Are You Covered for Water/Sewer Backup?

Heavy rain and wind can reveal underlying issues around your home that go undetected otherwise.  Though this isn’t always the case.

As first-time homeowners, my husband and I spent our first Christmas morning dealing with greywater that had backed up into the washing machine in our basement.  Fortunately, we were able to get emergency service within the hour. The cause was a maple tree out by the road, its roots had blocked the outflow pipe.

This is when we learned that water that overflows from sewer pipes or drains and comes into your house isn’t covered by a standard homeowners policy.  Also, as a homeowner, you’re responsible for the sewer and water lines from the street to your house, and the likelihood of a backup increases with the age of the pipes.

Even if you do not have a personal story, consider the data ¹:

  • About one in 50 insured homes has a property damage claim caused by water damage or freezing each year
  • #2 – Water damage is the second most frequently filed homeowners claim, only slightly less common than wind and hail damage
  • $9,633 – Average cost of a claim due to water damage or freezing
  • 3.5 – Average number of days it takes a mitigation unit to dry out a home

Am I covered for water/sewer backup if I have a flood policy?


The legal definition of a flood according to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)  is a general and temporary condition where two or more acres of normally dry land or two or more properties are inundated by water or mudflow.

Flooding can happen anywhere, but certain areas are especially prone to serious flooding.  Homeowners must purchase flood insurance as a separate policy through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

Water/sewer backup caused by something obstructing pipes is unlike groundwater seepage as the potential of backup damage is not dependent upon your elevation, therefore it is not included in a flood policy.

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 sub-surface water from the foundation area
  • In addition, this coverage will qualify you for “loss of use” coverage in the event the home is uninhabitable and you need another place to stay.

What isn’t covered by water backup insurance?

There are a number of exclusions to be aware of with this endorsement:

  • It won’t pay to repair or replace a broken sump pump, an equipment breakdown endorsement will provide coverage for that
  • It 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
  • Backups that result from failure to do routine maintenance or negligence. For example, if the water damage was a result of a broken sump pump or forgetting to turn one on, your insurance company may deny your claim
  • Repair to the subterranean lines or pipes running through your property, a service line endorsement will provide coverage for this

For additional information about how to protect your home from sewer backup, check out this article: Don’t Let Clogged Sewers Wreak Havoc on Your Home  

Also, check out our blog on Rainstorm Home Maintenance.

A Value Added Endorsement

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. Furthermore, the country’s 500,000-plus miles of sewer lines are around thirty-years-old on average.

The average cost of of water backup coverage ranges from $60 to $250 annually, depending on your coverage limits and deductible.  Compare this to how much a sewer backup incident would cost you, below are additional questions to ask when making this decision or determining the right amount of coverage.

  • Have you had any past water backup incidents?
  • Do you have a finished basement?
  • What type of flooring is in your basement?
  • What type of wall materials?
  • Does you basement have a bathroom?
  • Do you have a washer and dryer in your basement?
  • Do you have any heating and cooling systems in your basement?

Review your homeowners coverages with a Cheney Representative

Many homeowners do not know what their base home policies cover for water damage and what level of optional water backup coverage they may need.  Some premier homeowners policies will include this endorsement, depending upon the carrier.  At Cheney, we know that confusion about coverages can be exasperating and costly for you in the event of a loss, that is why we take the time during the application and renewal process to make sure you understand your coverages and your risks.

If you have any questions about what your homeowners policy does and does not cover, give us a call, we would love to talk.