The worst time to learn that your basic home insurance policy does not cover sewer line backups and damage is after you’ve experienced one of these emergencies. Fortunately, it does not cost too much to purchase additional coverage to protect against these messy mishaps. Here’s what you need to know about the insurance endorsements that can protect your home and wallet from the damage that faulty sewer lines may cause.

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Does homeowners insurance cover broken sewer pipes?

The coverage standard homeowners insurance provides for sewer pipes is typically limited to physical damage from covered perils, such as if your plastic sewer pipes melt in a fire.

Most policies specifically exclude damage from sewer backups. And the most common causes of sewer line damage, including corrosion and tree-root invasion, are considered gradual conditions or wear and tear, which are also generally not covered by homeowners insurance.

However, there are two relatively inexpensive endorsements, or riders, that you can add to your homeowners insurance policy to protect your home from common causes of sewer damage.

The first is a water-backup endorsement, which includes coverage for sewer backups. The second is a service-line endorsement, which includes coverage to replace sewer pipes damaged by corrosion, tree roots and other underground threats.

Insurance against sewer damage
Type of insurance Damage it covers
Homeowners insurance Physical damage to pipes from a covered peril
Water backup endorsement Damage to your home caused by a variety of water backups, including sewer backups, but not floods
Service-line endorsement Repairs and replacement of underground utility lines, including sewers, between your home and the main service line

How does water and sewer backup insurance work?

A water and sewer backup endorsement essentially overrides the exclusion in most home insurance policies for damage caused by sewer and drainage backups.

A water backup of almost any type is likely to result in puddles or pooling inside your home. This, in turn, may require you to have your floors and walls professionally dried, cleaned, and, possibly, refinished or replaced. If the backup involves sewage, additional sanitation measures are likely to be required.

Needless to say, the cleanup costs could add up quickly.

A water backup endorsement typically adds about $5 to $10 a month to your insurance premium, depending on the company and limits you choose, and covers damage to your home and belongings. The endorsement often comes with limits ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.

Water backup endorsements are typically also available for condos, mobile homes and rental units.

Bear in mind that a water backup endorsement typically does not cover damage caused by a flood.

If damage to a sewer main up the street from your home causes a reverse flow, a water backup endorsement usually covers the damage. However, if the reverse flow is caused by a flood, the endorsement typically does not cover the damage. You’d need flood insurance for protection in the latter scenario.

Get quotes on insurance coverage for sewer damage

How do I insure my sewer line?

A service-line endorsement generally covers the costs of repairing or replacing broken sewer and water lines, or other underground utilities, damaged by wear and tear, rust, deterioration or other causes that homeowners insurance otherwise excludes. The coverage typically extends to most sewer-line damage caused by tree roots.

Sewer lines and other underground utilities pose unique challenges for homeowners. Their buried locations protect them from most normal home insurance perils, such as fire, wind and hail. However, these hidden locations also make them difficult to maintain and expensive to fix.

Unfortunately, many homeowners don’t realize that they are responsible for the portions of utility lines on their property until one fails. If workers need to dig through concrete to access the line, the cost of repairing or replacing it can easily grow to a few thousand dollars or more.

Several insurance companies offer a service-line endorsement as an add-on to a home insurance policy. It typically provides up to $10,000 in coverage, with prices ranging from about $5 to $10 a month, depending on the company.

A service-line endorsement generally covers the portion of sewer and other utility lines between your home’s foundation and the main service line running up and down your street. Damage to portions of utility lines within the footprint of your foundation, which are normally easier to access, are typically only covered by homeowners insurance if they are damaged by a covered peril. Otherwise, it’s just a household maintenance expense.

Service-line protection plans and home warranties

As an alternative to adding a service-line endorsement to your homeowners insurance, several companies offer service-line protection plans to protect your utility lines.

It’s important to know that many service-line protection plans are often offered as service contracts, rather than true insurance. The big difference is that insurance policies are subject to oversight by state insurance commissioners, and this type of regulatory review usually comes with consumer protections that are not always available in service contracts.

However, some service-line protection providers, such as American Water Resources, offer plans underwritten by insurance companies.

If you’re shopping for service-line protection, make sure the plan you choose covers damage and replacement of lines outside your home's foundation.

Service- or sewer-line protection plans should not be confused with home warranties. Most home warranties exclude damage to sewer pipes outside a home’s foundation.

Is water and sewer line insurance worth it?

Deciding whether water and sewer-line insurance is worth it depends largely on your home’s condition, your financial resources and your comfort level with risk.

If you live in an older home with no recent plumbing upgrades, both coverages may provide inexpensive protection from potentially large expenses down the road.

Service-line coverage could prove particularly valuable if your home has old sewer pipes that run under retaining walls and/or concrete walkways, or if they are buried near trees.

Older sewer pipes, particularly those made of cast iron, are susceptible to cracking and can emit moisture that attracts tree roots, which, in turn, can clog or rupture pipes.

On the other hand, if your home was built more recently and/or you have modern plastic sewer pipes, which are not as susceptible to root invasion as older pipes, you may not need a sewer-line endorsement.

However, even if your home was recently built with state-of-the-art plumbing, a water backup endorsement may still be worth it to protect against potential reverse sewer flows originating away from your property.

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