You may have been asked to add sewer backup coverage to your home insurance policy and wondered if you actually need it. Sewer backups can sometimes be unavoidable due to heavy rainfall or failures in your city’s drainage system. This type of damage is not included in most standard home insurance policies but adding this type of coverage will alleviate some of the extensive financial pressure in the case of a sewer backup in your home.

What exactly is a sewer backup?

In order to understand if you need this coverage, let’s take a look at what a sewer backup is first. Sewer backup is when wastewater from drainage systems comes back up through the pipes and into your home. This water is often odorous and unsanitary causing a not only hazardous situation for you and your family but also extensive damage to your home and belongings.

How do sewer backups happen?

There are many causes for sewer backups from blockages in the plumbing inside your home, to tree roots entering sewer lines, to debris or sudden waterflow overwhelming the storm drain, and even aging or blocked municipal sewer systems.

How do I prevent a sewer backup?

While some reasons for sewer backups will be out of your control, like problems with your city’s sanitary main, you can still follow some simple rules in your home and do some basic home maintenance to reduce your risk of damage.

Flush only toilet paper

Be sure that only human waste and toilet paper is being flushed down your toilet. Even if it says flushable on the package, items such as wipes, personal hygiene products, tissues, etc should never be disposed of in your toilet.

Put kitchen waste in the compost bin

Place all oils and grease in the compost bin for disposal. It doesn’t matter if you mix it with soap or hot water, it will clog.

Maintain the storm drain near your home

Clear out leaves, snow or other debris from the sewer cover to keep water flowing and not accumulating near your home.

Install a backwater valve

Contact a professional and see if your home could benefit from having a backwater valve installed to allow water to flow only one way – out of your home.

How much sewer backup coverage do I need?

You can reduce the likelihood of sewer backups by following the above recommendations but there is still a chance that it may happen due to the weather or your city’s infrastructure. $250,000 is a recommended limit if it is available from insurers, but if your basement is finished, you will need more.

For a house or townhouse, sewer backup coverage of $25,000 is considered low and will be insufficient in the case of a claim. If that is all that is available for your home, it could mean that you are in a high-risk area because of a host of reasons from a history of sewer backup claims, to aging infrastructure, to increase in neighbourhood density and even your home’s elevation in relation to sea level.

Is there sewer backup insurance for condos?

You may think that sewer backups do not apply to you because you live in a high-rise building, but that is not the case. There have been many occasions where a blockage of the drainage system at a lower level causes water in above floors to back up from toilets and other drain openings. The cost to sanitize and repair the water damage can be very costly. Luckily, sewer backup coverage for both houses and condos is usually inexpensive and will most likely cost between $50-200 annually.

Do I still need flood insurance if I have sewer backup coverage?

If you do purchase sewer backup coverage, it is also a good idea to also include overland flood insurance which protects you from damage caused by water entering your home from flooding or excessive rain. This type of damage is becoming increasingly more common in Southern Ontario and just sewer backup coverage alone will not protect you from it.

To learn more about sewer backup and to see if you’re covered, contact one of our insurance experts today.