Insurance for water that enters through your basement walls or floors

Water damage insurance is by no means standard. Whereas damage from a burst pipe or broken toilet is covered under most standard home insurance policies, you probably need a special endorsement to be covered for water that enters your house through the walls or floors of your basement. In insurance, this is called ground water coverage.

Ground water damage can be covered in one of two ways:

  • It can be included as part of a water damage endorsement along with sewer backup and overland flooding insurance, or
  • It can be purchased on its own.

Note that many insurance companies do not offer this coverage at all. If you’re not sure that you have ground water coverage, make sure to ask.

What does ground water insurance cover?

Ground water insurance covers damage caused when water gets into your home through cracks or pores in the concrete of the home’s foundation. This most often happens:

  • During the spring thaw, or
  • During periods of heavy rain, when the ground becomes saturated

Current building codes require your basement to be waterproofed when the home is built, but waterproofing measures are seldom perfect, and cracks can develop in the concrete over time.

If you can see water stains coming down your basement walls, that usually means the problem is groundwater.

Like any insurance coverage, ground water coverage only applies if the damage was sudden and not easily predictable.

  • If one day you notice water stains on your concrete walls, but don’t take action to fix the problem, and over a period of days, weeks or months, water builds up and causes damage to your stuff, that’s not covered, because the damage was gradual.
  • If you have a ground water claim, it is your responsibility to get your foundation fixed. If you have multiple claims of the same kind, you could find it difficult to find insurance.

Your ground water coverage will pay to fix any damage caused by the water, but won’t pay to fix the foundation, which is considered maintenance, and is the homeowner’s responsibility.

Tip: Service line coverage may be worth a look

Some water claims can be the result of tree roots damaging the section of pipe or drain between your house and the curb. Ground water insurance will cover damage to your home if this water gets in, but it won’t pay to fix the pipe or drain. The city is responsible for the pipes that run under the road, but not those under your property. For under $100 a year, most insurers will add service line coverage that protects plumbing, electrical and other buried wires that connect your home to city infrastructure.

Is my home at risk?

The fact is that any home can be at risk for damage from ground water getting into the basement. The level of risk depends on a number of factors:

  • Is your home in a low-lying area? If so, these are the areas where the soil is most likely to become saturated during the spring thaw or periods of heavy rain.
  • Is your property graded properly? Building codes require lots to be graded such that the ground slopes away from the home, helping to drain water away. If the grading is wrong, you are at risk.
  • Do you clean your eavestroughs and downspouts regularly? Eavestroughs are designed to divert rain water away from your home. If they are clogged, you are at greater risk.
  • Are there visible cracks in your foundation? Moisture can get in regardless, but a crack that hasn’t been properly sealed can allow more water in more quickly.
  • Do you have a finished basement? This doesn’t increase the chances of water getting in, but it does increase the likelihood that water will lead to damage, and a claim.

How to prevent ground water damage

To keep your risk to a minimum, there are a few common sense steps you can take.

  • Ensure your property is properly graded to drain water away from your home
  • Keep your eavestroughs and downspouts clear
  • If there are visible cracks in your basement walls or if you see moisture on the walls or floors, contact a contractor to ensure your basement is properly sealed.

Know your options

Water coverage for your home is not a simple thing. There are a number of different coverages, and they are bundled in different ways by different insurance companies. A licensed insurance broker can help you assess your risk for different types of water claims and come up with the right combination of coverage and pricing to meet your unique needs. Give us a call today.