Jan 4, 2021
Will Insurance Cover A Sewer Backup In Your House?
Severe weather, large rainfalls and sudden downpours are putting extreme stress on our systems, leading to an increase of sewer backup related incidents in Canada.
No one wants to come home from work or wake up in the morning to find a sewer backup in the basement. It's a situation that homeowners in Ontario fear not only because it can ruin cherished personal belongings but also because of the extensive cleanup process, the need to make a home insurance claim, and it can be dangerous to your health.
What Is A Sewer Backup?
When waste water flows back into your home from the city's main sewer lines, it can cause a sewer back up. It will typically seep up into your basement through floor drains. They can also happen when there is a blockage in plumbing or sewage systems.
What Does Sewer Backup Insurance Cover?
Sewer backup insurance provides you with protection specifically against damage caused by backups in your home. It will cover the costs of cleaning up and repairing the areas affected in your home and replacing and restoring affected personal belongings.
When getting coverage be mindful that many of these policies have lower limits and higher than average deductibles.
Do You Need Sewer Backup Insurance In An Apartment?
Many people assume that if they live in a condo or high-rise that sewer backups won't happen to them. After all, they only happen in basements, right? Unfortunately not. Sewer backups can happen in condos, too, especially in the lower level unit. Therefore, it is something worth considering. Talk with your condo management to see if it is provided or if you need to add it.
What Causes A Sewer Backup?
The causes of sewer line backups are more specific than the those that cause general water damage. In most cases, they are directly related to weather events or if you live in low-lying areas or valleys.
Here are five main causes to these incidents :
- Weather Events : Large amounts of precipitation, sudden rain storms, and even a fast winter thaw can bring more water into the sewer than it can handle, causing it to back up into your home.
- A Clog : Sewer lines can become clogged just like your drains, and when they do, the sewage needs to go somewhere, and it’s usually into your home.
- Tree Roots : Tree roots can grow into your pipes and cause holes and blockages. They can also wrap around your sewer line and crush the pipes.
- Broken Sewer Lines : It’s common for older homes to experience collapsed lines. Over time, older cast iron and clay pipes will break down, creating backup issues.
- Sump Pump Malfunction : Excessive water in a short period of time can cause it to stop working correctly. Poor maintenance could also cause your sump pump to malfunction.
Why Are Sewer Backups Dangerous?
Unlike other issues caused by rainwater getting into your home, sewer water can be very hazardous to your health.
According to the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction :
Sanitary sewage is generated by the use of toilets, sinks, drains and other home water uses. Because this type of sewage contains a high degree of contaminants and can pose a significant risk to human health and the environment, it requires treatment at sewage treatment facilities before it is released back into the environment.
What Causes A Sewer Backup?
If you notice any of the following, you should contact a licensed plumber :
- Sewage back up in bathtub, basement drain or foul smells
- Consistent toilet collage, basement toilet backing up
- Toliet not flushing about rain and plunging does not help
- Sink or toilet bubbling more than once
- Multiple slow draining, or clogged, plumbing fixtures
Sewer Backup Prevention Tips
As with other potential threats to your home, being proactive is always the best approach for prevention. Taking steps to prevent sewer backups can reduce the odds of dealing with a basement full of sewage water. Here are some effective approaches to prevention :
- Choose A Home On High Ground : Buying a home in an area that is considered low risk for floods and on high ground is something to consider. Another thing to consider when purchasing a home is large trees, as their roots can cause many plumbing issues.
- Maintain Your Drains : Most clogs can be prevented by performing regular maintenance and using your drains properly. Avoid putting anything other than toilet paper in the toilet, avoid pouring potentially harmful substances down the drain (such as grease), and if you have one, be smart with how you use your garbage disposal.
- Get Your Sump Pump Serviced Regularly : It is a good idea to have your sump pump looked at professionally every few years to make sure clogs are not developing and it is running efficiently.
- Address Plumbing Issues Right Away : Don’t allow plumbing issues to linger. They will only become more difficult and costly to repair, and they can lead to significant issues such as sewer backups, basement flooding, and other problems.
How Do Backwater Valves Work?
Having a backwater valve can be the difference between having a basement filled with sewage water and a dry basement. It's a simple device that can be installed to prevent water from entering (or backing up) into your basement when water levels in the sewer are higher than average.
Backwater valves have an internal flap that allows water to flow from your home to the sewer. However, if water flow changes direction and starts to come into your home, the flap will raise and block water from entering.
Benefits of installing a backwater valve include :
- It provides your home with added protection against backups.
- It accounts for uncertainty of climate change.
- It gives you peace of mind.
- You could qualify for a discount.
How Much Does A Backwater Valve Cost?
The cost of backwater valve installation depends on your home. Installing the device in a new home will cost up to $250. However, the cost to retrofit a backwater valve could easily cost $1000 or more.
If you plan to install a prevention device, you may require a permit. Make sure to have it installed by a licensed plumber.
There is some good news if you need to retrofit. Many municipalities offer homeowners subsidies to assist with the cost of backwater valve installation. Talk with your local city hall to see if a subsidy is available. Considering the costs involved, installing a backwater valve is a worthwhile investment, especially if you live in an area prone to flooding.
Is Sewer Backup Insurance Automatically Included?
Sewer backup insurance, commonly referred to by insurers as a sewer backup rider, is only covered if you have to add it to your home insurance - it is not covered in your standard plans.
However, the installation of a backwater valve may be required by your provider. According to IBC,
Depending on where you live and the prevalence of sewer flooding events, your insurer may require you to install a backflow valve. If you have suffered substantial damage, installing a backwater valve may be required to get insured.
Is Sewer Backup Insurance Worth It?
Whether sewer backup protection is worth it or not depends on your situation and particularly where you live and if there is a history of homes experiencing backups. If you live in an area that is prone to flooding, then the costs of adding a rider (which can be as little as $20 up to $250 per year) more than outweighs the cost of cleanup and repair, which can easily add up to $10,000 or more, not to mention the impact a backup will have on your daily life.
Sewer Backup FAQs
Leave your home as soon as possible, the smell is toxic to your health. Do not enter the floodwater and be mindful of any electrical outlets. Don't use any sinks, toilets or tubs until you've called a plumber. If possible, turn off the main power through the electrical panel.
You'll also want to contact the municipality to report the problem and determine the root cause. If you have protection on your policy, make sure you call your insurer as soon as possible to help clean up and repair any floor, baseboards, drywall or furniture.
Tenant's insurance will you protect your belongings and the cost of temporary relocation while repairs happen. The landlord's insurance will cover the repairs to the building.
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