Skip to main content

Does homeowners insurance cover water damage?

minute read

    Ever wake up to find your basement has unexpectedly turned into a wading pool overnight? If you’re looking to protect your home and family in the wake of a surprisingly wet situation, you may be wondering what your options are. If this sounds familiar, one of the first questions you may have asked is "Does homeowners insurance cover water damage?" The answer is that while homeowners insurance may cover some types of water damage, the specifics will depend on your policy. Read on to learn more about how to determine which types of water damage your policy might cover.

    Homeowners insurance basics

    Ready for a little homeowners insurance 101? Homeowners insurance is typically a package policy that covers a few essential types of coverage. The ones that relate to water damage specifically will likely fall under:

    • Dwelling coverage: This part of the policy typically covers inside and outside damage to the structure of your home.
    • Personal property coverage: If you consider your high-tech electronics or carefully curated furniture your “babies,” personal property coverage may help you sleep a little easier at night. It’s intended to safeguard your belongings.
    • Living expenses: This type of insurance policy may help with living expenses such as hotel stays or rental fees if you’re displaced from your home. 

    In the case of water damage insurance, there are certain situations that may or may not be covered. Let’s find out more.

    What constitutes water damage?

    Navigating water damage can be a complicated process, as there are multiple kinds of water damage and ways in which it may occur. Here are some of the most common types of water damage homeowners may encounter:

    • Plumbing leaks: Plumbing is a frequent culprit behind water damage, and leaky pipes, faulty connections or broken fixtures can have adverse effects due to a sudden emergency or wear and tear over time. Burst pipes and sewer issues can also lead to water-related structural damage and other hazardous conditions.
    • Roof leaks: A damaged or neglected roof could allow water to make its way into your home, leading to damage to connected areas such as an attic or inside the structure's ceilings and walls.
    • Sump pump malfunction: Sump pumps are usually used to remove water from a home’s basement, or other areas where weather-related flooding or groundwater seepage may be a recurring risk. If they malfunction or fail, it can lead to flooding and water damage in the area they’re meant to protect.
    • Appliance malfunction: We all love our refrigerators, washing machines and dishwashers, but they may end up being the cause of water damage should they spring a leak or malfunction.
    • Flooding or storm damage: Heavy rains, blizzards and severe storms such as hurricanes or tornados may lead to water entering — and possibly damaging — the property.

    While insurance often covers many of these instances, there are some slippery situations it may not. Because of these differences, you may want to explore what types of water damage are covered by homeowners insurance.

    What type of water damage is covered by homeowners insurance?

    Whether or not homeowners insurance covers water damage depends largely on the source of the damage, and whether it’s sudden and accidental or weather-related.

    Sudden and accidental damage

    If your home is affected by water damage from a surprise leak or other malfunction inside the home, chances are it’ll be covered by insurance. Unfortunately, if the damage is gradual due to wear and tear that you potentially neglected to maintain, it’s less likely to be covered by your plan. It’s best to try to stay on top of maintenance to avoid liability for damages down the line.

    Weather-related damage

    If extreme weather causes rain to enter your home, or if a cold snap leads to a burst pipe, it’s often covered by homeowners insurance. That said, there are some exceptions. If the rain makes its way into your home through a pre-existing hole (or due to general lack of maintenance), for instance, it likely won’t be covered.

    Water damage vs. flood damage

    While certain weather-related damages are covered by homeowners insurance, flooding is generally an exception that requires its own coverage. If the flooding was due to a sudden or accidental situation within the home, it may be covered. However, if you live in an area with a known flood risk, you may want to investigate preventative measures and flood insurance for some extra protection.

    Can you prevent water damage?

    Dealing with a water damage situation often requires time and effort, even if it’s covered by insurance. While there are no guarantees to anything in life, prior preparation may help prevent or at least mitigate water damage in your home.

    • Maintenance checks: This might seem basic, but it’s easy to fall behind on maintenance when life gets in the way. Conducting regular inspections of your property and appliances, and responding promptly to any small signs of leaks, cracks or existing water damage may help prevent major problems down the line.
    • Clear gutters and downspouts: Leaves, twigs and other debris may clog gutters and downspouts, which could lead to overflows that might damage your home’s roof, siding or foundation.
    • Regulate your home’s humidity: If your home is very humid, whether due to seasonal changes or year-round climate, you may want to look into dehumidifiers to prevent any gradual damage caused by dampness and condensation.
    • Insulate pipes: When a frozen pipe bursts, it could result in major water damage. Consider keeping your pipes well-insulated to prevent freezing during the cold winter months.
    • Seal windows and doors: One way that water can enter your home is through poorly sealed windows and doors. Checking to make sure seals are intact, and sealing properly if they’re not, could help keep water outside instead of in.
    • Install water leak detectors or water alarms: These devices are designed to let homeowners know when there’s a leak or water buildup in your home, especially when placed strategically near sinks, dishwashers, and washing machines. Prompt detection and quick reaction could minimize water damage from these sources.

    What to do when water damage occurs

    Even the best-laid plan may sometimes go awry, so it may be helpful to learn what to do if water damage does occur in your home.

    • Find the source: If it isn’t immediately obvious, locating the source of water damage is essential to being able to stop the damage or make repairs.
    • Act fast: Because untreated water damage may lead to mold or structural damage, it’s best to start repairs as soon as possible. Drying your home out quickly is generally considered essential to minimizing water damage and may be easier with the help of wet-vacs and dehumidifiers.
    • Look for mold: Some mold starts growing in less than 24 hours, so if there’s a delay in dehumidifying and repairs, it may be a good idea to check flooring, carpeting, walls and other nooks and crannies where spores might make themselves at home. If you spot any signs of mold in your home, a professional will likely be able to aid in its safe removal.
    • Contact your insurance company: Once the most time-sensitive actions have been dealt with, reach out to your insurance company for further guidance. Understanding what will or won’t be covered may give you a better idea of what you’re up against. If the situation you’re dealing with is covered, your insurance agent should be able to help you make a water damage claim and negotiate a settlement if you require one.

    In summary

    Dealing with leaks or flooding in your home can be exhausting, expensive and occasionally even hazardous. If you’ve found yourself wondering “Does homeowners insurance cover water damage?,” it helps to know that the answer may not be a simple yes or no. That said, homeowners insurance often does cover water damage, depending on its source and nature. Understanding your insurance coverage and reacting quickly to any potential damage may help make dealing with water damage a little more manageable.

    Take the first step and get preapproved.

    Have questions? Connect with a home lending expert today!

    What to read next