Do Insurance Policies Cover Water Damage?

It’s the $10,000, $50,000, $75,000 question: “Am I covered?”

Rob Villars, President, Advanced Restoration Services, LLCSouthwest Iowa and Northwest Missouri have seen powerful storms and devastating floods in recent years. And, there’s always the potential for a broken water pipe during sub-zero, winter weather.

Nature of the emergency

Will your insurance policy cover water damage cleanup, restoration and replacements? It depends on your policy and on the type of water damage. Water damage falls into three categories.

In this article, I’m not going to address the categories of water damage, but the nature of the emergency.



Flood Damage


Not covered, typically


A flood, by definition, is a rise in ground water. Any time ground water comes into a dwelling it’s almost never a covered peril, unless you specifically have flood insurance.


Consider buying flood insurance.


Storm Damage


Covered, typically


If a hail storm blows out windows and rain water comes into the home, the damage typically is covered.



“Messy Discharges”


Coverage totally depends


This category includes broken water pipes, sewer backups and etc.



Act quickly with a broken pipe. Consider buying an insurance policy with a sewer backup endorsement.

Source: Advanced Restoration Services, LLC, Bedford, Iowa

Restoration situations

Here are some specific situations that you might want to think about, so as to be prepared for their possible occurrence:

1. Hail ravages your house

Hail is frequently accompanied by high-velocity winds. What if branches and debris blow into a home, and glass is everywhere? If there’s carpet on the floor, there’s no way a restoration services company can guarantee that they’d remove every shard of glass. No matter how many times the carpet is vacuumed, some shards will remain. The same goes for any upholstered furniture where glass shards might have ended up.

Our recommendation is to throw away the carpet and the upholstered furniture. In fact, our company won’t even try to dry them. Will your insurance company see it that way? Yes. After hail storm damage, you’re looking at a triage situation. You need to protect the home — board up the windows and make it weather tight. Our firm would remove the wet materials we know we can’t save and immediately start drying down the house.

2. Tree falls on your house, ground water rises

If a tree fell and blew out one of your basement windows allowing rain water to come in, the damage would likely be covered by your policy. But, if the downed tree is accompanied by rising ground water, typically the water damage would not be covered. Insurance companies make some fine distinctions, but ground water damage is almost never covered without flood insurance.

3. Sump pump fails

If you have a sump pump pit in your basement and the sump pump fails during a storm, typically a flood insurance endorsement would cover the water backup and overflow, even though it’s ground water coming out of the pit. Again, the key is flood insurance.

4. Water pipe breaks

You’re at home asleep and a frozen pipe bursts. Generally, you’re covered, but … you must act quickly! If a pipe breaks at 2:00 a.m., try to have somebody there by 2:30 a.m. taking care of it. First, run to your home’s water shut-off, then call for assistance. If you have a 100-year old home, how old is the water shut-off valve? Valves can become worn out and corroded. So, this is something to plan for ahead of time.

On the preventative side …

If you’re going on vacation for more than three days, shut off the water. Keep in mind, too, that what we see happening quite often in frozen pipe bursts is that homeowners leave for vacation and think it’s ok to turn the heat down … or worse, to turn the heat off!

These examples are presented for illustrative purposes. Every water damage situation is different. The above tables represent general guidelines. Be sure to consult a qualified insurance agent, adjuster and cleanup and restoration services professional for help.