Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Plumbing?
Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com
Leaky pipes, burst water heaters and soaked carpets are common home disasters that can stem from the same culprit: plumbing. Worse yet, standing water caused by a plumbing problem can ruin your furniture, damage your home’s walls and foundation and lead to a potentially dangerous mold infestation.
You might think that you don’t need to worry about plumbing-related problems because you carry a homeowners policy. You’re partially right because standard home insurance policies cover damages caused by many common plumbing misfortunes. However, most homeowners policies exclude coverage for some of the most serious and damaging plumbing disasters.
Learn about what water damage your insurance policy covers and what it doesn’t.
Does your homeowners insurance cover water damage?
Usually, an insurer will offer you an HO-3 policy, which covers damages caused by 16 types of calamities, called perils, such as fire, hailstorms, smoke and theft. Standard HO-3 homeowners policies include a set of comprehensive coverages:
- Dwelling coverage: Dwelling coverage covers your home’s structure. If a fire destroys your home, the dwelling coverage of your policy will help pay to repair or replace it. HO-3 policies also cover certain types of plumbing disasters, like frozen pipes in winter, a burst sprinkler system or water overflow from a washing machine. Typically, HO-3 policies only cover plumbing damage that occurs accidentally and suddenly from unpredictable circumstances beyond your control.
- Other structures coverage: Other structures coverage protects structural elements of your property that aren’t attached to your home, like a detached garage or shed. In an HO-3 policy, other structures coverage would cover the same perils as your dwelling coverage. For example, if a water line bursts in a refrigerator in a detached guesthouse, your policy likely will cover the damages.
- Personal liability coverage: Personal liability coverage protects you when you’re at fault for injuries or damages to people outside your household or their property. For instance, if a guest falls and sustains an injury in your driveway, you could file a personal liability claim to pay the medical expenses. If the guest sues you, your liability coverage can help pay your legal costs, including attorney fees and court judgments. Liability coverage can also pay for property damages. For example, if a pipe bursts in your kitchen and the resulting torrent of water causes damage to your neighbor’s home, you can file a claim against your liability coverage.
- Personal property coverage: If a plumbing disaster floods your living room and destroys your sofa, your personal property coverage can help repair or replace it.
- Additional living expenses: Water damage may render your home temporarily uninhabitable until repaired. If you must move out of your home following a covered disaster, additional living expenses coverage can help pay expenses such as hotel bills and restaurant meals.
Because insurance policies can vary on your provider, read your policy carefully for details about coverage.
What water damage isn’t covered by homeowners insurance?
The fine print of your homeowners policy will list all covered perils. Some policies may include the phrase “all perils” in the terms, but an all-perils policy doesn’t mean the coverage will pay for damages caused by everything. Closely review your policy’s exclusions clause, which will detail the types and causes of damages it will not cover. Common exclusions include:
- Flood damage: Most homeowners policies won’t cover damages caused by a flood. Some insurance carriers sell flood insurance, which you can add to your standard home policy. You can purchase flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program, administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. If your home lies in a flood zone, you need flood insurance.
- Damages caused by neglect: Homeowners insurance doesn’t relieve you of performing proper home maintenance. If you file a claim for damages caused by a plumbing issue, the claims adjuster will inspect the damage to determine its cause and the amount the insurer will pay to make repairs. If, for example, you patch a leaky water heater hose instead of replacing it with a new one and it eventually bursts, the claims adjuster may deem the damage your fault for neglecting to make a proper repair. In such cases, the insurer may only pay a portion of your claim or nothing at all.
- Sewage backup: Sewage backup is usually not covered by standard home insurance policies. Policies usually list sewage backup as an exclusion, even if a blockage in the sewage main causes the problem. Many home insurance companies offer optional sewage backup coverage. Even if you have sewage backup coverage, a claims adjuster will look for evidence of neglect. Common preventable causes for sewage backup can include pouring grease down a kitchen drain, plumbing connections that don’t meet code, disposal of paper products in toilets and underground pipe damage caused by tree roots.
- Mold: Even if your insurance company pays your plumbing-related claim, you may face another problem, mold. Typically, standard homeowners policies don’t cover mold damage. Few insurers offer optional mold coverage. If a plumbing disaster strikes, it’s up to you to thoroughly dry all affected areas. While mold can destroy sheetrock and floor coverings, it can also cause health issues.
Again, check your specific policy for details and exclusions.
How to prevent water damage from plumbing accidents
Filing a plumbing-related claim can be tricky business. If an adjuster determines a plumbing disaster stemmed from neglect, you’ll have to foot the bill for repairs. However, you can take steps to ensure your home remains free of unexpected plumbing and water-related problems, including:
- Turn off and drain faucets to prevent frozen pipes when temperatures are below 55 degrees.
- Fit your water system with an emergency pressure release valve, which can prevent burst pipes in frigid temperatures.
- Shut off the water valve that connects your home to the aqueduct immediately if you notice a leak or burst pipe to prevent more damage.
- Inspect heating and plumbing pipes and water hoses connected to home appliances for cracks and leaks regularly.
- Inspect caulking around showers and tubs for proper sealing regularly.
- Install gutter guards to prevent clogged gutters and water overflow.
- Inspect windows for proper sealing.
- Make sure your basement is properly sealed. Install a backwater valve in your basement to prevent sewage backup.
- Hire a professional inspector to check for cracked or damaged pipes if you have a sprinkler system.
- Never run appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines while you are away from home. When you go away for vacation, close the water valves on appliances that connect to the water system.
- Install landscaping around your home that drains water away from the structure. Also, remove trees close to your home if their roots pose a risk to your water system.
- Always make home repairs immediately.
Taking these steps don’t guarantee you’ll never have problems with damage, but they will reduce your risk.
Standard home policies cover damage caused by plumbing-related problems, but not always.
- HO-3 policies usually cover burst pipes.
- Standard policies don’t cover flood damage, sever backup or mold damage.
- A homeowners policy typically won’t cover damage caused by neglect.
- You can take steps to prevent plumbing problems from occurring.
Our complex homes require all types of water connections to icemakers, sprinkler systems, toilets, washing machines and the common kitchen sink. Chances are, you’ll face some sort of plumbing disaster in your lifetime. You can prevent most plumbing issues by practicing home maintenance and taking preventative measures to minimize the damage a plumbing or sewage problem might cause.
Even the most thorough home maintenance and preventative actions can’t stop all plumbing disasters from occurring. You can rest assured that your standard home insurance policy will cover damages caused by many of the most common plumbing issues, and you can beef up your protection with optional coverages to fortify your home’s defenses.