Homeowners insurance covers sudden and unexpected water damage from leaking plumbing or household systems and appliances. That means if your basement is suddenly flooded due to a broken water supply pipe, homeowners insurance can help pay to repair your floors or walls or replace any damaged furniture.
While homeowners insurance will cover several types of plumbing issues, it usually won’t cover preventable water damage like gradual leaks or pipes that freeze up in an unheated home. Additionally, if mold forms due to preventable water damage, homeowners insurance likely won’t pay for its removal or remediation.
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Does homeowners insurance cover plumbing and leaks?
Homeowners insurance generally covers plumbing damage and leaks when it’s sudden and accidental. If the water damage is caused by frozen pipes, and your home was properly heated at the time, homeowners insurance will help cover the cost of repairs. If a plumbing leak is hidden away in your walls and unknown to you, you may also be covered for repairs, even if the leak occurred over the course of weeks or months.
Your homeowners insurance policy includes several types of coverages that can protect your home, belongings, and temporary living expenses after a major plumbing accident.
Here are the different ways you’re covered.
Dwelling coverage: Pays for damage to the structure of your home. If your house is damaged by a leaking or burst pipe or a water heater malfunction, dwelling coverage can pay to repair or replace drenched floors, walls, and cabinetry up to your coverage limits. However, insurance likely won’t pay to replace your plumbing or household systems if they’re the source of the water damage.
Other structures coverage: Covers damage to structures separate from your main house. That means if there’s a covered plumbing accident in a detached garage or guest house on your property, homeowners insurance will pay for any necessary repairs up to your coverage limits.
Personal property coverage: Pays for damage to your personal belongings. If a broken pipe causes water damage to your furniture, clothing, or jewelry, homeowners insurance can reimburse you for new items.
Loss of use coverage: Pays for hotel stays, restaurant meals, and other temporary living expenses after a covered loss. That means if a plumbing accident floods your house and makes it unlivable, your loss of use coverage can pay for short-term living expenses while it’s being repaired.
If your plumbing or a household system breaks and the resulting water damage is covered by your policy, you’ll need to file a homeowners insurance claim to be reimbursed for damage or repairs. You’ll also have to meet your policy deductible, which is the amount you’re responsible for paying on each claim before your insurance kicks in to cover the rest.
When does homeowners insurance not cover plumbing damage?
Household plumbing, systems, and appliances all require maintenance to operate effectively. If your bathroom sink or washing machine has a minor leak, you’ll need to fix it yourself or hire a professional.
But what if the leak goes undetected for months and causes thousands of dollars in water damage to your home’s foundation and walls? Can homeowners insurance help cover the cost of repairs? Probably not.
Here are some instances where water damage is typically covered, sometimes covered, and never covered by homeowners insurance.
Preventable pipe leaks or mold damage
If your pipes leak over a matter of weeks or months and the leak itself is obvious and out in the open, you won’t be covered for repairs. If the leak causes mold growth in your floors or walls, mold removal and repair costs also wouldn’t be covered.
Pipes that freeze and break due to neglect
Homeowners insurance generally won’t cover water damage resulting from frozen pipes if it’s determined your house wasn’t sufficiently heated when they froze. If your pipes froze because you left your home vacant for an extended period of time and forgot to shut off the water supply, that also wouldn’t be covered.
Sump pump or sewer line backups
A standard home insurance policy won’t cover water damage from sewer line backups or clogged pipes. If you have a sump pump and it overflows, that also wouldn’t be covered. For coverage against sump pump or sewer line backups, you’ll need to add an optional water backup coverage endorsement to your homeowners insurance.
Outdated steel plumbing
Polybutylene and galvanized steel are materials that were widely used as supply piping in homes throughout much of the 20th century, but homeowners insurance generally won’t cover homes with these pipes.
Polybutylene and galvanized steel pipes are notoriously hazardous, as chemicals like chlorine in public water were found to make the pipes brittle and cause plumbing leaks and burst pipes.
Additional home insurance coverage for your plumbing
If you live in a home with older plumbing, outdate home systems, or located in an area prone to mold or sewage overflows, there are a few optional insurance coverages that you should consider.
Water backup coverage
A standard homeowners insurance policy won’t cover water damage caused by sewer line or sump pump backups, but you can add a water backup coverage endorsement to your policy to extend your coverage to sewage backups and overflows.
If your sewer line or sump pump backs up and floods your basement, water backup coverage can help cover the cost of cleanup and repairs. It can be added to your homeowners insurance for a small additional cost of around $30 per year.
Service line coverage
Service line coverage is another optional add-on that covers the replacement of utility lines on your property but outside of your home — including water, steam, sewer, and drain pipes — when they're damaged.
Like water backup coverage, this type of coverage can be added to your standard homeowners insurance policy for a small fee, typically around $30 to $40 per year.
Mold damage rider
While your coverage will depend on your specific policy and state, mold damage is generally covered if it's caused by a sudden and unexpected accident, like a burst pipe or appliance malfunction. You may also be covered if the mold was caused by a leaking pipe hidden away in your walls or beneath your floors.
Most insurance companies will only pay for mold damage up to a limited amount — usually $1,000 to $10,000. Considering removal and remediation costs can be as high as $30,000, you may want to consider a mold damage rider.
This is an optional homeowners insurance add-on that increases your mold coverage to as much as $50,000. It also covers causes of mold growth that aren’t normally covered under your homeowners insurance, like mold that gradually forms in a damp area.
Homeowners insurance won’t pay for flood damage that originates outside of your home. So if you live in a coastal community or in a floodplain, you may want to consider flood insurance.
Depending on your insurer, you may be able to add this coverage to your homeowners insurance policy for an additional premium. Otherwise, you can purchase a standalone flood insurance policy through the National Flood Insurance Program — with policies ringing in at an average of $738 per year.
How to prevent broken pipes
There are several steps you can take to protect your home’s plumbing and prevent costly water damage.
Winterize your plumbing
If you own a house that’s vacant during the coldest months, it’s recommended that you winterize your home to prevent your pipes from freezing. This includes shutting off your water, removing excess standing water from your pipes, opening drain valves, draining water from your hot water tank, and checking sink and tub drains that have drain traps.
Replace your plumbing
If your plumbing is old or corroded, you should consider hiring a local plumber or contractor to come by and inspect the pipes. They may suggest you replace certain pipes or appliances, and it will likely save you money in the long run.
Trim any hazardous tree roots
If you suspect tree roots are interfering with your plumbing and causing leaks or potentially hazardous blockages, have your pipes inspected by a local plumber and hire an arborist to trim any invasive roots.