What is water backup coverage?

Water backup coverage is one of the most useful homeowners insurance endorsements, protecting your home and personal property from sewage or sump pump backups.

Standard homeowners insurance generally covers sudden and accidental water damage that originates in the home. That means any water damage that results from a burst pipe, broken HVAC, or any systems or appliances would be covered. Wind-driven rain that enters your home through an opening (like a hole in the roof) that was caused by an insured peril would also be covered.

However, there are several common causes of water damage that aren't covered by homeowners insurance. Flooding, surface water, water that seeps up from the ground, and water that backs up through sewers or drains or overflows through a sump pump are all excluded from coverage. To supplement this gap in coverage, many insurance companies offer separate flood insurance to cover flood disasters, but what about more common household issues like sewer and sump pump backups?

Luckily, most insurance companies offer additional coverage for that too—commonly referred to as water backup coverage .

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • 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

How does water backup coverage work?

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 from company to company and state to 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.

Water backup coverage costs anywhere from $30-70 annually for $5,000 of coverage, and $25-35 for each additional $5,000 in coverage that you add to your policy, according to Fabio Faschi, 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 ($1,000, for instance) or they may offer a special water backup deductible as low as $250.

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What is covered by water backup insurance?

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

What isn’t covered by water backup insurance?

There are a few exclusions to be aware of with water backup coverage. 

For one, it won’t pay to repair or replace a broken sump pump — you’ll need equipment breakdown coverage for that. Additionally, 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.

Water backup coverage also won’t cover overflow or backups that can be chalked up to routine maintenance issues or negligence. 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.

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Water backup coverage is one of the most important optional coverages you can choose to have on your homeowners or renters policy.

- Fabio Faschi, property and casualty team lead at Policygenius

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.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, the number of reported sewer backups is increasing at a rate of around 3% annually. Furthermore, 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.