6 tips to keep your home’s basement protected from water damage this spring

(BPT) – Springtime’s melting snow or heavy rain can cause sump pump problems and sewer backups for homes with basements or crawl spaces. Damage from either can be costly, because sewer backup and sump overflow are excluded from standard homeowners insurance policies. Fortunately, most home insurers do make this coverage available by endorsement.

“Independent insurance agents sell this coverage to about 85% of all homes written with Acuity,” said Bob Hertel, director of personal lines product development at Acuity Insurance. “Many homes written with other insurers do not include an endorsement to cover losses caused by sewer backup or sump overflow.”

Many municipal sewer systems are outdated, and flooded streets can quickly cause severe water damage to basement walls, flooring, furniture and other personal property. Sump pump maintenance is often ignored until water overflows into the basement. Standing water isn’t just difficult to handle, it can be costly too. Over the past five years, Acuity Insurance’s average claim payment for sewer backup is $6,787 and sump pump coverage claims average over $7,630.

Consider these tips to help protect your home from sump pump problems and sewer backups this spring:

  • Buy a special endorsement that includes coverage for sump overflow and sewer backup. This endorsement will cover your home and personal property in the event of water damage from a sewer backup or sump overflow.
  • Test your sump pump at least once each year. A simple and effective way to test your sump pump is by pouring water into the sump pit. If the pump does not run, it needs cleaning, repair or replacement. If it requires maintenance, consider assistance from a licensed plumber.
  • Replace your pump. Sump pumps typically should be replaced every five to 10 years. Preventive maintenance is key to your system’s longevity. If you don’t stay on top of it, you might not notice that your pump needs to be replaced until you need it most.
  • Consider purchasing a battery backup sump pump and an alarm system. A backup battery or generator will ensure your pump does not fail in the event of a power outage. Sump pump alarms are designed to alert you when your sump pit is at risk of overflowing. Many types of alarms are available, with prices ranging from about $12 up to several hundred dollars for an advanced Wi-Fi system that sends warnings to your smartphone.
  • Consider the value of your basement. Hertel notes that Acuity Insurance’s most common endorsement limit is $5,000, but this is probably not enough for a finished basement. Most companies offer limits up to $25,000 or more. To determine an appropriate limit, consider what it would cost to replace water damaged walls, floors, furniture and other basement-kept personal property.
  • Ensure the sump pump discharge pipe discharges water far enough away from your house. If the sump pump discharges water too close to your house, the water will seep right back in and cause unnecessary wear on your pump. Ensure the sump water is discharged downhill and far enough away from your house for adequate draining.

“Preventing water from backing up into your home is an important task,” Hertel said. “Make sure your home is protected by taking preventive maintenance steps. Even with the best maintenance, some water backup losses cannot be avoided. Contact your independent agent to ensure you have appropriate coverage and limits in case something goes wrong.”