Learn from my experience why homeowners insurance is complicated, and put these preventive tips to good use.
Our first house was more than 100 years old, so water seepage was a fact of life. Home foundations weren’t sealed airtight until recent years, and in our case the basement was constructed with limestone, which can seep when the ground outside becomes saturated with water.
Before we did some seal-coating on the basement walls and preventive landscaping outside, it seems the basement was always damp, especially during rainy spring months. (We learned from that house, and preventive maintenance at our current home has meant a dry basement for 12 years.)
Years ago before I was joined the insurance business, I experienced two types of water damage at my first home within weeks of each other. I learned the hard way that insurance coverage relating to water damage all depends on how the water gets in the house.
We had an obsolete fuel tank removed from our back yard, and unfortunately, we didn’t backfill properly afterward. Following the next heavy rainstorm, we ended up with a big mess of water indoors. No sooner had we repaired the damage than a hose burst on our washing machine, and the brand new carpet had to be replaced again!
The backfill problem was not covered by homeowners insurance, but the burst hose was since the water leak originated inside the house. Water is a very common cause of insurance claims, some of which are covered and some are not. Any water seepage from outside your home is typically not included in your homeowners policy – unless you have added a flood insurance policy.
Just think for a moment about all the water sources in your home. I already mentioned the burst laundry hose. But consider your toilets. Do you have one that wobbles? It could mean a worn-out seal that could lead to leaks and damage. Outdoor faucets can leak if they are not protected against freezing. (Indoor water pipes freeze during harsh Wisconsin winters too.) Your refrigerator or dishwasher water supply line can cause a big mess before you discover it. Your roof, the hot water tank, you name it. If there’s water, there’s potential for a claim.
Tips to Avoid Water Damage
Many water-related claims are preventable. Here are some home maintenance tips that can help you avoid a claim in the first place:
- Stand in your yard after a spring rainstorm and watch where water collects. Then, find out how to direct that water away from your house with some strategic landscaping that slopes away from your house.
- Keep your down spouts clean and make sure they run away from the house.
- Rubber hoses attached to your washing machine can kink and crack. Replace them about every five years or install stainless steel hoses that last even longer. Also, inspect water lines to ice-making refrigerators and dishwashers since plastic ones become brittle and leak easily.
- Check around toilets for water stains, which can signal the toilet seal is loose or not installed properly. You may need an expert to do the repair, depending on your fix-it skills.
- If the caulk or grout in your shower or tub is cracked, water may leak. This won’t be covered by homeowners insurance since it is a maintenance issue. Fix it sooner than later.
- Water heaters only last so long before they rust and need to be replaced. Inspect the floor around yours for water stains, and consider replacing your water heater about every 10 years.
- Disconnect outdoor hoses before winter so water can drain rather than freeze, expand and crack your pipes.
With the Kinnickinnic River running through River Falls, we have many customers who have to worry about much more than a burst laundry hose. Not counting this past mild winter, spring often means rain, frozen ground, melting snow and rising river levels. Your mortgage bank may mandate that you have flood insurance, or common sense may help you decide. It can be confusing with the newer federal regulations about just what constitutes a flood zone.
Standard homeowners insurance does not cover water surges and flooding. We can help you sort out what you may need in terms of flood protection, and help you navigate the government-run flood insurance program. Needless to say, we at the Reis Insurance Agency will be with you every step of the way.