Floods are the most common natural disaster apart from wildfires. When Presidents declare natural disasters 90% are related to flood damage of some sort.
Flooding can affect cars, items stored in garages like lawn mowers and bicycles; however, the worst flood damage imaginable is the type that enters the home dwelling itself. Each year thousands of homes experience flood damage resulting from tropical storms, hurricanes, overflowing rivers and rapidly thawing ice and snow.
Sometimes the threats from flood damage are predictable as when a hurricane approaches a shoreline. This allows residents to invest some time in placing sand bags, boarding up windows and buttressing known vulnerable areas of their property in hopes of limiting damages.
Other times water damage is sudden and unpredictable as when an Iowa dam broke terrifying thousands and placing lives at risk. Such rare instances of flooding can produce walls of water 10 to 20 feet high. Cars can be violently taken away by water in as little as two feet adding to the risk to human injury and death.
Home destruction from flooding
If a 2,000 sq. ft. home is inundated with as little as 6” of water the damages can be in excess of $50,000. Because the average US household has less than $9,000.00 saved for emergencies and some have no savings, such flood damage can risk financial ruin. Add a finished basement to the potential damages and expenses for repairs could well be over $100,000.00.
Are homes insured for flood damage?
You may be horrified to know, but there is no homeowners insurance that covers flood damage that results from community flooding or when water gets into the home from an outside source. This includes water that penetrates cracks in the foundation, enter in through rod holes or that comes in from storms and rising streams. This type of flood damage will require a secondary source through a government source such as FEMA (The Federal Emergency Management Agency.)
Even homes that experience water coming up through a drain or water overflowing a sump drain will rarely find coverage under a typical home dwelling policy. These types of flood damage will require a special addendum to your existing homeowner’s policy, adding to your yearly premium slightly. It is highly recommended to contact your insurance provider and determine if you are covered for a drain backup or sump pump failure resulting in a flood. If you do have flood damage insurance that covers sewer and drain backups, it is limited coverage so be sure to get at least $10,000.00 in additional coverage if your basement is finished.
The importance of having a conversation with your insurance provider cannot be overstated. Their homeowner’s policies have difficult to understand differences and distinctions so nuanced as to require clarification. Flood restoration companies see firsthand the confusion surrounding home flooding each day when they are called out to clean up after a sewer backup. Most property owners are fully convinced the cleanup cost for repairs is covered under their policy, but unfortunately many are not. Finding out you are responsible for a 5–10 thousand dollar cleanup is enough to send even a saint into a bout of depression, so make the call and get clarification today.
Flood Damage vs Sewer backup and sump pump water backup
Assuming you have taken the advice above and have the necessary coverage, you will sleep more soundly. Purchasing the “backup of sewer or drain” policy will be one of the best decisions you will ever make if your basement ever floods. When you’re valued property has flood damage from a sewer backup or if your sump pump fails and water fills your basement, you want to know you are covered. As mentioned earlier the coverages vary between 5,000.00 and 25,000.00 with most people wishing they had upped the coverage a bit on the day they actually have a flood.
The coverage for “backup of sewer or drain” is specific to drain related flooding only and does not include flood damage from an outside source like hurricanes and tropical storms. Any flooding that takes place from subsurface water like a leaking in-ground swimming pool or a broken sprinkler line is precluded as well.
Again these types of floods that come from without the property are distinct in nature and produce dramatically more flood damage than a drain backup. When water violently inundates a home when communities flood often the entire first level of the home will need to be replaced. These flood damage scenarios need an insurance policy homeowner policies do not cover. Government agencies should be contacted for such flooding and properly crafted questions asked to allow you to sleep soundly.
Water damage vs storm damage
Flooding is a common occurrence after a heavy rainfall if the water cannot drain properly as it will come up from a drain. This type of flooding will require an additional rider for coverage and again it is limited, based upon the amount you chose. However, some types of flooding will be covered under a traditional homeowners dwelling policy. If strong winds damaged your roof and rain water deluges in as a result flooding your home, your homeowner’s policy should cover the claim. The incident however must be related to recent roof damages that allowed the flood damage to occur. If this has been a long term problem and you file a claim it very well may be denied. The way insurance companies look at it is if you are responsible you will not wait. Contacting them months after the damage will assure you will be stuck with the repairs bill.
Water damage vs mold damage
Flood damage is materials destruction related to the presence of water, mold damage is the manifesting of living organisms on such destroyed materials. Water damage happens almost immediately upon the presence of water in materials where mold occurs only when long term moisture is present and amplifying mold results.
Water damage is covered when it is first discovered and only materials are damaged. If however, it is discovered after a long term moisture issue that creates mold, coverage will most likely be denied.
Sometimes when a basement floods from a drain backup it is not discovered for several days. In as little as 3-4 days mold can begin to develop on cellulose materials such as dry wall and wood. If it can be determined to be directly related the recent basement flooding there can be some limited mold coverage in your policy. If the mold however is everywhere and pervasive the determination from your insured is that it has been there for a long time and will be denied for coverage. Anytime it is determined there may have been mold prior to your flooding, your flood policy will not pay for the cleanup.
The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) expects policyholders to take responsible measures to assure their property does not stay wet long allowing mold growth after a flood. If it is discovered that mold is a result of negligence of the homeowner, the claim will be quickly denied. The reasonable actions that insurance agencies want to see include: water removal, the application of germ and microbe killing agents and drying equipment being placed to remove moisture and assure drying may result from the actions of the property owner.
Water damage vs content damage
Just because your insurance policy may cover flood damage to your home it does not necessarily mean your contents that are damaged by water are. Some “backup of sewer or drain” policies you purchase are limited to the dwelling alone and will not cover the flood damage to appliances or personnel contents. Although one would hope to have coverage for all, if your only covered for the cleaning, disinfecting and repairs, that will save a lot of out of pocket expence.
The water damage that results from a broken water pipe, appliance malfunction, refrigerator water line or sink overflow is defined as a type of flood damage where appliances and personnel contents would be covered. As with any homeowners insurance policy, it is good to have a detailed conversation with your insurance provider to make sure you are covered.