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CW Rea Insurance Agency Blog

All You Ever Wanted to Know About Insurance

Sewer Backup and Flood: What’s the Difference?

Flooding, outside of being terrifying, uncontrollable, and devastating can be costly to repair. One instrument to fund repair, restoration, and rebuilding is an insurance policy, but it’s important to know what policies you need. 

Understanding insurance coverage can seem daunting, and by now you've heard that flood is not included on a homeowners policy. Before we define two different types of water damage -- flood and water/sewer backup -- here's a quick rule of thumb about weather-related water damage:

If the damage is caused by

  • Water coming from the sky (rain through a hole in the roof), this is the homeowners policy. 
  • Water or sewage coming up from below through a backed-up pipe or drain, it can go either way: it's an add-on to the homeowners policy which will respond unless the backup is caused directly or indirectly by a flood -- then the only coverage would be with a flood policy.
  • Water coming in from ground level (runoff, flash flooding, a river), it's probably the flood policy and not homeowners.

Flood – this how the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) defines flood:

“A general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of 2 or more acres of normally dry land area or of 2 or more properties (at least 1 of which is the policyholder's property) from:

  1. Overflow of inland or tidal waters; or
  2. Unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source; or
  3. Mudslides (i.e., mudflows) which are proximately caused by flooding and are akin to a river of liquid and flowing mud on the surfaces of normally dry land areas, […]
  4. Collapse or subsidence of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water as a result of erosion or undermining caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels that result in a flood as defined above.”

Here in Eastern Missouri we usually see 1 or 2: a river escapes, or rain causes flash flooding. In these cases, water comes into the home from the surface, or enters the basement through the foundation or from below (not through the sewer line). Get a flood quote.

Water/Sewer Backup – if water flows backwards through a sewer line or drain system and enters the house, this is water/sewer backup. Sump pump failure can be included in this category.

So, where’s it covered?

  • Flood is covered by flood insurance, a separate policy.
  • Sewer Backup can be part of a homeowners policy if it's added, but sewer backup caused by flood would likely be covered by a flood policy only.

We strongly recommend adding water or sewer backup to your homeowners policy if you haven’t already. Drain and sewer backups aren't always caused by a flood, and a flood policy won't cover backup unless it's caused by flood. Talk to your agent.

You can buy a flood insurance policy for the building only or the building and the contents, and a flood policy could cover water backup caused by flood. Talk to us about flood insurance. 

More about flood insurance.

(AS ALWAYS, refer to your own policy for a complete description of coverage and limits. Everything mentioned here is a general overview of  typical insurance policies only, and is not a guarantee of coverage.)