Sewer backup insurance is a form of homeowners insurance coverage designed to protect you from the financial consequences of damage to your home and belongings after a sewage or water backup. It typically covers damages arising from standing sewage in your bathtub, toilet, basement or anywhere else in your house and can help pay for the cost of repairing your sewer line and clearing your home of sewage and water. Bankrate explores what sewer backup insurance is, how it works and what it covers. We also share some important steps you might want to consider taking to protect your home against water damage.


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What is sewer backup insurance?

Simply put, sewer backup insurance covers damages arising from standing sewage in your bathtub, toilet, basement or anywhere else in your house. Depending on the cause of the backup, sewer backup coverage helps pay for the cost of repairing your sewer line (up to the city’s sewer line) and ridding your house of sewage and water. Some other names this coverage may be known by include water backup insurance, sewer backup and drain line backup coverage.

Does homeowners insurance include sewer backup coverage?

No, a homeowners insurance policy does not automatically include sewer backup coverage. However, many home insurance companies offer it as an optional coverage, or endorsement, which is an add-on to the standard homeowners insurance policy. The endorsement offers a certain amount of coverage that will pay for sewer or water backup claims.

For instance, here are two cases of sewer backup that would likely be covered by your homeowners policy if you were to select the sewer backup coverage endorsement:

  • During a heavy downpour, your sump pump fails, causing water to back up into your finished basement, damaging your children’s playroom, all their toys, and other personal items, plus causing structural damage to the home.
  • Tree roots grow into the septic line outside your home, causing the sewage to back up into your home, flooding it with sewer water. All your personal property in the basement needs to be replaced and your yard has to be dug up to fix the broken septic pipe and remove the tree roots.

Causes of sewer backup

Sewage backing into your house can be the result of several factors. Whether it is only a small leak or ankle-deep flooding, sewer backups can result in expensive damages to your property. Some common reasons include:

  • Clogged pipes: Drain pipes can become clogged for various reasons — lack of general maintenance, flushing non-degradable items down the toilet and pouring large quantities of food particles down the garbage being a few common contributors. Letting the clog persist can result in a bigger problem of sewer backups in other parts of the house.
  • Tree roots: When underground pipes become entangled in strong tree roots, they can break and collapse, leading to sewer backups. Have slow drains and unusual noises checked as soon as you discover them in time to potentially prevent tree roots from damaging your sewer system.
  • Broken line: Damage to the line that runs between your house and the main can often cause sewage to flow into your property. Contact your local municipality if you suspect this is the reason behind sewage backup in your house.

What does sewer backup coverage include?

Sewer backup insurance typically covers damage to the sewer line running from your house to the city main. It also covers the expense of having standing sewage removed from your house and repairing the damage caused by it, up to coverage limits. Do bear in mind that sewer backup insurance does not cover a faulty or damaged plumbing system in your house; this is sometimes included in a standard dwelling coverage but could vary by provider.

Sewer backup insurance may also not cover damages that happen gradually over time due to lack of maintenance. Some providers may also not cover standing sewage on your property if it was the fault of your municipality and not your own sewer system. Make sure to read the fine print before you purchase sewer backup coverage so you are clear on the circumstances that it applies to.

Sewer backup coverage is also distinctly different from flood insurance, which is a separate form of insurance and not included in a standard homeowners insurance policy. Sewer backup flooding as a cause of loss is directly tied to the septic system and would not be accounted for in your flood insurance. Flood damage not related to your sewer lines or septic system is not covered by your sewer backup insurance.

Frequently asked questions

    • It depends. Sewer backup insurance typically covers damage to the sewer line running from the house to the city main, the expense of having standing sewage removed from the house and repairing the damage caused by it. In the case of a home with a septic system, sewer backup insurance would cover damage to the sewer line and the expense of having standing sewage removed from the house, as well as the repairs for the damage caused by it. But a homeowner should be aware that sewer backup insurance does not cover flooding from rising waters or flooding from a septic tank. If you experience flooding unrelated to the septic system or water lines in your house, you would need to be covered by a separate flood insurance policy altogether.
    • There are signs of sewer backup you should not ignore that can alert you to a problem before it causes damage to your home and belongings. If you notice that one or more drains are draining slower than usual, gurgling noises are coming from a drain, water is backing up into the tub or shower or any unusual odors are coming from drains, sinks or showers, you could have a clog or other problem that could lead to a sewage or water backup. Once you notice any of these signs, contact a plumber to assess the problem and provide a solution to potentially avoid any water or sewer damage.
    • If you experience a sewer backup, here some steps you might want to take, especially if you have the appropriate insurance and are planning to file a claim:
      • Call your utility department’s 24-hour emergency line to report the backup.
      • Have the cleanup done immediately to minimize potential damage and photograph the “before” and “after.”
      • Itemize any losses or damage to your belongings or home.
      • Save all receipts related to repairs, cleaning or damages.
      • Contact your insurance professional to start a claim if you have sewer backup insurance. To file a claim for this type of issue, you will likely need to provide a Notice of Claim form, the date and time of the overflow or backup, a description of the damages and any supporting documentation, such as receipts, photos, time and date of the overflow, etc.