Standard homeowners insurance generally covers sudden and accidental water damage that originates in the home, like water damage from a burst pipe. But water that backs up through sewers — or drains or overflows through a sump pump — is excluded from coverage. To supplement that gap in coverage, you'll need to add a water back up coverage endorsement to your homeowners policy.
Water backup coverage protects your home and personal property from water damage as a result of sewage or sump pump backups.
Sewer backups occur for a number of reasons, namely, aging sewers, combined pipelines, tree roots, and sanitary main blockages.
You can add a water backup coverage endorsement to your policy for as little as $30 a year.
What is water backup coverage?
Water backup coverage, also called sewer or sump pump backup coverage, is one of the more popular and useful homeowners insurance endorsements that you can add to your policy. It covers your home and personal property in the event of water damage from a sump pump, drain, or sewer overflow or backup. Since sewer backups are such a common and pesky problem, just about every company offers water backup coverage, a fairly high-value add-on that costs as little as $30 a year on top of your standard coverage.
Coverage amounts and availability of this endorsement vary by company and state, but companies generally offer anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 in water backup protection. When deciding on coverage amounts, factor in what it’d cost to replace everything that’s at risk of being damaged in a worst-case drain backup or sump pump overflow scenario. Add up the cost of replacing your flooring, the value of your furniture or personal belongings, and anything else that’d be at risk of damage in the event of a sewer or drain backup.
What is covered by water backup coverage?
A standard water or sewer backup coverage endorsement reimburses you for water damage to the structure of your home or personal property if it’s discharged or overflows from the following:
A sewer or drain
A sump, sump pump, or related equipment, even if the overflow or discharge occurred because of mechanical issues
Any system designed to remove subsurface water from the foundation area
How much does water backup coverage cost?
Water backup coverage costs anywhere from $30 to $70 annually for $5,000 of coverage, and $25 to $35 for each additional $5,000 in coverage that you add to your policy, according to Fabio Faschi, former property and casualty team lead at Policygenius.
You typically have to pay a deductible in order to receive a claim payout for a sewer backup claim. Depending on your insurer, sewer backup deductibles may be equal to your standard deductible amount — like $1,000 — or they may offer a special water backup deductible as low as $250.
What isn’t covered by water backup coverage?
There are a few exclusions to be aware of with water backup coverage.
Repairs or replacement of a broken sump pump. Water backup coverage covers water damage caused by sump pump backups, but won't pay to replace your sump pump if it breaks —you’ll need equipment breakdown coverage for that.
Flood damage. Water backup coverage doesn’t cover water damage that results from flooding, surface water, waves, tsunamis, tidal water, or overflow of any body of water including your pool.
Maintenance issues or negligence. Water backup coverage doesn't cover wear and tear or maintenance issues. That means any water damage that results from a broken sump pump or forgetting to turn one on, your insurance company may deny your claim.
Do I need water backup coverage?
Water backup coverage is among the most essential and widely-utilized homeowners insurance coverage enhancements — and for good reason. The number of reported sewer backups is increasing at a rate of around 3% annually. Plus, the country’s 500,000-plus miles of sewer lines are around thirty-years-old on average. 
"Water backup coverage is one of the most important optional coverages you can choose to have on your homeowners or renters policy,” says Faschi. "Apart from being one of the more common claims for the average homeowner, it's also one of the messiest to resolve on your own.”
Faschi also noted that, since you have the choice to opt in to this coverage, it’s up to you to consider whether it makes sense to you as a homeowner. He contends that it probably is, given how frequently water backups happen and how much of a headache they are to take care of on your own.
How to avoid sewer and sump pump backups
Here a few preventative steps you can take to prevent a sewer or sump pump backup from happening in the first place:
Properly dispose of grease
Properly dispose of paper products
Cut tree roots every once in a while
Schedule maintenance checks of your sump pump
If there are any illegal plumbing connections — French drains, sump pumps and other flood control systems connected to your sanitary sewer — consult a plumber to correct the mistake and clear your lines of debris and silt
Consider installing a backwater prevention valve — so that sewage water goes out but doesn’t come back in
Frequently asked questions
What is covered in a basic home insurance policy?
Each standard home insurance policy includes dwelling coverage, other structures coverage, personal property coverage, loss-of-use coverage, personal liability coverage, and medical payments coverage. Basic coverage includes protection against common perils like fire, lightning, explosions, smoke, theft, vandalism, weight of snow or ice, and frozen and burst pipes.
What is not covered by homeowners insurance?
Home insurance won't cover damage from earthquakes and landslides, flooding, neglect, war, nuclear hazard, or rodents or insects, among other exclusions. Check your individual policy to find out what exactly is and isn't covered.
What type of water damage is covered by homeowners insurance?
Homeowners insurance will cover some types of water damage, depending on the source. Water damage from wind-driven rain or weight of snow, vandalism, and burst pipes are covered. Protection from flood damage requires a separate flood insurance policy; damage from sewage, gradual leaks, and neglect are also not covered.