Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Damage?

A woman kneeling cleaning a wet floor with a yellow sponge and red bucket

Whether it's from a leaky roof or a burst pipe, water damage can be devastating — not to mention expensive. Homeowners insurance covers certain types of water damage, including sudden and accidental, as well as internal water damage; but does not cover damage caused by lack of maintenance, neglect or flooding.

Water damage is one of the more frequent claims made by homeowners, with one in 50 insured homes making claims with their insurer for water damage or freezing, according to the Insurance Information Institute. The exact amount of coverage you'll have depends on your policy and any additional endorsements. It's important to figure out what types of damage your insurance policy does and doesn’t cover, as well as the other coverage options you may need to keep your home, loved ones and belongings safe.

We've outlined what every homeowner needs to know about homeowners insurance and water damage, including when home insurance covers water damage, when it doesn’t and additional endorsements you may want to look into.

Key takeaways:

  • Homeowners insurance covers some types of water damage, including sudden internal damage.
  • However, a standard homeowners insurance policy will not cover all water damage, including that caused by flooding and lack of maintenance or service.

What water damage does home insurance cover?

Most standard homeowners insurance policies cover water damage that is internal, sudden and accidental, as long as the water has not touched the outside ground or come in from outside the home. Typically, insurance policies require water damage to be the direct result of one of the perils covered by homeowner's insurance, including sudden and accidental cracking, burning, tearing or bulging of an automatic fire protection system, heating or AC unit.

Homeowners insurance will often cover water damage when caused by the following:

  • Accidental overflow of a fixture or appliance (such as a bathtub, sink or toilet)
  • Leaking roof (when a covered peril causes the leak)
  • Mold (when resulting from covered water damage)
  • Plumbing (such as a burst pipe, frozen or faulty plumbing or an accidental overflow)
  • Snow or rain storm
  • Vandalism
  • Water damage caused by extinguishing a fire

Standard homeowners insurance policies require water damage to be internal, sudden and accidental, with the stipulation that the water has not touched the outside ground.

What water damage does home insurance not cover?

While your homeowners policy will cover water damage under one of the perils noted above, there are other instances of water damage that are not covered under standard policies, including:

  • Flooding
  • Neglect or unsolved maintenance issues
  • Sewage
  • Water backup

In the event your insurer does pay for damage caused to your home by one of these conditions, they typically will not pay to repair the item that caused the damage. This means that if a neglected pipe bursts, your insurer may pay to fix the damage caused by the pipe, but will not cover the cost of replacing the pipe itself.

Additional water damage considerations

Read on for more answers to common questions homeowners have regarding what water damage their policy covers.

Does homeowners insurance cover water damage from rain?

Standard homeowners insurance policies will cover water damage from rain when it is the direct result of "wind-driven rain." This means that if wind from a storm damages your roof, causing water to flood a floor of your home, insurance covers that water damage.

However, homeowners insurance will not cover water damage caused by a rain-driven flood. So, if a flash flood damages your home during that same storm, you would need a separate flood insurance policy to cover that damage.

Does homeowners insurance cover water damage from a leaking roof?

Homeowners insurance covers water damage from a leaking roof when a covered peril — such as a sudden storm, faulty installation or accidental cracking — caused the leak. This means that if your shingles weren't installed correctly or broke off accidentally, any water damage caused by a leaking roof would be covered. It's worth noting that many homeowners insurance policies will cover the water damage to the interior of the house, not the roof itself.

Your policy will not cover water damage from a leaking roof when a lack of maintenance or neglect to the roof caused the damage. This means that if you put off getting your roof reshingled for two years and that caused the water damage, it won’t be covered.

Does home insurance cover damage caused by water backup?

Water backup, or water that backs up in drains or sewers that overflows through a sump pump in your home, is an area of water damage that many homeowners don't think about until it's too late. While water backup is not covered under a standard homeowners insurance policy, water backup coverage has become an increasingly popular endorsement homeowners can choose to add onto their policy.

You can add a water backup endorsement onto your homeowners insurance policy up to a specific limit, and we encourage homeowners to look into this additional coverage — if your ground-floor floods due to a sudden water backup, you'll want to be covered!

Does home insurance cover mold caused by water damage?

Most home insurance policies cover mold on a case-by-case basis, Typically, only mold that’s caused by a covered peril — such as water damage due to a malfunctioning appliance, which then leads to mold — is covered.

Do home warranties cover water damage?

Home warranties and homeowners insurance go hand-in-hand to protect both the structure of your home and the appliances you use to keep your home running smoothly. Home warranties are issued on some of your everyday appliances in case they malfunction or break, like your fridge, shower and dishwasher. Some of these appliances can also cause water damage if they malfunction or break, so it's important to know what damage a home warranty covers versus what's covered by your homeowners policy.

If your dishwasher malfunctions and causes your kitchen to flood, a home warranty will cover the cost of fixing or replacing the appliance and stopping the leak. However, the water damage to your home is considered "secondary damage," which is not covered by a home warranty but is likely to be covered by your homeowners policy. As long as improper installation or an accident caused the damage, your policy will cover the water damage inflicted.

Key takeaways:

  • Homeowners insurance and home warranties work in tandem to protect the structure of your home and the belongings inside of it.
  • If an appliance breaks, a home warranty will cover the cost of fixing or replacing the appliance, but any water damage to your home is considered "secondary damage" and won't be covered.
  • "Secondary damage" will be covered by your homeowners insurance policy, as long as the water damage was caused by the appliance malfunctioning or breaking.

How do I file a claim for water damage?

If a severe storm sweeps through or a sink overflows, don't fret. Filing a claim for water damage is very similar to filing other insurance claims.

  1. First, call your insurer as soon as possible. Many companies have a deadline or window after something is damaged to file a claim. Call your insurer's claims number, which you can find on your policy, to have your water damage claim recorded on file.

  2. After you've filed a claim, take inventory and make a carefully detailed list of any damaged property. If possible, record or photograph any of the damage. Though it may be tempting, don't throw anything away until the insurance adjuster has seen the extent of the damage.

  3. Make only temporary repairs if needed before your insurance adjuster comes. For example, put cardboard over a broken window or a bucket below a leaking roof. Be sure not to make any permanent repairs until after your insurer has had a chance to review the damage.

  4. Be present and prepared during your insurance adjuster's tour of the damage. Have your itemized list of damages handy, as well as any receipts for items needing to be replaced or bought for temporary repairs.

  5. After damage is repaired, have an inspector certify the damage is fixed. Especially if a broken or faulty appliance was at fault for the water damage, get ahead of any more possible damage and ensure your repair has been done accurately.

How much do insurance companies pay for water damage?

After you've filed your water damage claim and your insurance adjuster assesses the damage, you may be wondering: how much can I expect my insurance company to pay? The amount your company will pay you depends on your claim and deductible cost. If your repair costs $2,000 and you have a $200 deductible, your company will subtract your deductible amount from your claim, in this case paying you $1,800.

The average claim for water damage is approximately $7,000. Many homeowners will make larger or smaller claims, with their insurers paying differing amounts. Like many other aspects of insurance, the exact amount your company will pay is reliant on a variety of factors. With water damage in particular, what your insurer will pay is based on deductible limits, the coverage available on your policy, the amount of damage caused, the age of your home and the cause of the damage.

With water damage in particular, what your insurer will pay is based on deductible limits, the coverage available on your policy, the amount of damage caused, the age of your home and the cause of the damage.

Preventing water damage

To keep your home and belongings protected outside of insurance, try to prevent water damage where possible. This includes easy things to do, like ensuring faucets are off before leaving the house and cleaning out the gutters every autumn.

Preventing water damage also means adding some important big-picture items to check off your home service to-do list, such as:

  • Adding gutter guards to roofing
  • Caulking and sealing windows and doors
  • Inspect irrigation — or sprinkler — systems to prevent groundwater leakage
  • General upkeep with your appliances, including washer/dryers, sinks, toilets and showers
  • Regular pipe, plumbing and water heater service

When it comes to getting insured, it's best to do it before you need it. Protect your home and belongings in case of a flood, major storm or worse by reviewing and updating your coverage options. While exact coverage may differ based on the damage, your home will thank you for protecting it with smart homeowners insurance decisions.