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What Type of Water Damage Is Covered by Home Insurance?

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Updated: Nov 16, 2023
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Home insurance typically covers water damage caused by sudden or accidental incidents, such as a burst pipe, a fire or a heavy storm. However, your policy may not cover not all types of water damage, particularly flooding and water damage from intentional acts or lack of maintenance. By knowing what kinds of water damage are covered by homeowners insurance, you can prepare for these undesirable scenarios.

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Key Takeaways

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Homeowners insurance typically covers water damage if sudden or accidental incidents and covered perils cause it.

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Home insurance usually does not cover water damage due to flooding, lack of maintenance or intentional damage.

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Maintaining your roof, cleaning your gutters and conducting regular inspections is the key to minimizing water damage.

Water Damage Types Covered by Home Insurance

Home insurance covers damages caused by water, but it only pays to repair water damage that is sudden or accidental and caused by specific perils. For example, your policy's dwelling and personal property coverage will cover a burst pipe causing a leak in the ceiling that ruins your furniture. Understanding what types of property damage are covered by home insurance can help you plan for any unexpected disasters, especially those not covered by standard home insurance policies.

Sudden and Accidental Water Damage

Home insurance primarily covers sudden and accidental water damage, such as burst pipes, accidental leaks or damage from freezing. For instance, if a pipe on your second floor bursts and causes a leak, damaging the ceiling of your first floor, your policy will pay to repair your ceiling and any other personal belongings damaged by the incident. However, gradual damage like slow leaks, which can cause severe destruction over time, aren’t covered. Take a look at some examples of accidental water damage:

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    Burst Pipes

    Your insurer may cover the damage if a pipe suddenly ruptures or breaks open due to covered incidents, such as freezing and thawing or clogs and blockages. Every year, about 1 in 50 homeowners in the United States file a claim for frozen water pipes.

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    Accidental Leaks

    Your insurance can also cover other forms of accidental leaks. Your home insurance policy can pay for damages after a water heater rupture, leaking washing machine hose and further unexpected water damage.

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    Appliance Malfunctions

    Water damage caused by sudden malfunctions of home appliances like washing machines, dishwashers or water heaters is typically covered. For instance, if your washing machine overflows or there is a sudden leak, your policy may cover the damages.

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    Faulty Plumbing

    Sudden plumbing failures that result in water damage are often covered, provided the issue wasn't due to poor maintenance or negligence. For instance, if a sink, bathtub or toilet overflows accidentally and causes water damage, your policy may cover repairs.

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    Water Damage From Freezing

    Damage due to freezing, such as frozen pipes and appliance lines or a roof collapsing due to snow, may be covered by your policy. For instance, if your heating system malfunctions and pipes freeze, your insurer may cover the subsequent water damage.

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    Water Damage After a Fire

    Water damage following a fire is common as water or other fire suppressants are used to extinguish the flames. For instance, if firefighting efforts or your sprinkler system damages your house, your insurer may cover the cost to repair your home and replace your belongings.

Weather-Related Water Damage

Aside from accidental water damage inside your residence, home insurance covers water damage from rain and certain weather-related damage. However, your insurance policy will only pay for water damage caused by harsh weather if it’s sudden or accidental. There should be a specific explanation of how rainwater entered your home and damaged your belongings to determine your eligibility to file a claim.

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    Storm Damage

    Home insurance typically covers water damage caused by a hail storm or heavy rainfall. Suppose a severe weather event damages your roof or windows, allowing rainwater to enter your property and damage your belongings. In that case, your policy should cover repairing and replacing your property.

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    Roof Leaks

    Your insurance will also cover any weather-related damage that causes your roof to leak. For instance, if a lightning strike during a storm causes a tree to hit and rupture your roof, causing leaks and soaking your belongings, your policy can pay for the damages.

Water Damage Types Not Covered by Home Insurance

Home insurance typically doesn’t cover water damage caused by neglect or intentional damage. While policies provide relief for unforeseen mishaps, they usually draw a line when the damage is avoidable or deliberate.

Understanding these exclusions helps you better manage risks, maintain your home diligently and consider additional coverage options to safeguard your financial stability.

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    Natural Wear and Tear

    Home insurance policies cover sudden and accidental events, not the gradual deterioration of a property over time. Natural wear and tear, like corroded and leaking plumbing systems, are typically not covered as your insurer expects you to manage them through regular maintenance.

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    Damage Due to Lack of Maintenance or Neglect

    If water damage occurs due to your failure to maintain the property properly, insurance will likely not cover the costs. For instance, a slow leak you've ignored over time, leading to water damage and mold, would generally be seen as a maintenance issue and not be covered.

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    Water Damage Due to External Sources

    Standard home insurance policies often exclude coverage for water damage caused by external sources, such as flooding from rivers, lakes or heavy rainfall. To protect against these types of water damage, homeowners must purchase additional coverage, like a flood insurance policy.

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    Damage Due to Intentional Acts

    Home insurance policies typically cover accidental incidents, not intentional or malicious acts. If water damage occurs due to deliberate actions, like someone intentionally breaking a pipe or flooding the house, insurance will not cover the repairs or associated costs.

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Purchase flood insurance if you live in a flood-prone area to ensure coverage of your home and belongings.

How to Make a Claim When Water Damages Your Home

Navigating the aftermath of water damage in your home can be daunting — and swiftly filing a claim with your insurance company will help you mitigate further loss. Understanding the claim-making process can aid you in securing financial support for a swift and smooth home restoration.

Keep the following steps in mind if you ever experience water damage in your home:


Take Immediate Action

Stop the source of water damage, if possible, by turning off the water main or addressing the issue that's causing the damage. Remember to ensure the safety of all occupants and remove them from hazardous areas.


Document the Damage

Take clear, detailed photographs and videos of the affected areas and any damaged belongings. Create an inventory list of damaged items, including their value. Don't dispose of damaged items; your insurer may need them for inspection.


Contact Your Insurance Company

Notify your insurer about the water damage as soon as possible. Make sure to provide them with your documentation and any other information they require.


Schedule an Adjuster’s Visit

Arrange for your insurance company to send an adjuster to assess the damage. Accompany them during the visit, providing any additional information they may need.


Obtain Repair Estimates

Secure multiple repair estimates from reputable contractors for the repairs needed. Share these estimates with your insurance company.


Complete Claim Forms

Fill out any claim forms provided by your insurance company accurately and promptly. Retain copies of all correspondence for your records, just in case.


Review Settlement Offer

Once you receive a settlement offer, scrutinize it and understand your coverage. Negotiate with your insurer or seek the advice of a professional claims handler or attorney if necessary.


Commence Repairs

Once the claim is settled, proceed with the necessary repairs to restore your home.

Preventing Water Damage to Your Home

Water damage can wreak havoc on your home, potentially leading to costly repairs and a significant loss of personal belongings. However, with proactive measures, you can avoid much of this distress.

  • Inspect Regularly: Regularly check plumbing, appliances and fixtures for leaks or malfunctions.
  • Maintain Your Roof: Ensure your roof is in good condition, repairing any missing or loose shingles.
  • Clean Gutters and Downspouts: Keep gutters and downspouts clean to ensure water flows away from your home.
  • Install a Sump Pump: If your home is prone to flooding, consider installing a sump pump to remove excess water.
  • Know Your Water Main: Know the location of your water main so you can quickly shut off water in an emergency.
  • Insulate Pipes: Insulate exposed pipes to prevent freezing and bursting during cold weather.

Remember that you can minimize the risk of water damage to your home through regular maintenance, prompt repairs and a keen eye for potential issues.

FAQ About the Types of Water Damage Covered by Homeowners Insurance

Understanding what types of water damage are covered by home insurance can be confusing for any homeowner, especially since not all water-induced damage is covered. To help homeowners clear the air, MoneyGeek has answers to some of your most frequently asked questions.

About Mark Fitzpatrick

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Mark Fitzpatrick is a senior content director at MoneyGeek with over five years of experience analyzing the insurance market, conducting original research and creating content that can be personalized for every buyer. He has been quoted on insurance topics in several publications, including CNBC, NBC News and Mashable.

Mark earned a master’s degree in Economics and International Relations from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s degree from Boston College. He is passionate about using his economics and insurance knowledge to bring transparency around financial topics and help others feel confident in their money moves.