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When it comes to your home, there are any number of issues that can cause extensive and costly damages. However, one of the leading causes of homeowners 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, which can damage your floors, seep into walls, destroy drywall and may even result in mold and mildew issues over the long term. And while your homeowners insurance policy will generally cover certain kinds of plumbing damage, what exactly is covered can vary, at times significantly, from one insurance company to the next. Given that plumbing problems are a common cause of homeowners insurance claims, it can be helpful to know what may or may not be covered by your homeowners insurance policy.
Does my home insurance policy cover plumbing?
You may be asking yourself: “Does homeowners insurance cover leaks, or does homeowners insurance cover broken pipes?” The answer to these questions depends on the circumstances.
If the damage is from a burst pipe that happened unexpectedly, your home insurance provider likely will cover the cost of repairs. Likewise, if a frozen pipe causes the damage, and you took every precaution to prevent it from happening, your provider will likely work with you.
Plumbing damage repairs and expenses are often covered with the following coverage options:
- Dwelling coverage: Dwelling coverage will pay for any damage done 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 in your home that is damaged by sudden and accidental water losses will 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 pay for its replacement.
- Additional living expenses coverage: If your home is uninhabitable due to a covered claim, additional living expenses will help pay for your living costs while away from your home.
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. It is your job to take care of general maintenance issues.
- Negligence: If you made no attempt to keep your home heated during the winter months, you would be expected to pay for repairs out of pocket. As the homeowner, you have a responsibility to take care of your home and prevent mishaps from occurring.
- Old plumbing: If your plumbing system is old and needs to be replaced (because it showed signs of aging, rust, wear or corrosion), your provider will likely not 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 not covered with a standard homeowners policy.
Additional coverage options for water damage
Your standard homeowners insurance policy only covers damages from certain water losses. The following policy options or endorsements 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 this policy. It is essential coverage and may be required depending on where you live, which can save you thousands of dollars in home repairs if you live in a flood-prone region.
- Water or sewer backup: If the water or the sewer line running between the city and your house backs up and damages your property, your insurer will not likely pay for it. A water or sewer backup coverage is the endorsement you need to cover those expenses.
- Sump pump backup: You use a sump pump to get standing water or sewage drained out of your house. But sometimes, this pump might back up and cause leaks and flooding. A standard home insurance policy does not cover such incidents, and you might consider purchasing a sump pump backup coverage.
- Mold damage: Home insurance often does not offer coverage against mold damage. You might want to talk to your 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 four things you can do to protect your home’s plumbing.
1. Replace your home’s old plumbing
If your home’s plumbing is visibly old and is showing signs of wear and tear, you are better off replacing it before there are any issues. If you are on the fence about whether you should pay to overhaul your entire plumbing system, make an appointment with a home inspector. They will be able to give you a professional recommendation about what to do.
2. Cut down invasive trees
If you have any trees that are close to your home, you should strongly consider having them cut down. Some trees have such invasive root structures that they can interfere with your home’s plumbing system.
3. Insulate your plumbing
Pipe insulation can prevent freezing in the winter, and you should do it for both cold and hot water pipes. Insulators might be easy to install yourself, or you can contact a professional with any questions.
4. Prep your home for winter
If you are not home during the winter months, you should prepare your home for your absence. This involves:
- Turning off your water
- Draining pipes once the water has been turned off
- Draining all hot water heaters
- Opening all drain valves