Tree Roots and Sewer Lines
There is never too much emphasis on the importance of working with an insurance agent who knows the policies and will work on your behalf to make sure that you are educated on the coverage provided by them. And, often times suggest (or automatically include) coverage on a policy that they know are too valuable for their client and ones that a policyholder should not do without. That is why we do not consult our clients on price alone. Certain endorsements, like Sewer / Drain Backup can be added to your homeowners policy. Contact our personal lines specialists to discuss your homeowners insurance policy.
“Tree Roots and Sewer Lines – Insured?”
Abstract: You discover that the toilets, sinks and tubs won’t drain. The plumber uncovers a blockage in the main
sewer line running from the house to the street caused by tree roots. Is any “backup” damage covered by your
homeowners insurance policy? Is the cost to replace or re-run the sewer line covered?
A Trench in Your Front Lawn
Ever drive down the street and see a front yard with a trench that looks like someone is dredging a channel from
the front door to the street? While a select few may be installing an expensive irrigation system, most are having
the sewer line replaced. This line consists of a pipe that runs from the home to the mainline under the street. The
lucky among them have undertaken this project on the advice of a proactive plumber who warned of the
consequences of backup or leakage due to cracked or clogged pipes. The unfortunate majority have already
experienced those consequences.
A Common Problem: Tree Roots
There are many substances that can clog a pipe. Most can be controlled, others cannot. Consider tree roots: a
common reason for clogged and cracked pipes, which can cause most unpleasant damage to the inside of your
house. Remedying this unfortunate situation can be costly, and depending on the nature of the project, is not
covered by standard home insurance.
Consider the costs: (1) cleaning up damage to/in the house caused by the roots growing into the pipe, and (2)
fixing pipes damaged by the roots.
In the case of the former, some home insurance policies will cover damage to your home if a clog causes your
plumbing to overflow; others will not. Thus, if the root clog causes a toilet to send water the wrong way (which falls
on people’s “biggest fear” list somewhere between death and clowns), resulting damage such as warped tiles,
soaked carpet and furniture may not be paid by insurance.
Luckily, most standard home insurance policies can be modified to cover this significant exposure for additional
premium. Cost of the modification varies but can be inexpensive; some providers will add the coverage for only a
Consider the latter. In addition to paying for damages caused by the clogged or cracked pipe, homeowners will
need to protect their property by having roots removed and installing piping that is not damaged. This could mean
digging up several square feet of your yard, conducting repairs, and closing the hole as if nothing ever happenednot
an easy or inexpensive task.
If this happens to you, don’t panic! While unmodified home insurance does not cover resulting damage, it may
cover the cost to tear out and replace the damaged pipes. The kicker is “damage”—the home insurance policy will
often cover the cost to fix the pipes if they are physically damaged by the roots, such as when the root penetrates
a joint causing it to crack. It is possible for a root to clog a line without damaging the pipe- if this happens there
would be no coverage to fix the pipe because it is not physically damaged.
There are many unexplainable phenomena in nature and the unpredictable root structure of trees and plants
certainly qualifies. Since this problem is handled differently by insurance companies, call our office to see what we
can do for you.
Copyright 2008 by the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, Inc. All rights reserved.
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accurate at the time of reprinting or subsequently to that time. IIABA does not assume and has no responsibility
for liability or damage which may result from the use of any of this information. The most current, up to date
version of this article can be found at IIABA’s Virtual University at http://www.iiaba.net/VU.