No one wants a sewage backup in their home or yard. Sewage line problems are destructive, expensive health hazards. How can you spot a problem in the making? And will homeowners insurance cover a broken sewer line and the damage it causes?
Signs of a sewer line problem
Watch for these telltale signs that you have a sewer line problem.
- A backup in a single toilet or drain is normal and usually easily cleared. But if multiple drains or toilets back up or are slow to drain at the same time, your sewer line is probably clogged.
- The occasional whiff of sewer scent around your toilet or drain is no cause for concern. But if the odor prevails around several plumbing fixtures, a backup may be developing.
- Water in your basement or on the exterior of your home next to the foundation could indicate a sewer line clog, particularly if the water has a bad odor. Water in these locations could also cause mold.
- A wet, swampy area in your yard near the sewer line is a pretty sure sign of sewer problems. Another sign is particularly lush grass, or patches of dead grass, in the yard above the sewer line.
In addition to causing damage and presenting a health hazard, a leaky sewer pipe under your house can destabilize the soil and cause expensive foundation damage.
Having it diagnosed
Get referrals and read reviews of local licensed sewer line plumbing specialists. Request that the expert perform a camera inspection of the sewer line from the house to the main municipal line under the street. These cameras can detect whether the problem is a clog from root invasion, a collapsed or ruptured line, or looseness in the joints between pipes.
Sewer pipes from the 1950s and earlier were made with galvanized or cast iron. Over time, these pipes have corroded and crumbled, shutting down the flow of sewage as the yard’s soil collapses on the pipe. These old pipes need to be replaced.
Does your homeowner’s insurance cover damaged sewer lines?
Whether homeowners insurance covers damage to your sewer line depends on where the damage is and how it occurred. In many cases, a standard homeowners policy will not cover sewer line damage.
Your insurance will only cover damage to the sewer line that lies within the footprint of your property. Once the pipe leaves your property and joins with the city system, it becomes the city’s responsibility.
Insurance covers damage from accidents such as a lightning strike that transmits to underground plumbing and damages it. Damage caused by wind and hail, fire, a vehicular crash, and other random and rare events also would be covered. But If the damage to your line is determined to be from neglect of regular maintenance, especially if you have had signs that problems were developing, you will not be covered. Nor will insurance cover damage caused by flood, earthquake or hurricane. And damage inside your home caused by sewage backing up usually is not covered.
Typically, standard homeowners insurance only covers sewer line damage in the limited circumstances described above. And the coverage limit for these events is often 10 percent of the total homeowner’s policy cap. If the replacement cost cap of the policy is $400,000, then the sewer pipe limit in coverage would be $40,000. Replacing an entire line from the house to the street could run more than $25,000.
Fortunately, you can purchase coverage through a policy rider or even a policy that solely covers sewer lines. This will cover coverage gaps in your standard homeowners insurance.