The Difference Between Flood Insurance And Water Backup Coverage

For Home Owners

The Difference Between Flood Insurance And Water Backup Coverage

Imagine returning from a relaxing vacation only to find your basement knee-deep in standing water. A frozen pipe burst and filled your basement with water. Now you're faced with a flooded basement, but does your homeowners insurance cover the damage? If you have flood insurance, what exactly does it cover? And what about sewage backup in your basement? Do you have to clean up the mess yourself, or does insurance cover the damage and cleanup? If you're unsure, this guide will help clarify the differences between water damage, flood, and water backup insurance.

Water Damage Coverage

Most homeowners policies would cover damage caused by frozen pipes but not the pipe itself. Water damage from plumbing leaks and other incidents involving accidental water or steam discharge from drains or pipes not located on the residence premises are typically covered. Coverage also extends to damage caused by water or steam from plumbing, heating, air-conditioning, or automatic fire extinguishing systems. However, the faulty plumbing, system, or appliance itself is not covered.

What Is a Flood?

According to FEMA, a flood is defined as a general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land area or two or more properties (one of which is the policyholder’s). This can result from:

  • Overflow of inland or tidal waters;
  • Unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source;
  • Mudflow;
  • Collapse or subsidence of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water caused by erosion or undermining due to waves or currents exceeding anticipated levels.

Flood Insurance: What Does It Cover?

Flood insurance is not typically included in standard homeowners policies. Instead, it can be purchased separately through the federal government's National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or through an insurance broker. Flood insurance generally provides coverage for:

  1. The physical structure and foundation of your home, plumbing and electrical systems, central air and heating systems, attached structures like cabinets and paneling, and detached garages (other detached structures may require separate policies).
  2. Personal contents, such as clothing, furniture, electronics, portable appliances, and certain valuables like art up to a specified limit.

What Isn’t Covered by Flood Insurance?

  • Damage from moisture or mold that could have been prevented.
  • Currency, precious metals, and paper valuables.
  • Outdoor property, such as decks, fences, patios, landscaping, wells, septic systems, hot tubs, and pools.
  • Living expenses, like temporary housing if your home becomes uninhabitable.
  • Cars and other vehicles (though auto insurance may offer some coverage).

Water Backup Coverage

Water backup coverage can be added to your existing homeowner’s policy to cover damage from water backup from an outside sewer or drain. Common causes of sewer backups include aging sewer systems, combined pipelines, tree roots, and sanitary main blockages. This coverage typically includes:

  • Most water damage if the cause is sudden and accidental, such as drenched drywall from a burst water heater or a saturated ceiling from a ruptured pipe.

What Isn’t Covered by Water Backup Coverage?

  • Damage caused by neglect or unresolved maintenance issues.
  • Replacing or repairing the source of the water damage, such as a burst pipe.
  • Flooding (you'll need separate flood insurance for this).

Preventing Water Backup

To prevent backups in your sewer lateral:

  • Dispose of grease properly by cooling it and throwing it away.
  • Avoid flushing non-deteriorating paper products.
  • Periodically cut tree roots if they cause problems.
  • Replace old lines with new plastic pipes to prevent root intrusion.
  • Correct illegal plumbing connections.
  • Install a backwater prevention valve in your home’s basement.

Steps to Take When Water Damage Occurs

When facing potential water damage, it's important to act quickly:

  • Use a wet-vacuum to remove spillage.
  • Mop floors and wipe walls with soap and disinfectant.
  • Flush and disinfect plumbing fixtures.
  • Steam clean or remove wet carpets or drapes.
  • Repair or remove damaged wallboard or wall coverings.
  • Clean ducts thoroughly.

Protecting Yourself

  1. Buy Flood Insurance: Even in low to moderate-risk zones, flood insurance can provide peace of mind and is often affordable in these areas.
  2. Consider Excess Flood Insurance: For high-value homes, excess flood insurance can supplement your primary policy’s limits.
  3. Review Your Homeowner’s Policy: Contact your insurance agent to understand what your policy covers and consider adding water backup coverage if you don’t already have it.

Nov 25, 2019 Other