A row of houses with flooded basements in a neighborhood impacted by a heavy rainstorm.

Basement Flooding & Insurance

Updated March 3, 2019 . AmFam Team

Basement flooding is a potentially costly and unsafe situation. Learn what to do, who to call, and if you likely have basement flooding coverage from American Family.

If you find your basement floor submerged under a foot of water, don’t panic. You’ve got this! Act quickly enough and you’ll be able to avoid the common ill effects that come with a flood — things like the ruining of personal belongings, loss of your basement’s usability and a number of threats to your family’s health.

What Causes Basement Flooding?

As the lowest level of your home, your basement is the part of your home most susceptible to flooding. There are a number of reasons your basement could flood. Here are some of the most common causes:

Foundation cracks

Heavy rain, water-saturated ground and the pressure that results can cause cracks in your foundation, leaving your basement vulnerable to groundwater and other moisture.

Leaky or broken pipes

Pipe leaks are common. When you notice a minor leak in your plumbing, have it corrected immediately — plenty of floods caused by faulty pipes start as small leaks that could have been fixed affordably early on.

Broken sump pump

A sump pump defends your basement from floods by pumping encroaching water away from your home. But when it fails, it leaves your basement vulnerable to flooding.

Overflowing gutters or faulty downspouts

If your gutters and downspouts are full of leaves, ice or aren’t disposing of water far enough away from your home, that water could make its way into your basement.

What to Do When Your Basement Floods

It’s easy to panic and think the worst when you notice that your basement is flooded. Take a deep breath and follow these steps carefully to mitigate the damage and get your life back to normal as soon as possible:

Step 1: Evaluate Potential Hazards

Floods come with a whole host of problems beyond the damage to your belongings and your house’s structure. Before you enter your flooded basement, homeowners should check thoroughly for these dangers:

  • Electrical shock. If you have electrical outlets or electrical equipment below the water line, stay out of your home until the power can be turned off. If this is the case, shutting off the main power is a job for a professional and shouldn’t be attempted by homeowners. Contact your electric company as soon as possible.
  • Gas leaks. If you smell gas, leave the house immediately and contact your gas company. Gas leaks are extremely harmful to your health and can lead to fires or explosions if they come in contact with electric or heat sources.
  • Contamination. If your basement flooded due to a sewage backup, that water could contain bacteria and raw sewage that are extremely dangerous to your health. Don’t wade in — instead, get in touch with a professional plumber as soon as possible.
  • Structural damage. No matter how that water got into your home, it could cause damage to your home’s structure. Don’t go in the house until it’s determined to be structurally sound.

Step 2: Find the Source of the Flooding

Once you’ve made sure your home is safe to enter, it’s time to figure out what caused your home to flood.

If the source is a burst pipe, turn off your water supply. If it’s from something else like a flooded body of water or heavy rain, wait until the storm has passed and conditions have improved before clearing out the water.

Step 3: Remove the Water From Your Basement

After you’ve identified the source of the flooding and can be certain that it’s done pouring water into your basement, it’s time to clean up the mess. Use a wet/dry vacuum, water pumps, mops, buckets or enlist the help of a professional cleanup company to get the water out.

Time is of the essence when cleaning up your flooded basement. Water and residual moisture are a perfect breeding ground for mold, mildew and harmful bacteria that could endanger your family’s health and further damage your home and belongings.

Who to Call When Your Basement Floods

Not all flooded basements can be handled by homeowners. Sometimes, it’s best to call professionals and let them do what they do best. Be sure to reach out to professionals right away in the following situations:

If a pipe burst

Contact a plumber and turn off the main water valve, if possible.

If you have electrical problems

Any sort of issues with your electricity should lead you to evacuate your home right away and call an electrician and your electric company.

If your sewer backed up

Contact a plumber and don’t use any plumbing or water until they can assess the situation.

If your furnace failed

Furnaces are often impacted and damaged during floods. If yours has fallen victim to the intruding water, contact an HVAC professional right away.

How to Prevent Basement Flooding

Here are a few tried-and-true ways to keep rain on the lawn and away from your home:

Give your gutters some TLC

Keep them clean and damage-free. Use downspout extensions to direct water away from your foundation.

Cover window wells

Use plastic covers to keep rain from filling your window wells and seeping into your basement.

Check the roof and flashing

Replace missing shingles, repair damage and keep flashing sealed.

Secure your foundation

Fill cracks and holes to prevent water from seeping into your basement.

Landscape strategically

Using dirt, slope your lawn away from your foundation and keep plants at least three feet away from your home.

Keep your sump pump going strong

Check on it regularly — it’s a good friend to have working in your favor when the rain starts pouring! You also might consider installing a battery backup, so your home is protected if the power goes out in a storm.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Damage in Your Basement?

Water damage to your home can be caused by many problems — some are covered by your homeowners insurance, and some aren’t. So, does homeowners insurance cover water damage in your basement when your washing machine malfunctions?

The answer to that depends on a few factors. If the damage was sudden and not the result of a lack of maintenance, you will likely be able to file a claim.

Causes of Basement Flooding That Are Covered by Homeowners Insurance

There are several instances where homeowners insurance will cover a water damage to the basement. Although it’s not typically called “basement flood insurance,” your homeowners coverage will help protect your finances when your basement floods due to a covered loss.

In most cases, you’ll be covered if the water damage is sudden or accidental. Proper maintenance of your appliances is key, and issues related to normal wear and tear are usually not considered a covered loss. Here’s a list of common issues where homeowners insurance for a flooded basement will usually cover you:

  • Frozen pipes that burst
  • Unexpected flooding caused by a water heater
  • Sudden floods that are the result of a broken appliance
  • Overflow or water from a sink, bathtub or pool

Causes of Basement Flooding That Are Not Covered by Homeowners Insurance

Sometimes, basement flooding and homeowners insurance don’t mix. A standard home insurance policy usually has limits to the way it covers flooded basements. But there is some good news. You can pick up added coverage to better protect your basement from flood damage. Here are a few examples of basement flooding that probably won’t be covered by your insurance:

  • Flooding that results from a storm, heavy rains or a storm surge
  • Underground water seepage

When to Call Your Insurance Agent

Contact your American Family Insurance agent (Opens in a new tab) as soon as possible when you notice damage to your basement. And before any sort of damage ever occurs, talk with your agent about getting the protection and peace of mind you deserve — they’re always happy to help.

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