Your Full Guide to Understanding Water Backup Insurance

While no one wants to imagine the horror of rainfall so fast and furious that it overwhelms the ability of drainage sewers to keep up with the runoff, it can happen. And when it does, the water has only one place to go; back up into your home.

Raw sewage is never pleasant and certainly not something you want overflowing your toilets and backing up into your tubs, sinks, and basement – or worse, contaminating every surface of your home. Even more than not wanting this, you do not want to be left on your own to deal with the financial fallout and cleanup.

Unfortunately, this particular damage is not typically covered by the standard homeowner’s insurance policy. In fact, it is expressly excluded in most home insurance policies. It is also not included for coverage in the flood protection provided by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). That is why it’s important to invest in water backup insurance.

What Is Water Backup Insurance?

Sometimes referred to as sewer backup insurance, water backup insurance must be purchased as a special addition to your standard insurance policy. It offers coverage, in varying amounts that extends to damage done by raw sewage backing up into your home.

This coverage also extends to sump pump overflows and discharges that cause damage to your home as well — something else that’s traditionally excluded in a standard homeowner’s insurance policy.

Policy coverage also varies by state. In some states, you will pay for a specific dollar amount each year to cover the damage done to your home if the sewer backs up into your home. In other states, purchasing the endorsement adds coverage equal to the amount of coverage for your home.

What Your Homeowners Insurance Covers

Your homeowner’s insurance policy is good for many things. Backed up sewers may not be on the list, but loss of use coverage does come into play in this situation, providing you coverage for safe and clean accommodations while repairs are being made to your home so that it is once again safe to occupy.

While it’s not everything in this situation, it matters more than you realize to have a clean place to lay your head at night after going through the nightmare of a water backup in your home.

Do I Need Water Backup Insurance?

This type of insurance isn’t required by the law or your mortgage lender. But because backups can happen to just about anyone, you’re always taking a risk by going without coverage. In fact, between 2009 and 2013, freezing and water damage claims accounted for more than a quarter of all homeowners property damage insurance claims.

If you live in a home that isn’t waterproof (and we have yet to come across one that is), water backup insurance should be on your radar.

Caveats or Cautions When Dealing with Water Backup Insurance

Just as your insurance doesn’t cover damage caused by a lack of maintenance to the home, water backup insurance excludes coverage for disasters determined to be caused by a lack of maintenance for your sewer lines. This means that it is up to you to maintain these lines and keep them in a good state of repair or you could find yourself responsible for the cleanup and necessary repairs after all.

This isn’t the only thing excluded for coverage with a water backup policy, though.

Flooding is not covered on the policy, nor is overflowing sewers originating elsewhere. The policy also excludes coverage for damage caused by sub-surface water (water that originates below the surface and seeps through the foundation).

Because of the intricacies involved in water backup insurance, it is wise to talk to your insurance agent to be fully informed on its protection and coverage.

How Much Does Water Backup Insurance Cost?

Luckily, this type of coverage is affordable for most. Depending on your individual risk factors and the specifics you choose in your policy, you’ll pay between $50 and $250 a year for protection.

If this seems like too much for coverage you’ll possibly never need, consider the alternative. Should you experience a backup in your bathroom or basement, you’ll face several different costs.

First, you’ll need a plumber to come out and clear the affected line. Then a water damage restoration company will need to come out and assess the damage. They’ll clean, disinfect, and dry the mess. While you can do this yourself, it’s best to have professional help to avoid mold growth or future issues hidden under floors or behind walls.

In some cases, you’ll also need to hire a contractor to replace surfaces or repair areas damaged during the event. When you factor all of these costs, experts in the industry of sewage cleanup average the cost at $7.00 per square foot of affected area. This means a $1,000 square foot basement will cost you about $7,000 to clean and repair. Still think a couple hundred a year (or about $0.68 a day) is too steep?

Preventing Sewer/Water Backups

Regardless of whether you have adequate insurance coverage for sewer backups or not, this is not the type of headache, not to mention heartache, you ever want to walk through the doors of your home to discover.

With that in mind, prevention is the best cure. These steps may not eliminate the possibilities of a backup but will certainly reduce them.

  • Do not pour grease or cooking oil down your drains.
  • Don’t flush items that should not be flushed including feminine products, paper towels, disposable diapers, etc.
  • Replace old metal lines and pipes with plastic to prevent tree roots from damaging them.
  • Periodically trim roots away from your underground sewer pipes.
  • During spring cleanup, make sure landscaping and irrigation systems are helping water flow away from your foundation instead of towards it. Make sure you also keep up on gutter and downspout maintenance.
  • Regularly have your sump pump checked by a professional to detect drainage system issues. You should also run your sump pump every season, whether it’s typically needed during that time or not, and clean it annually.
  • Have a backwater prevention valve installed in older homes (most new construction has the valve automatically installed) to prevent sewer backups.
  • Purchase a battery backup to ensure your sump pump continues operating even when the power goes out.
  • Spend some time evaluating your basement for flooding concerns. Raise your washer and dryer above typical backup levels. If possible, raise your furnace, water heater, and other appliances. Contain or position electrical wiring above expected backup levels as well.

Despite your best efforts to keep your home free and clear of water backup problems, they happen sometimes. In these events it’s in your best interest to have adequate protection in the form of water backup coverage.

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