We tend to think of sweeping hurricanes and thunderous tornadoes when we purchase homeowners insurance coverage, but a burst pipe is no less formidable. A burst pipe can cost you $10,000 in damages, no small sum by any means.
Water damage is one of the leading causes of insurance claims today, leaving room for deeper issues like black mold. That’s why it’s important to consider water damage coverage when choosing your homeowners insurance plan.
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What is water damage?
Water damage can come from a number of things. A burst pipe, leaky roof and excess A/C condensation can all wreak havoc on your home and on your life. Even worse, the culprit isn’t always visible, so you have to be extra vigilant in dealing with water damage.
Standing water not only soaks your things and destroys them, but it also can create a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and mold. Humidity can heighten these risks.
There are three leading causes of water damage:
- Water or sewer backup
- Overflow and discharge
Most water damage causes are accidental or outside of a homeowners’ reasonable control. They can happen gradually, like with a leaking roof, or they can happen suddenly, such as a flood. Either way, most water damage is included in a standard homeowners insurance or renters insurance policy.
Sewer backup is not due to homeowner fault, but the damages are no less hazardous. Toxic chemicals and bacteria can seep into your home with the sewage and take over. The Civil Engineering Foundation only expects sewage backups to increase with each coming year.
When does my homeowners insurance cover water damage?
Some policies include coverage for water damage; others require you to purchase additional insurance.
Standard insurance policies include coverage for the following water-related damages:
- Ice, snow, or sleet that can create water damages and cause a roof to collapse
- Water discharge and overflow
- Water heater damages, such as burning, peeling, cracking or bulging
- Frozen plumbing or pipes
You can be held responsible for costs of damages if you don’t maintain appropriate seasonal temperatures in the home, such as heat in the winter. You can also have to pay for damages yourself if you abandoned the property for an extended period of time. Also, some companies don’t cover damage from sewage pipes unless you purchase extended coverage.
These exceptions vary from company to company, so check what exemptions might apply to your policy.
How to make a water damage claim
Depending on your coverage, your homeowners insurance will restore or replace expensive items like appliances and electronics in addition to the physical repairs of your home.
Your insurance company will send an adjuster to your property to analyze the damages and officially determine the cause. Based on this report, the insurance company will decide if the damages are covered under your plan.
If you qualify for coverage, you will be linked with a local provider who will repair your home. Extractors and pumps can remove any standing water from your home, and fans might help make things dry faster. Carpets might be removed if possible, along with anything else that can prevent the floors from thoroughly drying.
The affected area will also be disinfected to eliminate any trace of mold or any other harmful materials.
How to protect your home against water damage
While some kinds of water damage are out of your control, there are some things you can do to protect your home from future water damage.
- Purchase a sewer and drain backup rider. Not all insurance companies include this coverage in their policies, so ask whether sewer and drain insurance is available for your home.
- Purchase appropriate flood insurance. Some areas are more prone to floods than others, so the need for flood insurance varies depending on where you live. You can purchase flood coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program, or you can opt for coverage through your regular provider.
- Reseal cracks in your basement and windows. Holes and cracks in the foundation of your home can appear in windows and basement floor. Refinish your floors with durable, waterproof materials, and caulk and reseal your windows to prevent leaks during wet weather.
- Install a backwater valve in your basement. A backwater valve will make sure that any flooding or seeping water goes out of your home but does not come back in.
- Regularly replace hoses and faucets. Replace all hoses every five to seven years. This includes things like your dishwasher, refrigerator, freezer, ice maker, and water heater.
- Never leave appliances running. The best way to prevent disaster is to make sure there is never water running when you aren’t home. Don’t run the dishwasher or washing machine when you’re gone, and always shut off the main water supply to your washer before extended absences.
- Check for an emergency pressure release valve. This specialized valve is designed to relieve built-up pressure in your pipes during colder weather, which causes them to explode. If your home doesn’t have this valve, have one installed.
There are some things in life that we can’t prevent, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do our best to protect our homes from the elements.
A comprehensive homeowners insurance plan with dedicated water damage coverage can prevent you from becoming a future victim of water seepage and flooding.