Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Sewer Line Replacement?

Fran Majidi
November 4, 2020

First, ask yourself if you need to replace your sewer line. Most people don’t think about it until something goes wrong. Catching the problem in its early stages is the best thing you can do. Do you hear gurgling or trickling noises from the toilet? Does water drain more slowly than usual? Do you have a sinkhole in your yard suddenly? Is your grass suddenly vibrantly green in patches?

Basically, if you smell sewage or notice tufts of grass that are always wet, you may have a problem with your sewer line. Chances are that it needs to be repaired, possibly replaced.

If your house was constructed before 1970, chances are that your sewer line is outdated and will need replacing at some point during your homeownership. Most pipes before 1970 were made of clay. Clay tile often cracks, allowing tree roots to take hold and clog the pipes. PVC and other plastic pipes, that are used in more modern homes, have a life expectancy of 100 years old.

Sewer lines can crack, collapse, break or simply rot. They need to eventually be replaced in all homes. It’s just a matter of time.If your pipes are old, it may not be a wise idea to patch up broken areas because eventually the pipes will be destroyed and the patch-up job can be even more expensive to fix.

How Do I Know My Sewer Line Is Broken?

These are top 12 signs that something is wrong with your sewer line:

1. Sewage Backups and Blockages

This is just what you’d expect: gross. If your toilet backs up regularly, even after having the pipes cleaned, you may have a tree root blockage, cracks in the pipes or a misaligned pipe connection

2. Sewer Gas Odor

The smell of raw sewage is unmistakable. A sanitary sewer is airtight. You should never be able to smell sewer odor unless there is an opening in your sewer line.

3. Mold Problem

Mold may be signs of a break in the sewer line, causing moisture and sewage to settle behind the walls. If you smell any odor and you see mold, you need to get your pipes fixed, probably replaced.

4. Slow Drain

If your toilet, sink or bath has a slow drain even after attempts to clear the line, you may have to repair or replace your sewer line. Chemicals that are used to solve issues with slow drains can actually damage the pipes.

5. Very Green Patches in the Grass

To put it very bluntly, raw sewage is like manure, so if your grass is especially lush in patches, it may be due to a sewer break underground.

6. Indentation in Lawn

An indentation in your lawn or under pavers could be the result of a broken sewer main line. It’ll cause the lawn to develop a dip.

7. Foundation Cracks and Sinkholes

You will notice cracks in your foundation slab and even sinkholes if the main line running under your foundation has a crack or may be broken.

8. Septic Waste in Yard

You’ll need to take care of this immediately.

9. Rodent Problems

Rodents live in sewers so if there is a break or crack big enough, rats and mice may find their way into your home. If you have a persistent pest problem that doesn’t get fixed, check your sewer system.

10. Insect Infestation

Cockroaches and sewer flies will also enter your home through a broken or cracked sewer.

11. The Sound of Trickling Water

No, you’re not imagining it. Tell a plumber.

12. Damaged Floors

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How Can I Check My Sewer Pipes to See if They Are Okay?

Different sewer specialists have different ways to do this. There are hydrostatic pressure tests that can be done by inserting a ball into the sewer line. The test checks water flow and detects leaks. There is also a test in which a camera runs through a sewer line to see if there are problems. Whatever you do, don’t try to repair or replace a sewer pipe on your own. You can destroy your home and cause problems to nearby homes as well.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover the Cost of Removing Tree Roots from a Sewer Line?

Tree roots are the number one cause of sewer line damage and replacement. Because the sewer line is always moist, a tree root can easily take hold of a cracked or broken sewer line. There are tree root repellents on the market, but these will not permanently fix the problem. They may also kill the tree.

Rarely will homeowner’s insurance cover sewer line repair or replacement. The carrier may cover the damage if it was caused by a third party, like a tenant or contractor, not from regular wear-and-tear. As mentioned earlier, the type of sewer lines you have specific lifespans, so check to see when you need to replace them before they leak, crack or break entirely, which will cost much more.

If “an act of God” damages your sewer line, it may be covered. As broad as that sounds, a typical covered claim would include damage after a storm, for a example a tree got knocked over and broke the sewer line. If “an act of another person” damages the sewer line, it may be covered, but only if it’s a tenant or a contractor or some other third party, who caused the damage.

If an earthquake or flood caused damage, you would likely be covered with an earthquake policy or flood policy, which are both sold separately. Flood and earthquake are never covered with a standard homeowners insurance policy.

Damage to a sewer line may not be covered in the instance of a fire, either. Even though fire is a covered peril in a home insurance policy, your sewer line is not considered a part of the main structure, or dwelling. It is considered an “other structure.” The guideline of coverage is usually damage that is outside your control.

Is Sewage Backup Covered by Homeowners Insurance?

Sewage backup is never covered by homeowners insurance, but some carriers offer a sewage backup endorsement and a few offer a service line protection endorsement. Get a homeowners insurance quote and ask if the carrier that best matches your needs offers this type of endorsement.

Tips on How to Maintain Your Sewer Line

  1. Know where your sewer line is located.
  2. Don’t plant trees and shrubbery near your sewer line.
  3. Don’t park any vehicles over the sewer line and don’t store anything heavy over the sewer line; the weight may damage the pipes below.
  4. Avoid flushing anything other than human waste and toilet paper.
  5. Avoid pouring grease down a drain.
  6. Consider replacing metal pipes with plastic.
  7. Check your plumbing by a professional annually.

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