What kinds of water damage are covered by home insurance?

It’s every homeowner’s worst nightmare: the basement is underwater. Something has gone horribly, horribly wrong, and now you have a swimming pool inside your house. Well, you always wanted a swimming pool, but this isn’t quite what you had in mind. Anyways, now you have a question: what types of water damage are covered by home insurance?

Let’s find out what kind of water damage your home insurance protects you from.

First things first: What kind of damage do you have?

That’s the million-dollar (hopefully not literally) question.

The type of water damage is the determining factor when it comes to answering the “is-it-covered” question. Home insurance is intended to cover uncontrollable, unforeseen, and unpreventable occurrences, like if there’s a fire or if a tree falls on your house. So, if the water damage was “sudden or accidental” it should be covered because it was out of your control.

Let’s say that your swimming pool basement was caused by a faulty water heater or a burst pipe – and it was sudden and accidental. The damage could be covered. However, the broken piece of the appliance or the appliance itself may not be covered. For example, if your dishwasher broke and dumped water all over your kitchen, the damage would likely be covered, but not the hose or dishwasher itself.

But – yes, there’s a but – water damage can often get tricky. You have to read your policy very carefully to see what’s covered and what’s excluded. You can call your agent to go over it with you.

What kinds of water damage is never covered?

There are a few types of water damage that are simply excluded.

1. Gradual water damage.

If the water damage to your home is caused by something gradual that has to do with home maintenance, it will most likely not be covered – for example, a slowly leaking pipe that wreaks havoc on your bathroom. That sort of damage is viewed as being preventable if the home and plumbing had been maintained, so it won’t be covered. Even if the damage is “new” to you when you discover the problem, it may not be covered if it was an ongoing issue.

Here are some other scenarios.

  • Water seeping into cracks in the house’s foundation
  • Water leaking from a roof that shows clear signs of needed maintenance
  • Mold/rot/corrosion
  • General lack of maintenance

If the water damage was caused by something accidental and sudden, it will most likely be covered.

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2. Sewer backup or sump pump failure.

Okay. This is probably not something you want to think about, but what if the sewer failed and sent icky, dirty sewer water back into your home? Not only is that gross, it’s highly damaging to your home and dangerous to your family’s health because of how unsanitary it is.

Unfortunately, sewer backup is typically not covered. You can, however, add an endorsement to your policy for a small additional charge so that you would have coverage. (An endorsement is basically an addition to your policy that adjusts your coverage.) So, be prepared for this most unpleasant of situations by adding an endorsement for sewer backup.

3. Flooding.

Here’s another one that gets tricky:

Flooding is not covered by home insurance.

In the insurance world, flooding has a unique definition. It means that two or more acres of normally dry land have been affected by excess waters, or that two or more properties have been affected. The flood can be from a river bursting its bank or from heavy rains that cause a rapid accumulation of water.

But don’t worry:

If you live in a flood-prone area and want to protect your home against flooding, you can purchase flood insurance. You can go through an agent and get coverage through the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program.) Even if you’re not in a high-risk area, you can purchase flood insurance to protect your home against flood damage.

If you file a claim for water damage and it gets denied…

If you file a claim for water damage only to have it denied, make sure that you ask why the claim was denied. There are a lot of people who are involved with claims on the insurance side of things, so keep a record of every phone call. Take note of the person’s name, title, and the details of the conversation. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if things are getting confusing or if you don’t understand why so-and-so is saying this, but so-and-so said that.

If it’s your belief that your home insurance should have covered the damage, you can always ask your agent about it. Try to find out if there were any misunderstandings about the type of damage your home faced (for example, if they thought your basement was flooded when the damage was really caused by a burst pipe.) If all else fails, you can go to your state’s insurance commissioner to get some advice or to file a complaint.

Pro tip: Find out if there’s an endorsement that would have covered the damage your home sustained and consider adding it to protect your home in the future.

If the water damage was caused by something gradual and ongoing, it will most likely not be covered.


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Like we said, water damage is often a bit confusing when it comes to home insurance. Or maybe it’s home insurance when it comes to water damage…anyways, the best thing to do is study up on your policy and ask your agent or broker to go over your coverages (and any exclusions.) Preferable before your basement turns into a swimming pool.

Looking to save money on your home insurance? We can help with that. Our agents are professionals at helping people shop for the best coverage at the best rate so they get the coverage they need without breaking the bank. All you have to do to get started with some home insurance quotes is fill out our form or give us a call today.