What Is Water Backup Insurance?

Quick Answer

Water backup insurance is a type of insurance that covers damage caused by water backing up into a home from a sewer, drain or due to a sump pump failure.

A closeup photo of a homeowner's and agent's feet and legs underwater as they sit on a couch in a flooded home while the agent writes on a document with their pants rolled up.

From floods to leaky roofs, your home faces risk from many types of water damage. Unfortunately, your homeowners insurance may not protect you from all of them. Water backup insurance is a special type of insurance that covers damage caused by water backing up into a home from a sewer, drain or due to sump pump failure. Damage from water backup isn't typically covered by homeowners insurance, so you'll need to purchase an extra policy or endorsement to get this specialty coverage.

Keep reading to learn what water backup insurance is, whether you need it, how much it costs and how it can help you protect your home.

What Is Water Backup Insurance?

In general, standard homeowners insurance covers water damage from things like burst pipes, rain, snow or ice on your roof. It doesn't cover water damage from floods; melting snow seeping into your basement; or sewer, septic tank and drain backups.

Flood insurance covers water damage from a sewer, septic tank or drain backup if the backup was directly caused by the flood, but it doesn't take a natural disaster to cause water backup. Something as simple as a clogged pipe or a sump pump failing could trigger a drain backup that inundates your home with sewage. The resulting damage can cost thousands of dollars to repair. Water backup insurance protects against this risk.

As a homeowner, it's your responsibility to maintain the piping running from your home to the city's sewer main. A problem with this piping, or a blockage in the sanitary main, can cause water backup. So can rain that overloads a sewer system and causes sewage to back up into drains and basements.

Your home may be particularly at risk of water backup if:

  • Your area's sewer system is aging. Wastewater pipes in the U.S. are 50 years old on average, which means they're beginning to reach the end of their useful lives.
  • You have an older home. As a home ages, its piping and drainage systems can degrade.
  • You have a basement. Basements make a home more vulnerable to water backup damage.
  • There are trees near your home. Roots can grow into sewer lines and block or damage them.

Water backup insurance is typically sold as an add-on endorsement or rider to your homeowners insurance policy. It's usually quite affordable: On average, $5,000 worth of water backup insurance costs $30 to $70 per year. Each additional $5,000 of coverage costs an average of $25 to $35 annually.

What Does Water Backup Insurance Cover?

Water backup insurance pays to repair damage to your home caused by sewer, septic tank or drain backups. It also pays to replace property destroyed by water backup, such as flooring, furnishings or personal possessions.

If the insurance company decides your home is uninhabitable while repairs are being made, it will likely pay your alternative living expenses (ALE). Sometimes called "loss of use" coverage, ALE pays for you to stay elsewhere until repairs are completed. It also pays expenses over and above your normal living expenses, such as the cost of restaurant meals or boarding pets.

The limits of water backup coverage vary depending on your policy. You'll also have to meet your deductible before insurance coverage kicks in. This may be your standard homeowners insurance deductible or a special, lower deductible for the water backup policy.

To reduce the risk of water backup damage, follow these tips:

  • Have a plumber inspect your sewer line and trim back tree roots, replace aging pipes and repair any other potential problems.
  • Have a backwater prevention valve installed in your sewer and/or drain lines.
  • Keep rain gutters and downspouts clear of debris.
  • Check your sump pump annually before the rainy season. Consider installing a battery backup so power outages don't affect the pump.
  • Never put used cooking grease down the drain.
  • Don't flush diapers, paper towels, wet wipes (even if they say they are flushable) or feminine hygiene products.

What Can You Do to Save Money on Insurance Coverage?

The cost of water backup insurance is a small price to pay for the money it can save you in repairs. But if you're looking to lower your home insurance premiums you can:

  • Compare prices. Get online quotes for homeowners insurance from several carriers or ask an independent insurance agent to help you find the best coverage at the lowest price.
  • Bundle your policies. Buying multiple types of insurance from the same company, or "bundling," generally lowers your premiums. Bundling homeowners and auto insurance is a common way to save.
  • Raise your deductible. Increasing your deductible generally reduces your premiums. Just be sure you can afford to pay the higher deductible if necessary.
  • Ask about discounts. See if organizations you belong to—such as alumni associations or even your employer—offer discounts on home insurance. Some insurance companies offer retiree discounts, loyalty discounts or discounts for going a number of years without filing a claim.
  • Update your home. Some companies offer discounts for modernizing or replacing your plumbing, heating or electrical systems. They might also lower your premium if you add safety features like burglar alarms or smoke detectors.
  • File claims wisely. Home insurance companies consider all past claims filed on your home from the past seven years. If you've filed a lot of claims, they may assume you'll make more claims in the future, and raise your rates accordingly. Before filing a claim for a minor repair, consider whether it's worth it to risk a higher premium.

Protect Your Home and Your Credit

Maintaining good credit can also help reduce your insurance premiums. Insurance companies in most states can check your credit-based insurance score before offering you coverage. These scores are different from the credit scores lenders check, but they're affected by many of the same factors. If your home insurance quotes are too high, check your credit report and credit score. Improving your credit by reducing your debt and paying your bills on time could save you money on homeowners insurance.