be covered, while water that comes "up", such as a flood, will not.
There are some complexities over what can be covered depending on the source of damage and the maintenance that is required around the common sources of water damage in your home. If you neglect common maintenance issues, your claim could be denied, so it’s important to be aware of the major sources of water damage to prevent a bigger issue.
HO-3 policies are the most common type of homeowners insurance. These policies are attractive to homeowners due to their wide coverage and as they cover all perils, with the exception of some specific exclusions, plus personal belongings.
Depending on the type of homeowners insurance that you have, there are 16 events covered called Named Perils.
Some of the most important named perils that are covered by a homeowners policy that can be a source of water damage include:
If a pipe bursts suddenly and results in damage to your home, it’s generally covered.
As the homeowner, you are responsible for the maintenance of your pipes. Issues due to normal wear and tear of pipes, or those in an older home that have not been updated, are not typically covered by a standard home insurance policy. If water leaking creates gradual damage over time and you fail to fix the affected area, your insurance company will likely not cover it.
In fact, across the United States, 10 trillion gallons of water are leaked annually. Routine maintenance of pipes and tubes leading to appliances is important in order to prevent leaking pipes that may cause a gap in insurance coverage.
In the event of water being used to combat a fire in your home, your insurance company will cover water damage, whether it is from a sprinkler system or a hose used by the fire department.
Freezing temperatures can cause pipes to burst in your home. As long as you are not neglectful by intentionally letting the temperature inside your home reach the point of freezing, typical policies will cover the resulting damage.
Leaving faucets dripping during times of extremely cold weather, or shutting off and draining your faucets can prevent you from needing to cash in on your homeowners insurance policy.
Despite the "normal wear and tear" general rule, most roof leaks are covered by your insurance policy. Events that could cause damage to your roof resulting in water damage may include wind storms, natural disasters, fire, or fallen trees. These events would qualify for the resulting water damages to be covered. However, leaks may not be covered if there is neglect to properly maintain the roof, among some other exclusions.
To ensure that you’re covered in the event of a roof leak, or if you have an older roof that is preventing you from getting coverage, read our article on How To Get A Homeowners Insurance Policy with A Bad Roof.
Heavy rain, hail, and weight from snow are all considered covered perils in a standard homeowners insurance policy. If you have any questions about what perils are included in your homeowners insurance, speak to your insurance agent to ensure you are covered.
Ice that builds in your gutters during the winter can cause major damage to your roof. You may be covered if your insurance company finds that this damage was sudden and not caused by a lack of maintenance.
Here are the most common types of water damage that are not included in a standard policy:
Regardless of the cause of flooding, be it due to excessive rainfall, rising bodies of water, or natural disasters such as hurricanes, standard home insurance policies do not cover flooding or the damage to your home resulting from floodwaters.
However, there are options available to you. Policies specifically for flood insurance can be available to you in order to offset costs incurred by flood damage. If you live in a flood plain or an area prone to flooding, The National Flood Insurance Program has resources for you to find additional coverage to ensure you can find a policy that will cover flood damage.
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is managed by FEMA and provides flood insurance to property owners, renters, and businesses.
To Prchase flood insurance, call your insurance company immediately if you believe your home is at future risk of flooding as there is typically a 30 day wait period for an NFIP policy to go into effect.
Backups from outdoor sewers and drains are not covered under most homeowners insurance policies. Sewage backups can be caused by sediment buildup, blockages of tree roots, sanitary mains, or basement flooding.
Thankfully, coverage for damage resulting from sewage backups may be available through purchasing an additional insurance policy.
Water damage resulting from Earth movements, such as an earthquake or landslide, is not covered by standard homeowners insurance policies. In order to obtain coverage for these types of natural disasters, you will have to have a supplemental policy. Depending on your geographic location, the risk of such events could warrant the need for additional coverage in order to protect your home.
Keeping up with routine maintenance is key to preventing damage caused by water sources around your home. Most homeowners insurance will cover sudden and accidental damage, but if they find that the source of damage was due to neglect they can potentially deny your claim.
Hopefully, you don't have to think about your plumbing supply system too often. Unfortunately, when you do, it might come hand-in-hand with significant damage to your household. The plumbing supply system to your house - how water enters your home - is one of the primary sources of water damage in your house. The reasons for this can vary. In colder environments (like the upper Midwest, New England, or the northern parts of the United States), the most common type of plumbing system supply failure is frozen pipes. When frigid weather comes in to freeze pipes, those pipes can crack and eventually break - leading to significant and costly issues.
The other type of risk when it comes to your plumbing supply system is a material failure. This could be due to anything from poor construction to simple wear and tear that comes along with the age of your house. Either way, if you have a burst pipe and the water in the building comes rushing out - you could be facing a severe bit of damage throughout your home.
There's another significant potential for failure within the home when it comes to your plumbing - the plumbing draining system. In a home, the plumbing drain system brings the waste from the building into a place of disposal - a sewer system or septic system.
When it comes to drainage, one of the most common causes of water damage in your house comes with heavy, flooding rain outside. When these types of heavy rains occur, they can quickly start to overwhelm the sewer system. When that happens, the water could not drain properly - and could flood right back into the household. The potential for damage is enormous, especially with homes with finished basements; that spot is generally the first place this poorly drained water will go.
The other significant risk for a plumbing drain system is the same one the supply system faces: a mechanical failure. Like any other aspect of a building, a plumbing drain system can fail because of poor construction, age, wear, and tear. Either way, water and plumbing not draining correctly is the gateway to significant water damage in your house.
Everyone knows how essential "the throne" is to any household. However, toilets can also be a significant risk when it comes to water damage in the house. With all the water flowing into the pipes around a bathroom along with its constant usage, toilet failure is one of the most common "hot spots" for destruction in the house. The most common cause when it comes to damage? Usually, toilet failure comes from blockage at the source. When a toilet is "blocked up" and not plunged, water can continue to rush into the system; it can quickly spill over the top and then wreak havoc throughout the bathroom and the structure of the house.
Like anything else in the house, too, fill valves, and other toilets (especially older toilets) can also fail over time, leading to more backups and catastrophic water failure problems. It's essential to keep a close eye on your toilet system's structural integrity or face significant water damage in your house.
Like many other appliances in your home, you might not think about your water heater until there is a significant problem. However, water heater failure presents a definite potential for water damage within your house. Water heaters, like everything else, can fail - especially if it is an older appliance. If a water heater ages beyond its prescribed ranges or succumbs to poor maintenance, its tank can quickly become corroded. When that happens, they can burst and flood the area, causing considerable damage. There are also risks, like in other elements of the plumbing chain, that the supply to the water heater can fail.
Of course, hot water is essential for a household; however, proper water heater maintenance and keeping a close eye on your heater's age expectancy should help people ward off a potential future problem.
Finally, we come to one of the most common places where water issues in your house could come from the washing machine. This vital part of the home helps keep everyone clothed no matter what the season. However, it also presents the significant potential for water damage within the home. Washing machines contain several important moving parts; the failure of any one of them (the supply hose or drain line, for example) can lead to a water leak or overflow. Not only can those issues lead to what might be a costly washing machine repair or replacement, but they can also do a tremendous amount of damage to the room where the washing machine lies.
As mentioned before, age and proper maintenance are critical when it comes to washing machines. Keeping an eye on both is an essential job for any homeowner.
When you suspect the need to claim water damage on your homeowners policy, following certain guidelines could help to make the process go smoothly. It is important for you to control the damage, preventing the spread of the water as much as possible. Keep any records you have of home maintenance. Take photos and make lists to provide evidence of the damage done. Report damage to your insurance company as soon as possible. All of these things will help to ensure that you are taken care of to the extent that your policy will allow.
It is important to understand the specifics of your homeowners insurance policy. Coverages can be different according to state guidelines and company policies, which can make it overwhelming for homeowners to understand. Water damage is a commonality, and it is something that unfortunately many homeowners are not prepared for when it is necessary. Being aware of standard coverages, assessing risks, and opting for supplemental policies when needed can make a dramatic difference in the overall cost to you in the event of water damage occurring in your home.
Without the help of homeowners insurance, water damage is extremely costly. In fact, the average claim for water damage in the United States is around $10,000 and is the second most common type of claim submission. Water damage can affect the foundation, walls, flooring, ceiling, and the overall integrity of your home. Unresolved, water damage can lead to more problems from mold and rotting.
Most commonly, water damage occurs from roofs, toilets, sprinklers, water heaters, and HVAC systems. While your homeowners policy will cover things like a busted pipe from your refrigerator or washing machine, it will not cover the costs to repair or replace the appliance. If the water causes damage to your floors, for example, your policy will cover the cost of repairing the floors, but you will be responsible for the cost of repairing the source of the damage.
Providing routine maintenance and taking preventative measures can help to avoid the need for your homeowners insurance to cover water damage, but the benefits of being covered in the event of a disaster make it necessary to have adequate coverage for your home.