Homeowners Insurance: Sewer Backup or Overflow?

Sewer backup or system overflow: Which is it?Backup or Overflow

The weather in the Midwest has been quite wet this year, which brings to mind two sometimes confusing and misunderstood types of property claims. What’s the difference between a sewer backup and a plumbing system overflow?

A great deal of rain can overtax the sewer systems. This can cause water to flow backward through the property owner’s lateral pipes, through the drain, and into the basement. When water outside the insured’s plumbing system flows backward through the plumbing into the property, this is a backup claim.

A backup is different from an overflow. An overflow occurs when there’s a blockage in the plumbing system. When the toilet is flushed, there’s nowhere for the water to go due to the blockage, so the toilet bowl overflows. The water that’s causing the damage never enters the sewer system. An overflow can also occur when there’s blockage within the lateral pipe. The water from the property flows down the lateral and because of the blockage, the water has nowhere to go so it overflows the floor drain or a lower-level bathroom causing damage.

So how are these two claims covered? The homeowners policy affords coverage for an overflow of the plumbing system up to the policy limit; however, damage from water that backs up through sewers or drains, overflows or discharges from a sump, sump pump, or related equipment is specifically excluded.

How do you get coverage for a sewer backup or sump overflow on the homeowner’s policy? With a Water Backup and Sump Overflow Coverage endorsement. The endorsement provides coverage for water backup or sump overflow for both personal property and structural damage from water.

How you can prevent sewer line backups?

There are several preventative measures homeowners can take to minimize the occurrence of sewer line backups.

  • Proper disposal of grease and food: Grease, fats, gravies, sauces and cooking oils should NEVER go down your kitchen drain.
  • Proper disposal of paper products: Anything that does not easily dissolve as easily as toilet paper should never be flushed. Even facial tissue should be avoided; it does not dissolve as easily as bathroom tissue.
  • Install a Backwater Prevention Valve. These fixtures allow sewage to go out , but not come back in

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Sources: Horizon Services
West Bend Insurance Company