Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Sewer Line Replacement?

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First, ask yourself if you need a sewer line replacement. Is sewer line replacement covered by your home insurance policy? Most people don't know the answer 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?

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If your house was constructed before 1970, chances are that your sewer line is outdated and will need replacing at some point during your homeownership.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. Many people neglect sewer maintenance, in favor of other home repairs, until a serious problem occurs.

Eventually, all sewer lines will eventually need to be replaced due to normal wear and tear. 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 your pipes may burst. The patch-up job may leave you with costly repairs and a sewer line replacement job in the future.

How Do I Know if I Have a Broken Sewer Line and Need a Sewer Line Replacement?

Are your sewer pipes backing up on a regular basis, causing your toilet, shower or kitchen sinks to flood? These are the 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

A sanitary sewer is airtight everywhere, with the exception of the vent stacks. The smell of raw sewage is unmistakable, so if you can smell this gas, it is a sure sign that something is wrong. You should never be able to smell sewer odor from your drains when your plumbing is in good working order. If sewer gas is making its way into your home, you may have an opening in your sewer line.

3. Mold Problem

Mold is another sign that you may have sewer line issues. A sewer line break causes moisture and sewage to settle behind the walls. If you smell a foul odor and you see mold, you need to get your pipes fixed, probably replaced.

4. Slow Drain

If a clog or backup is isolated in one part of your home, it is not necessarily a sign of a sewer line problem. If you have more than one drain clogging up and spilling sewage onto your floors, you could have a serious issue.

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. It provides nutrients and other ingredients that plants enjoy. So, if your grass has out-of-place lush 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 mainline. It'll cause the lawn to develop a dip.

7. Foundation Cracks and Sinkholes

Buildings usually develop cracks as they settle into the ground beneath them. If you have a sewage line problem, you'll notice new cracks forming in your home's foundation slab at an accelerated pace.

The liquid from a broken sewer line can wash away the soil beneath your home that supports the foundation. Sinkholes are another sign that you may have a problem with your sewage line. For instance, a sinkhole may develop on your lawn, if the mainline running under your foundation has a crack.

8. Septic Waste in Yard

When septic waste pools in your lawn, it is a significant sign that you'll need to fix your sewer line immediately. It can be a clogged drain field, cracked mainline, or broken septic tank. The location of the problem usually occurs below the pooled water.

9. Rodent Problems

Rodents live in sewers. They can travel through the mainline and enter the pipes running into your walls. An average rat can crawl through a hole that's 3/4 inch to enter your home. 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, palmetto bugs and sewer flies will 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

Find homeowners insurance that helps cover your sewer line.

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

Different sewer specialists use different tests to check your sewer lines. The first method uses hydrostatic pressure tests, where the plumber inserts a ball into the sewer line to gauge how well your sewer line works.

A second 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.

Sewer line repair and replacement are rarely covered by homeowners insurance policy. 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, your homeowners' insurance covers the replacement costs. As broad as that sounds, an insurance company would typically cover a claim after storm damage.

For 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 earthquake policies or flood insurance policies, which are both sold separately. Floods and earthquakes are never covered with a standard homeowners insurance policy.

Damages caused 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.

For more information about this coverage, contact your local agent, who can answer your questions.

Is Sewage Backup Covered by Homeowners Insurance?

A 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 your insurer about insurance coverage that best matches your needs offers this type of endorsement.

Tips on How to Maintain Your Sewer Line

  • Know where your sewer lines are located.

  • Don't plant trees and shrubbery near your sewer line.

  • 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.

  • Avoid flushing anything other than human waste and toilet paper.

  • Avoid pouring grease down a drain.

  • Consider replacing metal pipes with plastic.

  • Check your plumbing by a professional annually

Do you need endorsements added to your homeowners insurance coverage for sewer line replacement? You can get a free quote by using an online insurance comparison tool like Smart Financial. We'll provide you with quotes from local insurance companies within your area. You can select the insurer that matches your needs and your budget. Just enter your zip code below.

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