Find out if your sewer line is covered by homeowners insurance before a messy disaster strikes
Knowing the details of your homeowners insurance policy can be important in all sorts of situations. Whether you’re dealing with a hail damaged roof, a theft from your property, or an on-site accident, how you respond will likely have a lot to do with whether or not the incident is covered.
Understanding Sewer Line Insurance Coverage
While you won’t know for sure unless you ask your policy representative directly, insurance companies tend to classify sewer line damage in three ways. Whether your damage is covered will depend on how it’s classified.
1. Normal Wear and Tear: No
Normal wear and tear, say if your pipes need to be replaced after their normal lifespan, is never covered by a typical homeowners insurance policy. “Normal wear and tear” also refers to pipes that need to be replaced sooner than expected because of environmental causes like tree root damage or improper use. Unfortunately, this is the cause of the bulk of all sewer line damage so homeowners are most often responsible for the full cost of repairing any damage, replacing pipes, and managing any related clean up.
2. An Act of God: Yes, When Proven
When a sudden event, like a tree that fell during a storm, causes unforeseen damage or destruction to your sewer line, it’s known as an act of God. Acts of God are generally covered by insurance, but it can be tricky to prove there was no existing weakness or damage that caused the pipes to be vulnerable.
Flood or earthquake damage is usually not covered, as flood insurance and earthquake insurance are typically separate policies. Coverage fire damage is also unlikely because sewer lines are not considered a part of the primary structure.
3. An act of another person: Sometimes
If the act of another person damages or destroys your lines, homeowners insurance will sometimes cover the cost of repair or replacement as long as the act meets some very specific criteria. The most important criteria? Defining who is responsible for the damage. If you, someone you live with, or a guest in your home caused the damage, it wouldn’t be covered. If a tenant or a contractor caused the damage, it might be covered.
If you’re concerned about the extent of your coverage, it’s best to call and determine your coverage before you have a problem.
What Does Sewer Line Coverage Include?
If you want to ensure that you won’t be footing any future damage-related bills, consider adding specific sewer line coverage to your homeowners insurance or buying stand alone sewer line insurance. Some, but not all, homeowners insurance policies allow you to add specific sewer line coverage to your existing policy. You can expect to pay an additional fee for this coverage and should read the fine print carefully as coverage is often still very limited.
Sewer line coverage: When added to your homeowners insurance, this is a plan to cover repair or replacement of sewer lines and any in-home damage that results from a sewer line incident.
Stand alone sewer insurance: A more comprehensive coverage policy for repair or replacement of your sewer lines. These policies typically cover any necessary repair or replacement of pipes but don’t cover the cost of repairing any damage to your home or property.
Sewer line coverage varies in cost but can generally be obtained for $5 to $15 per month, depending on your property size and the area in which you live. Because sewer line incidents often cost upwards of $10,000 to repair, many homeowners consider sewer line coverage a good investment.
Who Needs Sewer Backup Insurance?
If your home was built before 1950, or if your older pipe materials are vulnerable to absorbing water, it’s likely a good idea to purchase sewer line coverage. Homes in areas with dense vegetation or on large lots may also be susceptible to issues caused by tree roots and other underground hazards.
Most newer homes are built with more resilient pipes and are less likely to experience a sewer line incident, but homeowners should consider adding coverage as their home begins to age.
What Damage Can It Cause?
The damage caused by a sewer line leak or break can be extensive. Inside, sewage backup can damage flooring, furniture, appliances, and home goods. Because of the hazardous nature of the backup, it often requires homeowners to replace anything damaged beyond salvation. You can also expect to incur significant costs associated with being displaced until the clean-up is complete.
A leaky or broken sewer line can also damage your yard and landscaping. In order to replace the piping, pros will need to dig down to the pipes, often causing major damage. While you can reseed a yard, you may need to permanently remove the trees if your pipes run near large trees (whose roots perhaps caused the damage).
How to Take Care of Your Sewer Line
While all sewer lines age and will need to be replaced eventually, there is a lot you can do to improve the longevity of your pipes and reduce the risk of unexpected damage.
Don’t flush femenine hygiene products, baby wipes, or facial wipes down your toilets.
Avoid pouring grease down your drains that could clog the line.
Be vigilant about removing trees and shrubs whose roots may grow towards your sewer lines.
Proactively replace old sewer lines that may be prone to leaking or breaking with newer, more resilient pipes.
Take signs of potential sewer issues, like lingering odors, slow draining sinks or toilets, or a new infestation of rats, seriously and call a sewer repair pro to evaluate your sewer lines right away.
"By maintaining 'clear' pipes and following the guidelines for care, a homeowner may save themselves from thousands of dollars in repairs, a lingering odor in the home, and a possible breeding ground for bacteria and mold," says Asya Biddle, Angi Expert Review Board member and manager of The Dust Busters janitorial company in Williamsport, PA.
Sewer Line Replacement Costs
Replacing a sewer line is not cheap but it’s much more costly to wait for a leak or backup to happen before taking action. If you replace your sewer line before any property damage occurs, expect to pay between $50 and $250 per square foot.
If you wait until damage has occured, you will still pay to replace the line but will also likely be responsible for the cost of clean up and replacing any damaged appliances, flooring, or furniture. These costs can range widely depending on what was damaged and whether repair or replacement is required, but many homeowners spend between $500 and $10,000 on the task.