Imagine coming home one day to a sewage or water backup in your home. Depending on the extent of the damage, it could be costly to clean, repair and replace the damaged items in your home, not to mention the cost to fix the damaged lines or pipes. Standard homeowners insurance is not likely to cover this type of damage unless you have gotten a specific endorsement to cover it. Since any type of water damage can be costly, it might be worth your while to see what options your home insurance company has for this type of coverage and consider purchasing it to protect your finances.

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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