The thought of foundation problems fills most homeowners with dread. Your home — and the comfortable life you’ve built in it — rely on a sturdy foundation. A foundation problem always feels daunting, but it can range from a minor issue (think: a few hundred dollars to fix) to a major repair that costs $10,000 or more.
Fortunately, there are cases where your home insurance policy can pick up the tab. Does homeowners insurance cover structural damage? It depends. It’s all about what caused the damage to your foundation. If you’re wondering if your home policy will offer foundation insurance when you need it, read on.
Does home insurance cover repairs to your foundation?
To figure out if your home insurance policy will cover your foundation, you first need to determine what caused the trouble you’re having. In some cases, it will be obvious, like damage from a tornado or earthquake.
But 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
- Natural disasters like earthquakes, mudslides and tornadoes
- Faulty construction (for example, improperly compacted soil underneath your foundation)
- Tree root growth
- Plumbing leaks
- Earth movement
So does homeowners insurance cover foundation damage for each of the above causes? Let’s take a look.
When your insurance policy will cover foundation damage
The Coverage A section of your home insurance policy protects the actual structure of your home, including your foundation. But like all other parts of your policy, you only get protection against the covered perils specifically named in your policy. So if your foundation issue was caused by something listed in your policy, you can expect your insurer to help foot the bill for repairs. But if not then you’re going to be on your own.
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
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
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 insurance when the foundation problem results from normal wear-and-tear. 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 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
So what do you do if you experience foundation damage and need to file a claim?
To start, 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 they’ll need for the claims process. They may want to send an appraiser to your property. 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 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 and 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.
Frequently asked questions
What are the signs of foundation damage?
It’s normal for your house to settle over time, but consider getting a professional involved to assess your foundation if you notice:
- Cracks in your home’s interior sheetrock or exterior, especially if they grow or are horizontal or zig-zagged
- Doors or windows that stick when you try to open them or don’t latch properly anymore
- Walls that lean (you can use a level to check)
- Chipping or flaking concrete on your poured perimeter foundation
- Puddles in your basement or crawl space
- Support posts that lean
- Cracked tile
- Nails popping out of your drywall
How much does foundation repair cost?
It depends on the extent of your foundation issue. Minor issues usually only cost a few hundred dollars to repair, but stabilizing a faulty foundation can run as much as $12,000. This is a big part of why addressing foundation problems early benefits homeowners. If you catch the problem before it grows, you’ll pay less to get it fixed.
Does homeowner insurance cover foundation problems?
In some cases. If your foundation issue is caused by a covered peril named in your policy, your home insurer will most likely cover the cost of repairs.
How do I find out if a home has a good foundation?
If you’re shopping for your next home, make sure you have a professional home inspection performed on any house you’re thinking seriously about buying. The inspector will look at the home’s foundation and let you know if there are any issues of which you should be aware.