Will Insurance Cover Your Water Damage? We Break Down Each Claim
As a water damage restoration company, the most common question we get from homeowners is “does insurance cover water damage?”.
The answer to that question depends on the source of the water damage and how quickly the problem is addressed.
Each insurance policy is different, so it’s best to call your insurance agent and see what’s covered or not.
In this guide, we’ll discuss:
What Kinds of Water Damage Does Insurance Cover and Exclude?
Let’s take a quick look at what’s typically covered, what’s not covered, and what you can expect your insurance company to pay for.
When Insurance Covers Water Damage
Almost all standard homeowners insurance policies cover “sudden and accidental” water damage inside the property. This is usually caused by an unforeseen and unpreventable problem, like a burst water heater or a ruptured pipe.
In these instances, your insurance company will likely cover the cost to dry and repair your property.
Examples of Water Damage Homeowners Insurance Will Cover
When Insurance Doesn’t Cover Water Damage
Most insurance companies will deny your claim if the water damage was a result of “gradual damage”, negligence, or external water sources entering your property.
Examples of Water Damage Homeowners Insurance Won’t Cover
Some Insurers Might Cover Hidden Gradual Damage or Water Leaks
Gradual damage means damage that results from the “gradual release of water over an extended period of time”. For example, if a visibly leaking dishwasher damaged your home over the course of a few months, your insurance company might not accept your claim.
But what if you didn’t know you had a leak because the pipe was hidden behind a wall?
Like we keep saying, everything boils down to the wording in your policy.
Fortunately, there are some providers who understand it’s impossible to know if you have a leak until the signs of water damage start to show. In some instances, they’ll accept your claim as long as you address the situation quickly and it isn’t a clear result of negligence.
If you’re not sure whether your insurance will cover water damage caused by a leaky pipe or appliance, review the exclusions and exact wording of your policy with your insurance agent.
What Your Insurance Company Will Pay For
There are three main clauses in insurance policies that cover the costs to repair your property, replace your belongings, and compensate you for temporary relocation expenses.
1. Dwelling Coverage
This covers repairs or replacement to the structure of your home.
If you need repairs for drywall, the roof, ceilings, wood floors, cabinets, or any kind of structural repair, your insurance will cover the cost.
2. Personal Property Coverage
This covers the cost to repair or replace any personal belongings.
For instance, if your furniture or electronics were damaged, insurance will cover the cost to have them repaired, restored, or replaced.
3. Additional Living Expenses
Your insurance policy might also cover temporary living expenses if you need to relocate while your home is repaired.
These expenses include gas, rent, food, hotel bills, and other accrued costs you normally wouldn’t have if you were living at home.
Types of Water Damage Insurance Claims
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Damage From Leaking Plumbing?
The short answer: it depends on if the leak was sudden and accidental and if you discovered the leak quickly (usually within 7-14 days).
As we said earlier, insurance might also cover on-going leaks if it was hidden and beyond your ability to identify it.
Since so many pipes are hidden within wall cavities, your insurance company will cover the costs for water damage cleanup and repairs if the wall needs to be cut out to address the leak.
This means insurers will cover the costs, if, for example, a pipe within the ceiling is leaking and now you need ceiling water damage repair.
In addition to sudden and accidental leaks, most insurance companies will also likely cover:
- slab leaks
- Air conditioner leaks
- Hidden leaks or water damage that were not clearly visible and0 impossible for the homeowner to identify quickly
When Insurance Doesn’t Cover Water Damage From Plumbing Leaks
Most insurance companies deny insurance claims from plumbing leaks if the leak occurred during an extended period of time or was due to poor maintenance.
Take that same ceiling leak we mentioned in the example above. Let’s say you decided to deal with the leak by putting a bucket underneath it for five months instead of actually fixing it. Now, you’ve got serious water damage and you finally decide you want to make a claim. In this scenario, they will most likely deny your claim.
Plumbing Leaks Insurance Won’t Cover
- Leaks that happened over the course of weeks (AKA ‘gradual damage’).
- Leaking plumbing caused by old age.
- Plumbing leaks that occurred due to poor maintenance or neglect.
- Polybutylene plumbing (a style of plumbing used during the 70’s and 90’s that is notoriously brittle and high-risk).
How Insurance Adjusters Will Decide If They’ll Cover Your Water Leak
Most Insurance companies don’t expect you to rip out the drywall to periodically check for leaks, however they do expect you to address plumbing leaks ASAP. When you file an insurance claim, your company will send out an adjuster to assess the damage.
Adjusters are able to tell whether its a recent leak or an old one and whether or not you could have prevented it. When the adjuster comes to your property, they will look for the following to determine if your plumbing leak will be covered:
- The source of the plumbing leak and whether it was hidden or clearly visible.
- Signs that the water damage is from an on-going leak or a recent one.
- Signs of corrosion, rust, or wear and tear that the owner should have addressed sooner.
- If the plumbing or appliance is old and the owner is aware of its age and could have replaced it.
Does Insurance Cover Water Damage From Broken Pipes?
Homeowners insurance tends to cover broken pipe water damage, as these events are the textbook definition of “sudden and accidental”, and for the most part, out of your control.
However, one claim they might deny is a frozen pipe burst. For instance, if you went on vacation during the winter and turned off the heat to your home to save money, this might cause your pipes to freeze and burst. In this scenario, insurance companies might not cover your claim because it resulted from lack of proper care.
Will Insurance Cover Plumbing Repairs to the Pipes or Appliances Themselves?
Whether or not you can expect insurance to cover plumbing repairs, depends on the wording of your policy.
Some insurance providers won’t pay for repairing or replacing the pipe itself, only the resulting water damage.
Some insurance providers cover repairs for the home’s plumbing systems and built in-appliances, like water heaters and furnaces, as long as the pipe break wasn’t the result of poor maintenance.
Remember to review the exact wording of your policy and go over any questions you may have with your insurance agent.
Will Insurance Cover Mold?
The short answer: Yes, but it depends on what caused the mold. If the mold is the direct result of a sudden and accidental water-damage related event or a covered peril listed in your policy, then your insurance company will likely pay for some of the mold removal costs.
Examples Where Insurance Will Cover Mold:
- Mold resulting from a sudden broken pipe or plumbing leak
- Mold resulting from a malfunctioning appliance, like a burst water heater or overflowing washing machine
- Firefighters using water to extinguish a fire which later causes mold to develop
- An exposure in your roof is created from a storm which causes water to enter and mold to grow
Examples Where Insurance Won’t Cover Mold:
Typically, mold removal is not covered if mold growth is the result of poor home upkeep, flooding, or preventable leaks.
- Mold growth due to an on-going leak and clearly visible leak that wasn’t fixed right away
- If your home or bathroom is exposed to high humidity and fail to ensure the home is adequately ventilated
- River overflows, floods, or hurricanes that cause mold growth (you’ll need a seperate insurance policy for flood damage)
- Mold growth due to a poorly maintained roof
Does Insurance Cover Roof Leaks?
Thankfully, most homeowners insurance policies cover roof leaks as long as it’s the result of sudden and accidental water damage or an uncontrollable act of nature.
Examples of roof leak or roof damage claims that insurance will cover include:
- Hail and wind damage
- Tree collapse and other falling objects
- Ice dams
- Sudden and accidental water damage, like broken pipes or malfunctioning appliances
If a roof leak develops from any of the reasons listed above, your insurance policy will likely pay to repair the roof leak and cover some of the cost for roof replacement. It will also cover any water damage that spread to other areas of the home.
Like we mentioned earlier, insurance does not cover roof leaks resulting from lack of maintenance. So, if you put off replacing cracked shingles or any other roof maintenance item, then insurance might not cover your claim.
Does Insurance Cover Water Damage From Rain?
In short, yes! water damage that comes from the top down, like rain, will likely be covered by your insurance policy.
So, for instance, if a storm creates an opening in a roof or window and causes rain to enter your property, insurance will cover the cost of repairs to your roof and any water damage to the interior of your home.
Examples of rain water damage claims insurance companies will accept include:
- Hail damage that breaks windows or creates holes in roofs causing rain to enter
- Tornado or high wind damage that causes rain to enter
- Lightning damage that strikes your home or roof that causes rain to enter
- Falling trees that cause exposures in your roof that causes rain to enter
With that said, rain damage is not covered if it’s the result of poor home maintenance. If your roof had broken shingles or pre-existing holes, then rain damage will not be covered because insurance companies view that as a lack of maintenance.
Insurance also won’t cover heavy rains that causes flood water to enter your home. When water comes from the bottom up, it’s considered flood damage.
Does Insurance Cover Flooding?
The quick answer: No, but it depends on what you mean by flooding. Most people who are not in the business, use the words “water damage” and “flood damage” interchangeably.
However, flooding has a very specific meaning in the insurance and restoration world. In insurance lingo, “flooding” means external sources of rising water.
This type of flood damage is caused by the following:
- River overflows
- Flash floods caused by heavy rain
- Broken Levee
- Water seeping in if the ground is over-saturated
- Heavy rains overwhelming drains or sewage systems
- Snow melts
- Hurricanes or tsunamis
Basically, if the flood water comes from outside of the home and touches the ground, you’re not covered by insurance. In this case, you’ll need to purchase a separate flood protection policy from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or through a private provider.
The good news is insurance will cover home flooding if it resulted from water damage that was internal, sudden and accidental. This includes broken pipes, appliance overflows, or wind-driven rain entering through the roof or windows (because the water is coming from the top down and doesn’t touch the ground).
Does Insurance Cover Basement Flooding or Crawl Space Flooding?
In most cases yes, but it depends on what caused the flooding. Because they’re located at the lowest-level of the home where water can easily travel, crawl spaces and basements are especially vulnerable to flooding. The risks for flooding increases when you factor in all the pipes and water-based appliances that are often stored there.
Fortunately, there are some instances where homeowners insurance will cover water damage in basements and crawl spaces.
Examples of Crawl Space or Basement Flooding That Insurance Will Cover:
- Faulty plumbing or broken pipes
- Broken or malfunctioning appliances, like fridges, water heaters, and washing machines
- Overflows from a backyard pool, sink, or bathtub
- Frozen pipes
Examples of Basement Flooding That Insurance Won’t Cover:
As a rule, most insurance companies won’t cover basement or crawl space water damage if it was caused by poor maintenance or water from outside the property entering the building.
- Sump pump failures and sewer backups from an external sewer system (you’ll need to purchase a separate endorsement for this)
- Water seepage entering cracks in the foundation
- River overflows, hurricanes, or heavy rains that causes rising flood water (coverage for this must be purchased via the National Flood Insurance Program)
- Water damage caused by old pipes or lack of maintenance
Insurance Claim For Kitchen Water Damage
There are many pipes and appliances in your kitchen that are connected to a water supply line, such as sinks, refrigerators, and dishwashers. This leaves a lot of potential for unwanted water damage.
Luckily, if your dishwasher goes on the fritz or a pipe breaks and floods your kitchen, your insurance will likely compensate you for your losses.
Below are some scenarios where insurance companies will accept your kitchen water damage claim:
- A pipe suddenly breaks in your kitchen
- One of your water-based appliances malfunctions without warning
- A leaking kitchen sink waste pipe located behind a wall causes hidden water damage you weren’t able to identify immediately
If the kitchen water damage was the result of a sudden and accidental event, like the examples listed above, then insurance companies will pay for water damage cleanup and repairs to any affected areas, like cabinets, floors, and walls. They might even cover an entire home remodel!
Insurance companies won’t pay if any kitchen water damage was the result of negligence. So, if you noticed the dishwasher was leaking and decided to ignore it, your claim will likely get denied.
Water Damage Insurance Claim Tips (7 Steps To Get Insurance To Pay)
As a restoration company, we’re kind of experts when it comes to dealing with insurance adjusters. Here are some water damage insurance claim tips that will help you maximize your claim and get insurance to cough up the money.
1. Contact Your Insurance Company ASAP
Keep your policy number at hand and be prepared to provide them with detailed information of damages. Most companies have deadlines for you to file a claim, so it’s better to do this as soon as possible. This is especially true if you have water damage from a hidden leak, as those can get easily denied if you didn’t report it within a set amount of days.
2. Be Careful With Your Wording When Reporting Water Damage
How you talk to your insurance agent about water damage can make a huge difference. Do NOT use the word “flood” to describe general water damage. In the insurance world, flood has a very specific definition and it is not covered by most homeowners insurance policies.
While it seems trivial, this small word can cause trouble later.
3. Take Note of Everything During Conversations With Your Insurance Company
Keep detailed records of everything during the initial call. This includes the name of the agent you’re speaking to, the date of the call, the time, and what was discussed.
Keeping this information handy will help you if you experience a problem with your claim.
4. Document The Damage
DON’T throw anything out or try to make permanent repairs before the adjuster is able to estimate the damages. Doing this may void coverage.
If possible, take photographic or video evidence of the water damage before making repairs.
5. Create a Detailed Inventory Of Your Valuables
Make a detailed inventory of damaged items and list the value of every time. You should provide receipts if you have them available.
This is time consuming, but the more detailed you are and the more evidence you present, the more compensation you’ll receive. To speed up the list-making process and gather accurate information about the cost of your belongings, use a wedding registry at a big box store or use United Policyholders home inventory app to find prices for specific items.
6. Minimize the Damage
Your insurance company expects you to do as much as you can to prevent further damages to your home. These are considered emergency repairs and will not affect your coverage.
If your house is flooding, soak up as much of the water as possible, dry out waterlogged items, and board up broken windows.
Keep receipts for the cost of these emergency repairs, and if you’ve had to relocate, keep receipts for any travel or lodging expenses.
7. Never Sign Anything You Don’t Agree To
If your insurance company sent you a check, that’s usually a great thing. This means that they agree that your claim is covered.
However, the number written on that check might night match the actual cost of repairs. The scope of work and the price can be negotiated, as long as you don’t sign anything that indicates this is your final payment.
If you disagree with the adjuster, contact a public adjuster or a restoration company. A reputable restoration contractor is used to making compelling arguments with adjusters by providing ample evidence of damage. This is what we do to help our clients get the most of their losses.