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Does Home Insurance Cover These 6 Types of Water Damage?

Wet weather is something all four seasons have in common here on the North Shore. As a result, roof leaks, ice dams, backed-up drains and sewers, basement seepage, flooding, and many other types of water-related events threaten our homes year-round. Because home water damage can be so destructive and costly, the Gilbert team wants to make sure that all homeowners understand what a standard homeowners policy might cover and what insurance solutions may be available to fill in any coverage gaps.

In this blog, we discuss six common events that can lead to significant home water damage and what home insurance may or may not cover. We also share a few tips that may help you limit, or even prevent, home water damage in the first place.

1. Does home insurance cover burst or broken pipes?

Cold New England winters are not friendly to home plumbing systems. The frigid temps may cause pipes to clog, freeze, crack, and eventually burst. If your pipes do break or burst, gallons of water may suddenly come rushing into your home. As you can imagine, the damage that follows can be catastrophic, impacting your walls, flooring, ceilings, electrical system, any personal items in the water’s path, and much more. If there can be any good news in a situation like this, it is that a standard home insurance policy typically helps you pay for cleaning up the water, drying out your home, and repairing or replacing what’s been ruined. In general, it will also cover the cost to fix the problem pipe.

Want to try to steer clear of frozen and burst pipes? Here are a few preventive steps you may want to take:

  • Leave the heat in your home set at 60°F or higher if you are going to be away, and during a cold snap, keep the heat at the same temperature all day and night.
  • Properly insulate all hot- and cold-water pipes in your home, including the waterline that runs from the sink to the fridge.
  • Open cabinet doors in the kitchen and bathroom to allow warm air to get to the plumbing, but keep garage doors closed.

2. Does home insurance cover roof leaks?

From heavy snow and sleet to hail, pounding rain, and fallen tree limbs and branches, the unpredictable New England weather can really take a toll on your roof. Even if you have just one cracked shingle, it can allow water to leak into your house and ruin flooring, drywall, furniture, and much more. Fortunately, as long as the damage occurred due to a covered event, like a storm, standard home insurance typically includes coverage to help you pay to fix or replace your leaky roof as well as to address the damage the leak caused.

Though your homeowners policy generally covers this type of event, here are a few preventive actions you can take that may help you avoid having to deal with the hassle of a leaky roof:

  • Hire a professional to replace missing or damaged shingles immediately.
  • Regularly inspect and clean out your gutters.
  • Trim back tree branches that hang over your roof, and remove problematic trees altogether.

3. Does home insurance cover ice dams?

After a snowstorm, there is always the possibility that the dreaded ice dam might form on your roof, weighing it down and blocking gutters. Any snowmelt or other water that tries to drain from your roof after the ice dam forms may have nowhere to go but right back into your home. Since ice dams are a constant threat in the winter, it’s good to know that a standard home insurance policy may help cover the cost of removing a portion of the ice dam that is directly causing any leaking as well as fixing water-related and other damage to the structure of your home due to the ice dam. Your specific policy may even include coverage for any personal belongings affected by the ice dam.

Regardless of the extent of coverage in your homeowners policy for ice dams, it’s always smart to try to prevent one from forming. Here are a few steps you may want to take to try to put a stop to ice dams:

  • Hire a professional to install an ice shield along the edge of your roof and underneath the shingles.
  • Add insulation to your attic floor.
  • Pair a ridge vent with continuous soffit vents to circulate cold air under your roof.

4. Does home insurance cover water and sewer backups?

A backed-up sewer or drain, clogged pipes or gutters, or an underperforming sump pump can lead water and sewage to flow into your home instead of out. It’s not fun to think about what this type of event could do to your home and belongings—not to mention what it might cost you to clean up the mess it leaves. Since damages caused by a water or sewer backup are not typically covered by standard home insurance, you might want to consider adding a Water Backup and Sump Overflow Endorsement to your homeowners policy. This coverage is usually very affordable, and any added investment could be well worth it if you ever have to face the expensive repairs that are typically required when water or sewage backs up in your house.

In addition to purchasing this added coverage, you may want to take the following steps to try to help protect your home from a water or sewer backup:

  • Don’t put anything down your drains that could solidify in the pipes or clog sewer lines, such as cooking grease or paper towels.
  • Hire a licensed plumber to install a backwater valve, also called a backflow or sewer backup valve, in sewer or drain lines.
  • Plant trees a safe distance from your sewer line, and regularly inspect your yard for any noticeable roots that have the potential to damage your plumbing system.

5. Does home insurance cover basement seepage?

After a heavy rainfall or rapid snowmelt, it’s common for excess water to make its way into a basement. Water may seep in due to cracks or weak points in your foundation walls or floors. Other causes of basement seepage might be a poor drainage system, such as clogged gutters and downspouts or improper grading on a property, or condensation caused by high humidity levels. Although basement seepage is a frequent problem for homes in our area and can lead to serious structural damage to your house, coverage for this event is typically excluded from standard home insurance. However, there is an optional coverage, called the Water Seepage or Leakage Endorsement, that you can choose to add to your homeowners policy and that may help pay for repairs to your home’s walls, flooring, foundation, and other similar structural features if damaged by basement seepage.

Because this endorsement does not include any coverage for personal belongings, you’ll likely want to take some of these steps to try to prevent basement seepage:

  • Check your home’s foundation often for cracks or weak spots, and immediately address any issues you find.
  • Make sure the ground around your foundation slopes away from your house, and consider installing exterior drainage systems, such as a French drain, to further divert water away from the basement.
  • Use a high-capacity dehumidifier designed for basements to help control humidity and condensation, and purchase a sump pump to better manage water that does seep in.

6. Does home insurance cover flooding?

Every community, and thus every home in it, has a certain level of flood risk. Whether a local levee fails, a heavy rainfall or rapid snowmelt occurs, or a tropical storm whips through the region, the resulting surplus of water can quickly evolve into a flood event. If just a few inches of floodwater invade your home, it could cause your basement walls to collapse; wreck your foundation; compromise your appliances, gas lines, and electrical system; and destroy an endless number of personal belongings. This is why the annual cost of home water damage resulting from flooding is in the billions of dollars and also why it’s so important to know that your homeowners policy does not include coverage for a flood event. Instead, to get insurance protection against flood-related damage to your home’s structure and the belongings inside, you’ll need to purchase a separate flood policy through a local insurance professional, like Gilbert.

The following actions are recommended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and may not only help make your home more flood-resistant but also get you a more favorable flood insurance premium:

  • Elevate boilers, central air-conditioning units, and other HVAC equipment located on your home’s lowest level, or move them to a higher floor.
  • Work with a licensed engineer or design professional to install flood openings or vents on your lowest floor to allow water to flow in and, more importantly, out of your home.
  • Use flood-resistant building materials, like ceramic tile, vinyl, rubber, lime plaster, cement board, concrete, metal, and pressure-treated and decay-resistant wood.

To help you safeguard your property, it always helps to have a local and highly knowledgeable professional, like Gilbert Insurance, on your side.

Our team is dedicated to educating you about your home insurance coverage; sharing valuable facts and insights about the most common perils, like water damage, that can impact your home; and providing information on what is and isn’t typically covered by your policy. Please don’t hesitate to send us a message or give us a call if you’d like to learn more about the coverage in your specific homeowners policy and how it may be there to help if you experience home water or other damage to your house and belongings.

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