Images of Florida, Houston, Puerto Rico, and other hurricane-riddled areas serve as powerful reminders that flooding can wreak devastating havoc on property. While water damage from historic weather events like hurricanes may be impossible to prevent, there are proactive measures homeowners can take to protect their homes from isolated water damage that typical seasonal rainfall or snowmelt can cause. And proper insurance coverage can add an additional layer of protection.
Understanding sump systems
Located in the depths of many basements, typically in inconspicuous corners, are one of the most important home safeguards against water damage: sump pumps. They’re rarely seen or heard, which makes them easy to neglect. But when sump pumps fail, the consequences can be disastrous. So, what exactly are sump pumps, what do they do, and how can you ensure yours is working appropriately?
A sump pump is a small pump installed at the lowest part of a basement or crawlspace in a specially constructed hole called a sump pit. When the water table is above a home foundation, rain water or natural ground water can easily seep in and flood below-ground living and storage spaces. To mitigate flooding, perimeter drains are often installed in addition to the sump pump to funnel excess water into the sump pit. While a manual sump pump requires a user to turn it on and off, an automatic sump pump’s water sensor detects moisture, which activates the pump. In both cases, the sump pumps the water out and away from the home’s foundation. A properly running sump pump is vital to flood-free basements and crawl spaces.
Homeowners must maintain both their sump pumps and pits to ensure proper functionality. Professionals recommend sump pump and pit checks at least once a year prior to your area’s wettest season, and a plumber can inspect your sump pump and perform any needed repairs. If you’re a do-it-yourself type, carefully follow the maintenance guide that came with your sump pump and consider some basic tips to keeping your sump system running smoothly.
- Ensure the sump pit is clear of all debris.
- For automatic pumps, fill the sump pit with water to make sure the pump detects the water and turns on. If your sump is manual, fill the sump pit with water and switch the pump on to ensure it works properly.
- Go outside to check that the pump is discharging water, and ensure the weep hole is clean and free from debris.
- Check that the float is operating and hasn’t burned out.
- Listen to the motor for any strange noises.
- Install a back-up sump pump and replace its battery regularly.
Most sump pumps have a life span of about 10 years, but regular maintenance can extend your pump’s life.
What if your sump system fails?
What if, despite proper maintenance, your sump system still fails and flooding occurs? It seems logical to assume homeowners insurance would cover the cost of repairs, but that is a dangerous assumption. Sump pump failure coverage does not come standard on homeowners insurance policies. Rather, it is available as a rider or endorsement attached to the policy. Premiums are relatively inexpensive, and homeowners with sump pump failure insurance can obtain the coverage they need to repair or replace damaged property caused by water damage due to a failed sump system.
Upon filing such a claim, a sump pump inspection is often required. If it’s deemed that the sump system was neglected or improperly maintained, the claim can be denied — and homeowners insurance premiums can even rise. Thus, keeping a sump system in working order is a homeowner’s first line of defense against water damage. Sump pump failure coverage, however, can be a saving grace if the equipment fails despite a homeowner’s best efforts.
If you have a basement in your home, you should likely have a sump system, too. And if you have a sump system, talk to an experienced insurance agent about your sump system failure coverage options. A few more dollars could add a lot of coverage to fully protect the investment you call home.