Sewage backups are gross, hazardous to your health and expensive to clean up. Worse yet, they're generally not covered under standard home insurance policies.
Although they may not know it, homeowners are responsible for maintaining the sewer pipeline that runs between the city sanitary sewer main (usually under the street) and their houses, according to the Insurance Information Institute. If that pipe deteriorates, you could have problems. Paul Davis Restoration in Akron, Ohio, estimates the average cost to clean up and restore a basement that's been damaged by sewage backup can range from $7,500 to $30,000.
Any dwelling that has plumbing carries risk of a sewage backup, but homes in places that commonly flood, get heavy rain or are in old or historic neighborhoods are particularly prone to backups, according to State Farm. You'll know a sewage backup has occurred if water (or waste) is coming up through floor drains in the basement (if you have one) or sink drains.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, specific coverage for sewage backups should be added to your home insurance policy in the form of a sewage backup rider. Such a rider generally costs $40 to $160 a year, depending on the deductible and how much coverage you need.
The real danger with not having home insurance coverage for sewer backups is that there's no real way to tell what condition your line is in because it's underground. Common problems include blockage from shrubs and tree roots, which can cause extensive damage and cracking when they seep into the joints of the pipeline, according to the Insurance Information Institute. As the tree or shrub grows, so does the damage. To prevent roots from entering, you can replace your line and tap with plastic pipe.
Another reason for a backup is blockage in the city's sanitary main. You can reduce the likelihood of it entering your home by having a qualified plumber install a backwater valve, but it won't completely prevent the problem from happening in the main line.
If you do experience a sewage backup, responding quickly is critical to prevent further damage and health risks. The Insurance Information Institute recommends cleaning water-damaged areas with a wet-dry vacuum and disinfecting all floors and walls. Steam clean or remove wet carpet and damaged walls.
If you do have a rider on your home insurance policy that covers sewage backups, provide before and after pictures of all affected areas and property. Save all receipts related to the backup and submit them to your insurance company as soon as possible.
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