How to Get Insurance to Pay for Water Damage

Home insurance covers some, but not all, types of water damage. Coverage depends on the source of the damage and the type of policy you have.

Jess Ullrich
Written byJess Ullrich
Jess Ullrich
Jess UllrichInsurance Writer
  • 10+ years writing insurance and personal finance topics

  • Former associate finance editor for Investopedia

Jess is a subject matter expert in insurance, banking, and other personal finance topics. Her byline has appeared in numerous top web media, including Investopedia.

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Danny Smith
Edited byDanny Smith
Photo of an Insurify author
Danny Smith
  • Licensed auto and home insurance agent

  • 4+ years in content creation and marketing

As Insurify’s home and pet insurance editor, Danny also specializes in auto insurance. His goal is to help consumers navigate the complex world of insurance buying.

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Updated March 8, 2023

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Water damage is a common threat to a homeowner’s property and belongings. Water damage claims accounted for 19.9% of total property damage claims filed in 2020, according to the Insurance Information Institute. The average cost of these claims from 2016 to 2020 was a hefty $11,650.[1]

Insurance offers valuable protection against certain types of water damage, but it doesn’t cover everything. Here’s what to know about how to file a water damage claim, what a standard homeowners policy covers, and how to protect your home.

How to file a water damage insurance claim

The claims-filing process can look slightly different depending on your insurer and what caused the damage. Here’s some general guidance on how to file a water damage insurance claim:

1. Determine the source of the damage

Identify the source of the damage. This will help you determine not only the cause of the problem but also whether it’s covered.

Once you’ve determined how the damage occurred, try to mitigate future damage if possible. It’s important to take pictures of the damage, as your insurance company will likely ask for evidence when you file a claim. Also, make a list of personal items that were damaged.

2. Review your homeowners policy

Next, review your homeowners policy to determine if the water damage is due to a covered event.

For example, if a frozen pipe bursts in your home due to subzero temperatures, your dwelling coverage may help pay for repairs and your personal property coverage may pay for any water-damaged belongings.

But if your upstairs bathroom sink has been leaking for months and has damaged the ceiling below it, your insurance is unlikely to cover the cost of repairs due to negligence.

3. Contact your insurance company

Contact your insurance agent to discuss your water damage issue as soon as you’ve identified the problem. Your agent will provide additional information about whether your home insurance covers the damages and what to do next.[2]

The claims-filing process might vary slightly by insurer, but most let you file claims online. Be prepared to provide documentation of the damages, including photos.

4. Work with a claims adjuster

Your insurance company may also send a claims adjuster to your home to assess the damage. The adjuster will determine the extent of the damage and estimate the total amount you’re likely to receive from your insurer.[2]

5. Reach out to a contractor

Once you receive your insurance payout, you can work with a contractor to make the necessary repairs. Check with your insurer to determine whether it has an approved list of contractors before you hire someone.

If the cost of the work ends up being higher than the initial payout, you may be able to get additional money from your insurance company.

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What to do if your insurance company won’t pay your claim

Unfortunately, your insurance company may deny your claim if it determines the water damage wasn’t from a covered event. If you disagree, you can submit an appeal to your insurer.

Your appeal must be in writing, and your insurance company may have a standard form to complete. Consider providing additional documentation to support your case, such as more photos or an assessment of damages from a licensed contractor. This can increase your chances of a successful appeal.[3]

Important Information

Most insurers have a window of time in which you can dispute a claim, so make sure you know how long you have to submit an appeal.

If your insurance company determines the water damage could’ve been prevented with proper maintenance, you may not have any recourse. For instance, if a pipe bursts in subzero weather because you didn’t keep your heat on, your insurer will likely consider that negligence, meaning you’ll need to pay for repairs on your own.

Learn More: How to Dispute a Home Insurance Claim Denial

Why insurance companies deny claims

Insurance companies deny homeowners insurance claims for several reasons. In the case of water damage, the most common reason is that a standard homeowners insurance policy simply doesn’t cover it. Other possible reasons for claim denial include a lack of proper evidence, negligence, or not filing a claim promptly.

Here’s a look at some types of water damage that homeowners insurance commonly covers and some that it doesn’t.[4] [5]

Water damage covered by insurance

  • Burst pipes: If a pipe bursts in your home, your insurance company will likely cover the cost of the water damage, assuming the burst didn’t occur due to negligence.

  • Overflowing appliances: Appliances can occasionally malfunction and overflow, resulting in damage to your home. In this case, your insurance will likely pay to repair the water damage, as it was sudden and unexpected.

  • Roof leaks: Roof leaks due to weather events or ice dams are usually covered, assuming your roof wasn’t in serious disrepair when the damage occurred.

  • Water damage due to a fire: If there’s a fire in your home and water damage occurred as the fire was extinguished, it’s likely a covered event.

Water damage not covered by insurance

  • Flooding: Flood damage typically isn’t covered by a standard home insurance policy. You’ll need to purchase separate flood insurance for coverage.

  • Damage due to improper maintenance or negligence: If your insurance company determines the damage was preventable with proper maintenance or due to your negligence, it’s unlikely to pay for the damages.

  • Drain backup: Insurers typically won’t pay for repair costs if your sewer drain backs up into your home.

  • Foundation leaks: Seepage and foundation leaks are typically not covered by homeowners insurance.

  • Sump pump failure: Standard homeowners insurance typically won’t cover sump pump failure and any resulting water damage.

Read Also: Compare Home Insurance Quotes and Rates

Other types of water damage coverage

While a standard homeowners policy won’t cover certain types of water damage, you may be able to get additional coverage if you’re worried your home is at risk. Here are some coverages to consider:

Flood insurance

Flood insurance offers financial protection if your home is damaged by flooding after a covered weather event. For instance, flood insurance will cover damage from coastal flooding if your home is affected by storm surge. Homeowners who live in areas with a high risk of flooding may want to purchase flood insurance. Your mortgage lender may even require this coverage in some cases. Many insurers offer flood coverage, as does the National Flood Insurance Program from FEMA.

Water backup coverage

Sewer and drain backup coverage may be offered as an add-on to your homeowners policy. It can protect you financially if your sewer, sump pump, or septic system backs up into your home.

This coverage can be useful because it’s difficult to predict when a backup might occur, and repairs can be costly. Contact your homeowners insurance provider if you’re interested in adding a water backup add-on to your existing policy.

Mold damage coverage

Some homeowners insurance policies may not cover mold damage. You can typically add a mold endorsement (also known as a rider) to your existing policy to extend your coverage.

Read More: Types of Homeowners Insurance: Which One Do You Need?

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How to prevent water damage

You can take some steps to reduce the risk of water damage in your home, including:[6] [7]

Insulate your pipes

Insulating your pipes can help prevent them from freezing and potentially bursting. Taking additional measures can help reduce the risk of your pipes freezing in extreme cold, such as leaving your cabinet doors open and your faucets trickling. It’s also smart to keep your thermostat above 55 degrees during the winter.

Check your appliances

Regularly inspect the hoses of your appliances, including your dishwasher and washing machine, to identify any potential leaks before they can damage your home.

Perform maintenance on your water heater

Sediment buildup can occur in your water heater over time and can corrode your water heater, resulting in unexpected leaks. Drain your water heater annually or hire a plumber to do it for you to prevent damage from sediment.

Install water leak detectors

Consider installing a water leak detection system in your home. These systems quickly identify leaking pipes or valves before they cause major water damage. They’ll alert you if a leak is detected, and some will even turn off your water supply automatically.

Clean your gutters

Cleaning leaves and debris from your gutters once or twice a year can help prevent ice dams and leaks. You can do this on your own or hire a company to do it for you. If you choose to do it on your own, be sure to follow proper safety precautions when climbing a ladder to access and clear the gutters.

Remove snow from your roof

You may have to clear your roof after a major snowstorm. Not only does heavy snowfall increase the likelihood of your roof collapsing, but as the snow melts, ice dams can form on your roof, leading to leaks in your home. Proactively clearing your roof of snow can help prevent these issues from occurring.

Insurance and water damage FAQs

Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about homeowners insurance and water damage.

  • How much does water damage usually cost?

    Water damage can cost several thousand dollars, depending on the extent of it. HomeAdvisor estimates that water damage typically costs between $1,303 and $5,587 to repair, but the cost can vary depending on the type of water damage, the damaged materials, and other factors.[8]

    Additionally, insurance may not cover the damage, which could drastically increase your repair costs. For instance, if floodwaters creep into your home due to a hurricane, a standard homeowners policy is unlikely to pay for repairs. But if your roof starts leaking after a storm, your insurance will likely cover the cost of fixing it.

  • What should you do if you have water damage?

    The first thing you’ll want to do if you have water damage is to identify the source. Once you figure out what happened, document the event for the insurance company. Take photos and a video, or create a written description of the damages.

    Next, shut off the water supply to prevent any additional damage. Review your homeowners insurance coverage and contact your insurance company for guidance on next steps and the claims-filing process.

  • Does homeowners insurance cover mold caused by water damage?

    Your homeowners insurance policy will cover mold damage if the problem was caused by a covered event. For example, if your roof leaks due to heavy rain and mold forms on your attic ceiling because of the moisture, your insurer may pay for repairs. But your insurer is unlikely to cover the cost of mold remediation due to flooding or a leaking sink.

  • Do homeowners insurance premiums increase after damage caused by negligence?

    Yes, your homeowners insurance premiums will likely increase if the water damage was caused by negligence. Unfortunately, they may also increase if you submit a claim for a covered event.

    In general, if the cost to repair the water damage is less than your insurance deductible, fixing it yourself instead of submitting a claim may save you money in the long run.


  1. Insurance Information Institute. "Facts + Statistics: Homeowners and renters insurance."
  2. Insurance Information Institute. "How to file a homeowners claim."
  3. Global Midwest Adjusters National. "What to do When Your Homeowners Insurance Claim is Denied."
  4. Insurance Information Institute. "Water Damage: What's Covered; What's Not."
  5. Progressive. "Understanding water damage insurance claims."
  6. Nationwide. "Does homeowners insurance cover water damage?."
  7. Insurance Information Institute. "How to protect your home from water damage."
  8. Angi - HomeAdvisor. "How Much Does Water Damage Restoration Cost?."
Jess Ullrich
Jess UllrichInsurance Writer

Jess is a personal finance writer who's been creating financial and business content for over a decade. Her work is published on Investopedia, MoneyWise, NextAdvisor, The HuffPost, and more. Prior to freelancing full-time, Jess was an editor at Investopedia, The Balance, and FinanceBuzz. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Danny Smith
Edited byDanny Smith
Photo of an Insurify author
Danny Smith
  • Licensed auto and home insurance agent

  • 4+ years in content creation and marketing

As Insurify’s home and pet insurance editor, Danny also specializes in auto insurance. His goal is to help consumers navigate the complex world of insurance buying.

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