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One of the leading causes of homeowners insurance claims is water damage, which often results in costly repairs. Water damage to your home can occur due to a range of plumbing problems, from burst pipes to faulty sump pumps. While a homeowners insurance policy will generally cover certain kinds of plumbing damage, exact coverage varies. It can be helpful to know what plumbing issues may or may not be covered before disaster strikes.
- Homeowners insurance covers certain kinds of plumbing damage, like burst pipes, but specifics may vary by policy and provider.
- Home insurance often does not cover water damage from long-term leaks, negligence, old plumbing or sump pump failure.
- Flood insurance and additional coverage options, such as water or sewer backup and sump pump backup, may be necessary to ensure adequate financial protection against water damage.
Does my home insurance policy cover plumbing?
Put simply, whether your insurance policy will cover leaks or broken pipes depends on the circumstances. If the damage is from a burst pipe that happened unexpectedly, your insurer is likely to help cover the cost of repairs. Or if a frozen pipe causes damage even though you took every precaution to prevent it from happening, your provider will likely work with you.
Plumbing damage repairs and expenses often fall within the following coverage categories:
- Dwelling coverage: Dwelling coverage will generally pay for any damage to the overall structure of your home. So if a pipe bursts and the resulting water damages your walls, this type of coverage would pay for repairs up to your policy limit.
- Property coverage: Any personal property that is damaged by sudden and accidental water losses will typically be replaced up to your policy’s limit with this type of coverage. For example, if a pipe bursts and damages your laptop, property coverage would usually pay for its replacement.
- Additional living expenses coverage: If your home is uninhabitable due to a covered claim, additional living expenses coverage is likely to help pay for your living costs (e.g., meals out or hotel accommodations).
When does home insurance not cover plumbing?
There are a few situations where your insurance provider may deny your claim, including:
- Long-term leak: If the pipe has been leaking over time, your insurance provider will likely deny your claim, defaulting to you to take care of general maintenance issues.
- Negligence: If you made no attempt to keep your home heated during the winter months and pipes froze or burst as a result, you would probably be expected to pay for repairs out of pocket. As the homeowner, the insurer looks to you to take care of the home and prevent mishaps from occurring.
- Old plumbing: If your plumbing system is old and needs to be replaced (say, it shows signs of aging, rust, wear or corrosion), your insurance company is unlikely to pay to have it replaced or repaired.
- Your sump pump caused the damage: Sump pump damage to your plumbing system is covered by an optional add-on sump pump coverage and is typically not covered by a standard homeowners policy.
Additional coverage options for water damage
Most standard homeowners insurance policies only cover certain water damage scenarios. The following policy options or endorsements may help offer the protection you need when your standard policy does not.
- Flood insurance: Flood coverage usually has to be purchased as a separate policy through the National Flood Insurance Program or through a private insurer that offers flood coverage. It may be required if you live in a flood-prone region. Even if it’s not, it could save you thousands of dollars in home repairs if flooding should occur.
- Water or sewer backup: If the water or sewer line running between the city and your house backs up and damages your property, your insurer is unlikely to pay for it. Water or sewer backup coverage may be the endorsement you need to cover those expenses.
- Sump pump backup: If your home has a sump pump that drains standing water or sewage out of your house, the pump could fail and cause flooding. A standard home insurance policy does not cover such incidents. Sump pump backup coverage could offer peace of mind.
- Mold damage: Home insurance often does not cover mold damage. Experts recommend speaking to an insurance agent about additional coverage you can purchase if your property is susceptible to mold.
How to avoid leaking pipes and other plumbing damage
There are several steps you can take to protect your home’s plumbing. A few proactive options include:
1. Replace old plumbing
If your home’s plumbing is visibly old and showing signs of wear and tear, you might consider replacing it before there are any issues. If you’re on the fence about whether to overhaul your entire plumbing system, consider making an appointment with a home inspector, who can provide a professional recommendation about what to do.
2. Cut down invasive trees
If you have any trees that are close to your home, strongly consider having them cut down. Some trees have invasive root structures that can interfere with your home’s plumbing system.
3. Insulate your plumbing
Pipe insulation can prevent both cold and hot pipes from freezing in the winter. Typically, insulators are fairly easy to install yourself, or you can contact a professional for help.
4. Prep your home for winter
If you are not home during the winter months, it’s a good idea to prepare your home by:
- Turning off your water
- Draining pipes once the water has been turned off
- Draining all hot water heaters
- Opening all drain valves
Frequently asked questions
There are a few different ways you may be able to prove plumbing damage to your homeowners insurance company. Sharing photo or video evidence is often one of the simplest. In addition to documenting the broken pipe or problematic plumbing (if it’s accessible), it may be helpful to share documentation of all property damage stemming from the incident.
If your appliances are damaged or destroyed in a plumbing peril that is covered by your home insurance policy, such as a burst pipe, they will likely be covered as part of your claim. If you are concerned about replacement costs for any of your appliances, you may consider purchasing a home warranty in addition to your homeowners insurance policy. A home warranty can help cover appliance repair or replacement costs regardless of whether a qualifying event covered by your insurance was involved.
Standard homeowners insurance will often cover burst pipes and the resulting damage, but be aware of coverage limits on your policy. To gain further clarity, you might benefit from speaking with a home insurance agent about the terms of your coverage. In addition, proactively insulating your pipes and dripping your faucets during cold snaps can be good steps to preventing pipes from freezing.