Why home water damage happens and how to prevent it

Posted in Home

A person repairs a pipe and water damage inside a home.

As a homeowner, one of the last things you’ll ever want to deal with is water damage. Unfortunately, 14,000 people in the U.S. experience a water damage emergency at home or work each day. In addition, 98% of basements in the U.S. will experience some type of water damage during their lifespans. Water damage needs immediate attention and can become hazardous if it’s ignored for too long. Even more, it can be expensive to deal with.  

Your Integrity Independent Agent can review your policy with you to understand what coverages you have and what you may want to consider adding. In this article, we’ll cover different types of water damage and tips to reduce the risk of water damage. You’ll also find out what’s covered in a standard homeowners insurance policy.

Sewer backup and sump pump failure

Water damage can occur when there is a blockage or backup in sanitary sewer lines or if your sump pump fails. There are many potential causes for a backup of the sewer line such as: 

  • An aging sewer system with cracks in the pipe joints which allow tree roots to grow inside and create blockage or deterioration and collapse of the pipe itself. 
  • An older municipal sewer pipeline system could be combined with storm water pipelines. That means rain, melting snow and raw sewage are all trying to pass through one pipe. At times, this may be too much for the pipe to handle, which can cause backup and overflow into a home. 

Homeowners are responsible for the sewer pipeline attached to their home and for the sewer lateral—the section of the pipe from their home to the city sanitary sewer main. The sewer lateral is usually located in the street.  

Unfortunately, sewer backup and sump pump failure are not covered under a standard homeowners policy, but can be purchased as additional coverage at a low cost. Talk to your agent for more information.

Tips to prevent sewer backups

To help prevent sewer water backups, make sure your pipelines are inspected and replaced as necessary. Properly dispose of: 

  • Garbage 
  • Paper products  
  • Cooking grease 
  • Personal cleansing wipes 

None of these items should go down a sink drain or be flushed. Even products labeled as “flushable” can cause plumbing issues in your bathroom. Flush toilet paper down the toilet and toss wipes in the trash to keep your pipes clear. 

In many instances, a sewer check valve (also called a backwater valve) can be installed to greatly reduce backwater escaping back into a house sewer.

Tips to prevent sump pump overflow

Sump system failures can happen when there is excessive subsurface water during a storm or spring thaw. Overburdened pumps can breakdown. To ensure your sump pump is working properly: 

  • Routinely inspect the discharge pipe connections and address any drainage issues outside the home. 
  • Consider installing a battery backup in case of power failure or a secondary pump should the primary one fail.  
  • Reach out to a licensed professional plumber for advice and installation of plumbing and sump system components. 
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Water overflow

Water overflow is exactly what it sounds like—water overflows out of a dishwasher, a bathroom sink, a washing machine, etc. Burst pipes can also create water overflow in your home due to corrosion, high water pressure or a frozen pipe that bursts. Each of these types of water damage are typically covered under a standard homeowners policy, but can vary depending on if the incident was accidental or due to lack of maintenance.

Tips to prevent water overflow from burst pipes

Here are a few ways to prevent burst pipes in your home: 

  • Frozen pipes—set your home temperature at 55 degrees or warmer when it’s cold/freezing outside 
  • Water pressure—make sure your water pressure is not too high by checking the pressure gauge. The average water pressure range should be between 40-50 pounds per square inch (psi), not exceeding 60 psi.  
  • Corrosion—although pipes should last a long time, hard water or a pH imbalance in your water may slowly start to deteriorate and corrode your pipes, increasing their likelihood of bursting. 

Whether an appliance overflows or a pipe bursts, your first course of action should be to turn off the water. All family members should know where the main water shut off valve and all other valves are located. 

Pro tip: It’s also a good idea to completely shut off the water if you are going on vacation or leaving your house vacant for an extended period.

Flood water damage

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) defines a flood as “overflow of inland or tidal waters, unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source, or mudflow.” Floods can happen anywhere, anytime, and are the most common and costly natural disaster in the U.S. Of all the flood claims, more than 20 percent are from properties not located in high-risk flood zones. Learn more about the National Flood Insurance Program and flood maps

Flood insurance is not included in a standard homeowners policy. Contact your independent agent if you are interested in purchasing flood insurance.

General tips for home water damage

Time is of the essence when you have home water damage to avoid future mold issues. The sooner you clean up the issue or hire a professional for water remediation, the more likely you’re able to prevent more destruction.

Here are a few things you can do to help get your home back into a dry, sanitized condition:

  • Always wet vacuum excess water. Be sure to dry out any carpet completely or discard damaged carpet. You may need to use a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air.
  • Disinfect and wash down all surfaces affected and seal any cracks.
  • Call a professional for extra help or to ensure the mess has been cleaned up properly.

Water damage can happen to any homeowner unexpectedly. It’s important to know when and how you’re covered. If you are unsure about your policy, reach out to your independent agent today.


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Coverages described herein may not be available in all states. Please contact a local independent Integrity agent for complete details on coverages and discounts. If the policy coverage descriptions herein conflict with the language in the policy, the language in the policy applies. For the coverage to apply, a claim must be made and reported during the policy period. Scenarios above are not actual claims. The material provided above is for informational, educational, or suggestion purposes and does not imply coverage. WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE TO QUOTE ANY INDIVIDUAL PREMIUM RATE FOR THE INSURANCE HEREIN ADVERTISED. Integrity Insurance policies are underwritten by Integrity Insurance Company, an affiliate of Grange Insurance Company, and Integrity’s subsidiaries. Integrity companies not licensed in Pennsylvania. Not all Integrity companies are licensed in all states.

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