Insurance Concerns of Tree Roots and Sewer Lines

Why you might need more insurance to cover the damage.

Tree roots can damage your sewer lines, plain and simple. While you might assume your homeowners insurance covers any and all damage, you'd be incorrect. 

You need to consider damage, not just to the pipes, but to your home as well. With the right additional insurance coverage from your insurance agent, you can get covered and have peace of mind.

What's a Sewer Line and Why Does It Need Replacing?

A sewer line is a pipe that runs from the plumbing in your home to the mainline under the street. You probably don't realize it's there unless something goes wrong.

There are two main things that can go wrong with a sewer line:

  • Cracks, especially in old pipes
  • Clogs

Unfortunately, the second is the more likely culprit for any problems you have or might have. And while some clogs can be prevented, some can't be prevented or even anticipated. In fact, tree roots are one of the most common causes of cracked or clogged pipes. And while some proactive plumbers might foresee backup or leakage and recommend a fix before disaster strikes, this doesn't always pan out.

Why Tree Root Damage to Sewer Lines Is a Problem

Tree root damage isn't the same as other reasons for clogs and cracks. In fact, repairing tree root damage isn't a cost that's covered by all standard home insurance policies. That's because you'll need to clean up damage to/in the house caused by the roots growing into the pipe, and fix pipes damaged by the roots.

It's important to consider cleanup costs when picking a policy.


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Getting Damage to the Home Covered

Some home insurance policies won't cover damage to your home if a clog causes your plumbing to overflow. So if the root clog causes a toilet to send water the wrong way, the warped tiles, soaked carpet and furniture may not be paid by insurance.

Your independent agent comes bearing good news: Most standard home insurance policies can be modified to cover this exposure for an additional premium. The cost varies, but some providers will add coverage for just a few dollars.

Getting the Repair Cost to the Pipes Covered

Getting the pipes fixed doesn't mean paying just to get the pipes fixed. You'll have to pay for damage caused by the clogged or cracked pipe. Then you'll have to pay to remove damaged piping and install new piping to avoid further interference from the roots. 

This could mean digging up several square feet of your yard, conducting repairs, and closing the hole so it looks as if nothing ever happened. It sounds difficult and expensive, because it is. But don't despair: Some standard homeowners insurance covers the cost of tearing out and replacing the damaged sewer line. 

The kicker is in the "damage." Roots can grow into joints and crack pipes. Then the damage is covered because the pipe is damaged. But if the root clogs the line and there's no damage, you have to pay to fix it because there's no actual "damage" to the pipe.

The Bottom Line

Tree roots are unpredictable. Talk to your independent insurance agent about how to make the money you pay for unforeseen repairs more predictable by modifying your home insurance to control the impact of this “growing” threat.

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