Sewer backup defined
A sewer backup is a type of plumbing-related incident that occurs when wastewater or sewage flows back into your home from city or municipal sewer lines. Sewer backups can be caused by a variety of circumstances, including melting snow or heavy rainfall overburdening sewers. The result? Wastewater backing up into the pipes of surrounding homes, causing extensive water damage. Basement flooding is an especially common outcome of a sewer backup, which is why sewer backup insurance is ideal if you want to avoid basement flooding expenses. Beyond the water damage that sewer backups can cause to your home, they can also lead to the presence of dirt and bacteria in your home, which can have consequences for your physical health. If left unresolved, water damage can also lead to mould growth, which comes with many health hazards.
The most common causes of sewer backups
The causes of general household water damage are not the same as sewer backups. In most cases, sewer backup-related incidents are caused by factors completely out of your control, such as the weather or topography. A few of the most common causes of sewer backups are as follows:
Tree roots are one of the most common causes of sewer backups. What happens is that tree roots can infiltrate your home’s pipes, growing into them and creating holes and blockages. They can also wrap around the sewer line near your home and crush the pipes, leading to a sewer backup.
Sump pump breaking down
Significant amounts of water in a short period of time can cause a sump pump to malfunction. Poor maintenance can also be the culprit, which is why if you have a sump pump on your property, it is important to check it regularly and maintain it year-round. For help understanding sump pumps, contact BrokerLink.
Flash flooding, heavy rainfall, or even rapid snow or ice melt after a long winter can result in high amounts of water that lead to a sewer backup.
Just like gutters or pipes, sewer lines can become blocked. When this happens, the sewage has nowhere to go, which is why it can end up in your home.
Old sewer lines
As homes get older, the possibility of collapsed sewer lines becomes more common. For example, with age, cast iron or clay pipes can break down, which can lead to a sewer backup.
The consequences of a sewer backup
How worried should you be about a sewer backup? The reality is that sewer backups are about more than water damage. While water damage can be extensive, and repairing such damage can be costly, sewage can also spread illness and disease. These potential health risks are even more serious than any instance of property damage. To give you a better idea of the havoc that a sewer backup can wreak, we’ve consulted with professionals who claim that the following can be found in sewage: viruses, bacteria, pesticides, fungi, residuals from pharmaceutical drugs, and all kinds of potentially dangerous contaminants including gasoline, oil, household detergents and cleaning products, road salts, and more.
Signs that your home is at risk of a sewer backup
Telltale signs that your home is at risk of a sewer backup are below. If you notice any of these symptoms, we recommend calling a professional plumber as soon as possible:
- The toilet in your basement backing up
- Sewage backing up into your bathtub
- Sewage backing up into your basement drain
- Your toilet won’t flush following a period of heavy rainfall and plunging doesn’t resolve the issue
- You notice a strong or foul odour coming from the drains in your home
- Your toilet or sink “bubbling”
- Toilet clogs happening repeatedly
- Plumbing fixtures draining slowly (this could also be a sign of clogged pipes)
- The laundry machine isn’t draining or backs up into a nearby toilet or bathtub
Sewer backup coverage explained
Now that you know what a sewer backup is and how dangerous it can be, let’s dive into sewer backup insurance. Sewer backup insurance can help protect policyholders from the financial realities of a sewer backup. It is a type of coverage that can be added as a rider or endorsement to home insurance policies in Canada. The types of home insurance policies can be added to include standard homeowners insurance, tenant insurance, condo insurance, and more. In fact, whether you rent or own your home, or the type of home you live in doesn’t matter. Sewer backup coverage is still important. Note that home insurance claims relating to sewage are unlikely to be covered by standard home insurance policies featuring dwelling, personal property, or personal liability coverage. Therefore, if you want financial protection against sewer backups and the extensive damage they can cause, sewer backup insurance is necessary. However, by adding sewer backup coverage to your policy, your insurer will pay to repair the damage to your home (including your personal property) resulting from a sewer backup. You will just be responsible for paying the deductible.
Please note that as with any type of home insurance coverage, most sewer backup insurance plans have a coverage limit or certain conditions that must be met for the coverage to be valid. For example, some insurance companies might require a higher deductible on sewer backup coverage due to how expensive the damage usually is.
What does sewer backup insurance cover?
Sewer backup insurance typically covers unforeseen water that enters your home via the drains, pipes, gutters, downspouts, or septic tanks. The causes of this can be any of those mentioned above, from an obstruction in a sewer line to tree roots to heavy rainfall. More specifically, sewer backup insurance typically covers the following types of damage:
- Backup from a sewer, storm drain, or septic tank (learn more about septic tanks coverage by contacting BrokerLink).
- Incidental damage caused by sewer backups, which includes coverage for the cost of professional cleaning or replacing walls, flooring, furniture, and other belongings.
- Overflow from a sump pump or other similar equipment.
What is not covered by sewer backup insurance?
It is important for policyholders to understand that sewer backup insurance does not cover all types of water damage insurance claims. In fact, sewer backup insurance covering all types of water damage is one of many flood damage myths. This type of coverage will only protect you in the situations mentioned above. For other types of water damage, you will need to add additional flood insurance to your policy, such as overland water coverage. If water damage is a major concern for you, ask a BrokerLink insurance broker about the water-related home insurance packages that may be available to you.
The benefits of sewer backup coverage
Adding sewer backup coverage to your policy comes with many benefits. First, it is relatively inexpensive, which means it’s not a major financial investment and yet it can have major financial benefits in the long term. Second, sewer backup coverage will help you pay for the cost of repairing your home or replacing damaged items in your home following a sewer backup. Since water damage from sewer backups can be extensive, having the right coverage is crucial. Without it, you would be left to pay for the cost of repairs completely on your own. Next, sewer backup coverage may allow you to qualify for loss of use coverage, in the event that your home is uninhabitable due to the damage.
The cost of sewer backup coverage
The cost of sewer backup coverage ultimately varies between policyholders and insurance providers. Your insurance claims history, along with the limit and deductible you choose for your sewer backup insurance policy can all influence the cost. Where your home is located can also impact sewer backup insurance rates. If you live somewhere that is more prone to flooding or in an area with a higher frequency of home insurance claims, adding sewer backup insurance may be more expensive. That said, if you work with an insurance broker at BrokerLink, they can provide tips on how to keep insurance costs down. For example, a BrokerLink home insurance specialist can speak with you about the cost benefits of installing a sewer backup prevention device in your home, which can lower your premium. Get in touch with BrokerLink for a free sewer backup coverage quote today.
Do I need sewer backup coverage?
While sewer backup coverage is not mandatory in Canada, it can be worthwhile, especially in areas prone to storms or in low-lying regions of the country. Before adding sewer backup coverage to an existing homeowners insurance policy, consider the following:
- The population density in your neighbourhood relative to the size of your sewer line
- How frequently your neighbourhood experiences adverse weather
- How frequently sewer backups have been reported in your neighbourhood
- The age of your neighbourhood and if it has an older sewage system
- The number of trees and shrubs located on or near your property, since tree roots can cause sewer line blockages
- The topography of your neighbourhood, namely whether you live in a valley or other type of low-lying area
Tips to prevent a sewer backup in your home
Preventing flooding and sewer backup is one of the most important tasks as a homeowner. Thankfully, there are several ways of protecting your home from water damage, and BrokerLink has compiled a list of them to help you avoid this expensive reality. Keep reading to discover a list of sewer backup prevention tips:
Dispose of all grease in your home
How you dispose of grease matters. Greases, such as butter or cooking oil, should never be poured down the drain. Instead, it should be poured into a heat-resistant container, left to cool, and disposed of in its solid form. If you pour hot, liquid grease down the drain, it will solidify as it cools and can clog your drains.
Dispose of paper products safely
As with grease, there is a right way and a wrong way to dispose of paper products in your home. Common household paper products include paper towels, diapers, face wipes, and feminine hygiene products. Many people dispose of such items in the toilet, but such items take time to deteriorate. In the meantime, they can wreak havoc on your home’s plumbing system or even on the municipality’s sewer lines more generally.
Trim tree roots
If tree or shrub roots are frequently causing sewer backups in your neighbourhood, consider trimming your tree roots regularly or having a professional do it for you.
Install a sewer backup prevention valve
Installing a sewer backup prevention valve into a sewer or drain line in the basement of your home can work wonders when it comes to preventing sewer backups. A well installed sewer backup valve will allow sewage to flow out of your property but prevent it from coming back in. Make sure you hire a professional plumber to install this valve in your home.
Install a sump pump
If your home is in an area prone to flooding, such as in a valley or low-lying area, installing a sump pump might be an effective way of preventing a sewer backup. Sump pumps can remove water that accumulates at the bottom of your home, such as in a basement or crawl space. Depending on how frequently it is used and maintained, a sump pump can last between 10 and 15 years, making them a sound investment.
Regularly inspect sewer drains
Hiring a professional plumber to regularly inspect the sewer lines and drains in your home can help prevent a major issue like a sewer backup. A professional will inspect the drain with a camera and look for holes or obstructions, like tree roots. From there, you can take action as needed before the problem spirals out of control and gets worse, such as resulting in a sewer backup.
What to do if your home suffers a sewer backup
If your home experiences a sewer backup, it’s time to jump into action! The reality is that sewer backups can lead to serious water damage, both to the physical structure of your home and to your personal belongings. It can also lead to disease or the growth of mould if left untreated. Therefore, if you notice a sewer backup in your home, you should take action to treat it quickly. The following is a brief overview of what to do in the event of a sewer backup:
- Remove all spillage through wet vacuuming or another method
- Mop the floors and wipe the walls down with soap and cleaning supplies
- Flush out and disinfect any impacted plumbing fixtures
- Steam clean or remove and replace wet carpets or curtains
- Repair or remove any damaged wall boards or wall coverings
- Clean up any ductwork that may have been impacted
We also recommend taking photos of the damage for insurance purposes. Taking “before” and “after” photos will give an insurance adjuster a clear idea of the damage that occurred and the steps you had to take to remedy the situation. In addition, we recommend creating a home inventory in case a sewer backup happens again. This way, you can review your inventory and ensure you don’t miss any item that may have been affected.
Contact BrokerLink to speak with a licenced expert about sewer backup coverage
If you want more information on sewer backup coverage in Canada, get in touch with BrokerLink today. We have an entire team of licenced insurance professionals ready and eager to help you understand the world of sewer backup coverage. Any one of our expert insurance advisors would be pleased to explain the benefits of sewer backup insurance, including exactly what it covers and how you can add it to your current home insurance policy. A BrokerLink insurance broker can also offer tips on preventing spring flooding and give you advice on what to do if your home suffers from a sewer backup incident. To speak with a home insurance expert today, call, email, or visit a BrokerLink location in person. We have over 200+ branches across Canada!
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FAQs on sewer backup coverage
How much does sewer backup coverage cost?
The cost of sewer backup coverage varies widely based on size of property, proximity to water and more. Contact an insurance broker to learn more about how adding sewer backup coverage to your home insurance policy can impact your rates.
Do I need sewer backup coverage if I have a septic tank?
Yes, if you have a septic tank, adding sewer backup insurance is a smart decision. Even homes that are connected to municipal sewer lines are at risk of sewer backups.
Do I need sewer backup coverage if I rent my home?
Yes, even if you rent your home, sewer backup insurance is still important. Sewer backup coverage can be added to both homeowners insurance policies, as well as tenant or renters insurance policies. When you add sewer backup coverage to your tenant insurance policy, your personal belongings will be protected in the event that a sewer backup occurs and damages your personal items like clothing, furniture, electronics, etc.
Do I need sewer backup coverage if I live in a condo or apartment?
There is a common misconception that people who live in apartments or condos do not need sewer backup insurance. This is simply untrue. Sewer backups don’t only affect homes with basements. They can affect high-rise homes, especially if you live in a lower-level unit. Plus, even if your home is not located on or near the main floor of your condo building, you may park your car or have a storage locker in the basement or on the ground floor of the building, and these could be affected by a sewer backup.
Does all perils insurance include sewer backup coverage?
Sewer backups are not generally covered by all perils insurance
. However, all perils insurance is a type of home insurance coverage that can protect your home from other types of damage, such as property damage caused by fire, wind, theft, lightning, smoke, and more. For more information on how all perils insurance works and the benefits it offers policyholders, contact your local insurance broker.
What other types of flood insurance can be added to home insurance policies?
Overland water coverage is another type of flood insurance that can be added as a rider or endorsement to homeowners insurance policies. It is designed to protect policyholders from water damage caused by groundwater, as opposed to water damage caused by wastewater like sewer backup coverage. To give you a better idea of what overland water insurance covers, it can compensate policyholders for the cost of repairing your home or replacing items in your home that are damaged due to a nearby lake/river, overflow, heavy rain, or rapid snow melt.
If you have any questions, contact one of our local branches.
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