Water Backup Coverage and How to Fortify Your Home

What you can do to prevent basement water damage

It can happen in a matter of minutes. There’s a torrential downpour during a storm and your power goes out. That means the power to your sump pump, too. Your previously dry basement or lower level turns into a watery mess, potentially causing expensive basement water damage. Or, even worse, the city sewer system is overwhelmed and backs up into your home through the drain! Here’s information on water backup coverage and tips for what you need to do to prepare.

First things first — fortify your home, protect your family

Before the raindrops even start to fall, there are a few things you can do to help protect yourself from basement water damage. Here are some tips on how to fortify your home and how to avoid the effects of contaminated water.

Waterproof storage. Basements serve multiple purposes. One of which is being a great place to store infrequently used items. It is common to store any number of things like treasured family hand-me-downs, photo albums, holiday decorations and off-season clothing. To protect these items, buy waterproof storage bins to keep them safe from potential water damage.

Elevate appliances. If your basement has expensive appliances like washers, dryers and water heaters, keep them elevated. Make sure the furnace, water heater, washer and dryer are at least 12 inches above the projected flood elevation. Masonry work or pressure-treated lumber is strong enough to elevate these items. Otherwise, consider moving them upstairs.

Have a reliable sump pump. A sump pump is a device installed in a basement that is designed to automatically move water away from the foundation of your house. If your sump pump suffers a mechanical breakdown, you might not even know it until it’s too late. Have yours evaluated by a trained professional, and upgrade if necessary. When purchasing a sump pump, you should review the maximum pumping power, which is typically measured in gallons per minute. Check out our How a Sump Pump Works infographic for more information.

Have “Plan B” for your power supply. Strong storms often cause power outages. You may have a sump pump, but if it runs on electricity, it won’t help if there’s no power available. Consider adding a battery-operated or water-pressure back-up pump — or invest in a simple generator to keep the sump pump running when you’re left in the dark.

Install backflow valves. In particularly severe storms, the municipal sewer systems may become overwhelmed and back up through your main sewer line. In this case, backflow valves would be especially useful. Check that flap valves automatically allow water and sewage to flow out, but not in. Another option is gate valves, which are a stronger — but manually operated and more expensive to install.

For more information on how to fortify your home, check out FEMA’s Protect Your Property from Flooding.

Avoid contaminated water

If your basement is flooded as a result of a water backup, it can be dangerous to enter the area, as the water is potentially carrying fecal material and waterborne diseases. The effects of contaminated water range from minimal sickness to severe illness or even death.  If your basement floods with contaminated water, here are some tips:

  • Do not go into your basement if the water has reached electrical outlets — there may be a risk of electrocution. Call an expert.
  • Keep small children away from contaminated areas.
  • Avoid skin contact with the contaminated water. Call your doctor if you believe it came in contact with an open sore or cut.
  • Do not consume anything that may have been contaminated or that was near the contaminated area.
  • Wash your hands regularly.

Understand your water backup coverage — or possible lack of it

Know your policy. Most people are surprised to learn that a standard home policy does not provide water damage insurance in the event of a sump pump overflowing or water backing up from a sewer system. In order for these losses to be covered, you need to purchase separate coverage, called a Water Backup and Sump Overflow endorsement.

Choices vary by state, so contact us to discuss the options in your area.

When choosing your coverage, consider all of the items in your basement — from appliances, electronics and furniture to the flooring and carpeting beneath them. What would it cost you to replace everything because of water damage? Include clean-up expenses in the total as well.

Remember, water backup coverage is different than flood insurance. You’ll need a separate Flood Policy to help protect your home from flood damage. Again, if you need more information about water damage insurance, give us a call. We’re here to help.

In the event disaster strikes

Give us a call. Touch base with us as soon as you can, and have your policy number ready. We can initiate a claim, explain your available coverage and provide recommendations and solutions for cleaning up and drying out your home.

Take pictures. The very best thing to do in the event of water damage is to document it. Photographic evidence of the valuables in your basement helps us to better help you in the event of a loss. If possible, provide both before and after photos in order to give adjusters a basis for comparison, a more thorough understanding of the scale of the damage, and thus, a better sense of how to best help you.

Save receipts. If you are not able to stay in your home due to the severe nature of the damage, you may file a claim for additional living expenses. These are expenses beyond what you would normally incur — including charges to stay at a reasonably priced hotel, 50 percent of the costs of meals and even pet boarding fees. Save all receipts for the purposes of reimbursement at a later date.

Basement water damage might be common, but it’s never convenient. Plan ahead today to help protect your home tomorrow with these tips and water backup coverage.