April showers bring May flowers… and unfortunately flooding. Out of all the natural disasters out there, flooding is on the low side of the spectrum for “most worried” about. People don’t often realize the damage that can be caused by the invasion of water into your home. IASTL wants to make sure that you’re aware of how destructive water can be and why it’s important to make sure you’re covered in case of flooding.
Is My Home at Risk?
A majority of Homeowner’s Insurance policies will cover water damage due to burst pipes or other sources located within the home. They don’t, however, cover water damage due to a natural disaster. If you live in an area that’s subject to any of the common flooding causes listed below, you’ll want to meet with an insurance advisor to discuss acquiring flood insurance.
Main Causes of Flooding
There’s a common misconception that flood insurance isn’t needed if you live in a low risk area. In fact, 20% of claims through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) are from homeowners and renters in areas considered at low or moderate risk of flooding. We’ve listed the most common causes of flooding so that you can plan accordingly.
This is the most common cause of flooding. No matter where you live, you’re subject to rain – therefore most places have built their infrastructure in a way that distributes rainwater effectively. Of course not every system is perfect, and often times when heavy rain occurs, drainage systems become backed up and cause flooding.
Heavy rain doesn’t only cause drainage backup, but it can also cause rivers to overflow. If you live along a river, no matter the size, your home is at high risk of being flooded. Other large bodies of water such as oceans and lakes, can easily cause flooding as well.
Melting Snow & Ice
Snow melt is only a true hazard if it’s been a heavy winter of precipitation. It’s also easier to prepare for this type of flooding since it takes time for everything to melt. This is more commonly a threat in Northern climates and mountainous regions.
Broken Water Mains
Water mains are underground pipes that run through a city or town. They distribute water to homes and businesses in the area. Water main breaks can be caused by a variety of reasons, the most common being: external stress on frozen pipes, ground shifts/earthquakes, corrosion with age, or human factors (a construction worker or homeowner accidentally hitting a water main with force).
A majority of dams in the United States were constructed in the 20th century, dating back as far as 1901. These structures were strategically designed for durability, although eventually they’ll age and start to break down. A dam can become fractured, releasing a massive stream of water that can flood unsuspecting homes.
Urban Drainage Basins
It’s common for largely populated areas to have underground drainage basins built into their infrastructure. When subject to large amounts of rain, those concrete basins can fill up and cause flooding.
Lack of Vegetation
This isn’t normally the main cause of flooding, but it is an important factor to consider. Vegetation helps to slow runoff and prevent flooding. The plant roots help hold the soil together and create a sort of barrier that helps contain water. Areas with sparse vegetation are often the most at risk for flash floods.
How Do I Handle Water Damage?
Water damage is no joke… In fact, it can destroy your furniture and cause mold growth which can often result in serious health issues. The first step is assessing the seriousness of the damage.
- Category 1 – White Water: If the damage is caused by a dishwasher or burst pipe within your home, the water is categorized as white water. White water is less threatening since it doesn’t cause harm to humans if they come in contact with it.
- Category 2 – Grey Water: If the damage is caused by an overflowing toilet, broken sump pump or other seepages, it’s categorized as grey water. Grey water is contaminated with microorganisms and may cause sickness to humans who come in contact with it.
- Category 3 – Black Water: If the damage is caused by thick sewage seepage or standing water caused by a natural disaster, it’s categorized as black water. Blackwater is the most dangerous since it contains microorganisms and harmful bacteria. There are a variety of serious illnesses that can result from contact with black water.
In the case of flooding due to forces outside of the home, you’re most likely going to be dealing with grey or black water. There are certain steps that need to be taken within the first 24 hours after flooding to ensure proper coverage and your own personal safety.
If the flooding isn’t too severe, some people choose to stay in their home. We highly recommend finding other accommodations until the water completely dries up. Even if the water appears clear, it could be contaminated with sewage or household chemicals. When it comes to your health, it’s always better to be on the safe side.
What is Covered Under a Flood Insurance Policy?
You’d think that flood insurance is simple; your home floods and flood insurance reimburses you for all losses. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. There are more valuable goods in your home than you realize. Flood insurance usually covers a majority of those items, but it does have its limitations.
Different flood insurance plans have different coverage capabilities. According to Consumer Reports, these are the most common assets included in a flood insurance plan:
- Essential Systems – Electrical and plumbing systems, furnaces, water heaters, pumps (heat and sump), central air conditioners, cisterns, fuel tanks, solar energy equipment, and water tanks.
- Appliances – Refrigerators (food inside not covered), ovens/ranges, dishwasher, washing machine/dryer, window air conditioners, and freezers (food inside is covered).
- Carpeting & Window Treatments – Permanently installed carpeting over wooden floors is covered, along with blinds and curtains.
- Permanently Installed Panelling, Wallboard, Bookcases & Cabinets – Your policy will only cover and replace the items that are damaged. If only some of your cabinets are damaged, those are the only ones that will be replaced. This means you may have to pay out of pocket if you want a completely new set of matching cabinets.
- Foundation – Walls, anchorage systems, and staircases attached to the building. There’s an exclusion for “loss caused directly by earth movement”, even if the earth movement is caused by flooding.
- A Detached Garage – You can use up to 10% of your total building coverage toward your garage, but that amount will be subtracted from the total amount of building coverage available to you.
- Personal Property – Clothes, furniture, and electronic equipment (as long as it’s not stored in the basement).
- Valuables – Your policy will most likely include coverage for expensive items that cost over $2,500. This includes things like antiques, artwork and furs.
There may be a few special circumstances included in your flood insurance policy. Make sure to ask your insurance advisor what those special circumstances are and if they’re covered under your plan. One example of a special circumstance is groundwater seepage and mudflow due to a neighbor’s above ground pool collapsing.
What’s Not Covered.
Like most types of insurance, flood insurance has limitations when it comes to eligibility and coverage. As mentioned above, flood insurance won’t cover personal items stored in your basement, crawlspace or attic. There is also a cap to federal flood insurance coverage at $250,000 per building and $100,000 for contents. There are separate deductibles for your foundation and contents.
If you have other concerns or questions about what is and isn’t covered under a flood insurance plan, don’t hesitate to consult an insurance advisor.