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Houses need a strong foundation to keep ground water out, provide insulation and protect against natural earth movement. So as a homeowner, discovering a problem with your home’s foundation can be incredibly frustrating. Foundation issues can range from inexpensive, quick fixes, to major repair projects with a high price tag. The good news is, home insurance covers your house’s foundation against specific risks. But keep in mind that some causes of damage are not covered, including general wear and tear that is common with older home foundations. If you’re concerned about foundation damage, learn what your home insurance will cover, how to spot foundation damage and how to prevent foundation damage in the first place.
Does home insurance cover repairs to your foundation?
Homeowners insurance does cover foundation repairs, but it depends on the situation.
To figure out if your home insurance policy will cover your foundation, you need to determine what caused the trouble you’re having. In some cases, it will be obvious, like damage from a tornado or earthquake.
However, the root cause of your foundation problem might not be readily apparent. In these cases, it helps to call a foundation specialist to come out to your house and diagnose the issue. Not only will they help you understand what caused the problem, but they can give you an idea of how extensive repairs will need to be. Plus, their report will give you evidence you can use if you decide to file a home insurance claim.
Some of the most common causes of foundation issues include:
- Too much or too little moisture in your soil
- Pooling water
- Natural disasters like earthquakes, mudslides and tornadoes
- Faulty construction (for example, improperly compacted soil underneath your foundation)
- Tree root growth
- Plumbing leaks
- Earth movement
When your insurance policy will cover foundation damage
All standard home insurance policies include dwelling coverage, which is the portion of your policy that covers the physical structure of your home, attached structures and your foundation. HO-3 and HO-5 home insurance policies (the most common types of coverage) provide dwelling coverage on an open perils basis, which means any loss that is not explicitly excluded from your policy is covered.
Most home insurance policies will help with foundation repairs after covered perils like:
- A vehicle or aircraft driving into your home
- Falling objects
- Water damage that results from an overflow in your A/C, heating or plumbing system
However, it’s still important to read through your policy to figure out which covered perils are included. If any of those things are to blame for your foundation damage then you have a high likelihood of filing a successful home insurance claim.
When your policy will not cover foundation damage
Although home insurance does cover many sources of foundation damage, not everything is covered.
For instance, some people assume that they get homeowners foundation protection from their insurer after any natural disaster. But that’s not the case. In fact, almost all home policies specifically exclude two of the natural disasters that can do the most foundation damage: floods and earthquakes. If you live in an area where either of these disasters is common, buy a separate earthquake or flood insurance policy to safeguard both your foundation and your home as a whole.
Additionally, home policies don’t offer foundation repair insurance when the foundation problem results from normal wear-and-tear. This is because most policy Insuring Agreements only provide coverage for “sudden and accidental loss” or “Direct Physical Loss,” which has been defined as damage caused by an accident or other fortuitous event. Insurers argue that it’s your responsibility as a homeowner to perform the proper maintenance on your home. They label many foundation issues as negligence on your part.
Specifically, you can expect that your insurer will deny coverage for settling, shifting and cracking foundations, whether that’s a result of temperature, soil fluctuations, earth movement or tree root growth. They will almost definitely say those losses are not “sudden and accidental” and that it’s your responsibility as a homeowner to address those problems as part of your routine maintenance.
Also, don’t expect foundation insurance from your homeowners policy if your foundation suffers from faulty construction. To avoid this issue — and the associated out-of-pocket cost — make sure you get a home inspection before buying a new home.
What to do if you experience foundation damage
If your home’s foundation is damaged in a covered peril, you should get in touch with your insurer as quickly as possible after a covered peril occurs. Most insurers only offer coverage for a set period of time after an event occurs.
When you contact your insurer, ask them what evidence it will need for the claims process. For your own records, you should take photos and videos to document the damage when it’s safe to do so. After filing the claim, your insurance company might want to send an appraiser to your property to see the damage in person. You may also benefit from hiring your own foundation specialist to come out and assess the situation so you can use their report in your claim.
Like any other insurance claim, filing a successful homeowners foundation claim comes down to meeting your insurer’s requirements. Don’t hesitate to ask them questions if you’re unsure about any steps in the process.
To help you with the process, many insurers have a network of recommended contractors. And some even guarantee the workmanship for a set period of time when you choose one of their contractors. Some insurers that offer this service include:
How to prevent foundation damage
While your home insurance policy might offer you foundation insurance, it’s a whole lot easier to avoid an issue in the first place. Here are our top tips for preventing homeowners foundation issues:
- Get a home inspection before moving in: If you’re in the process of buying a house, don’t skip the home inspection. This is the best way to know if the house’s foundation is well-built, which can help you avoid a whole host of foundation problems in the future.
- Maintain your soil: When your soil gets too dry or too wet, it puts a strain on your foundation. Know your climate and act accordingly. For example, if you live in a drought-prone area, you might want to water the soil around your house periodically. Or if you live in an area that gets a lot of moisture, make sure the soil around your home properly drains water away from your foundation.
- Check your grading: You want water to drain away from your home when it rains. Aim to have at least six inches of grading away from your house in the ten feet surrounding it.
- Mind your trees: Keep an eye on the trees near your home to prevent their roots from spreading into your foundation. Relocate trees if necessary and, when you plant, make sure you leave ample room around your foundation. Generally, you should allow for one foot of root spreading area for each inch of thickness in the tree’s trunk.
- Clean your gutters: It seems simple, but clogged gutters can lead to water spilling over the edge — and directly onto the soil surrounding your foundation.
- Lay some mulch: You can use mulch around your house to maintain the moisture level and temperature of the surrounding soil, minimizing pressure on your foundation.
- Address cracks promptly: If you notice any cracks in your foundation, don’t wait to get a pro out to assess the severity of the foundation issue. Acting fast can minimize the damage — and the cost to repair it.
Foundation damage warning signs
Any of these warning signs could indicate you have foundation damage and warrant further investigation to avoid further damage to your home:
- Cracks: Cracks in the home’s interior sheetrock, chimney, tiles, or home exterior can mean the foundation is cracked, especially if the cracks are horizontal or zig zagged. If the cracks grow or become longer, it could mean the foundation cracks are worsening.
- A wet crawl space: This could indicate a crumbling or cracked foundation. If an area is easily flooded, or if a pier and beam foundation is poorly sealed, water can get into the crawl space and cause water damage to a home. Water in a cracked foundation can further weaken an already damaged foundation.
- Crumbling of the foundation: This could mean a slow deterioration of the concrete and an eventual failed foundation. The appearance may present a rust-colored residue or a white powder may appear.
- Shifting: If walls, floors, ceilings or support posts are warped or leaning, you can use a leveling device to see if they are level. Another indication may be that doors and windows don’t fit properly (for example, they stick when you try to open them, or don’t latch properly anymore). The foundation of the house may be settling or sinking, the concrete on the poured perimeter foundation could be chipping or flaking, counters and cabinets may separate from the wall or nails may pop out of the drywall.
- Bugs: If there are sightings of bugs, this could also mean that there are cracks in the foundation or gaps where the insects can enter the home.
It is best to repair a foundation when it first begins to crack because foundation repairs are easier to make when there is a small crack rather than multiple repairs to be made.
Ignoring foundation problems can lead to major structural problems for your home. Sagging floors can even become dangerous. Foundation repairs require flooring to be removed for a repairman to dig underneath the flooring to make the repair. The more cracks there are, the more flooring has to be removed, and the more extensive (and expensive) the repair becomes. The longer the problem is ignored, the worse it becomes.