The Fallout From Service Line Failures

By: Bill Eller

Water damage to a home, whether from a sewer backup or an interior plumbing problem, is not something to take lightly – and, in some cases, homeowners insurance won’t cover not only the plumbing, but the water damage to the home, unless the homeowner has purchased specific coverage, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
In most cases, the damage must be sudden and accidental to be covered – for example, a washer overflowing is considered discharge and is an accident, but if a homeowner fails to maintain interior plumbing and it causes a slow or hidden leak, or seepage, it won’t be covered. This also applies to a sewage back-up into a home. If it is caused by a lack of preventive maintenance, it won’t be covered, and, again, it’s not often covered unless the homeowner specifically requests it be added to their policy.
There are three kinds of water: clean water, or water that comes directly from plumbing that provides potable water; grey water, water that has been in washing machines or toilet tanks or has been used to wash dishes and may have bacteria; and black water, which can either be sewage or flood water and is extremely hazardous.
Clean water isn’t as dangerous, but it can still do monumental damage to a home and encourage the growth of mold, some of which can be toxic. Drywall acts as a sponge when water is introduced and is the perfect incubator for mold. Drywall that has been exposed to significant or standing water should be cut away and replaced, and wallpaper may need to be stripped. Water damage can cause bubbling, cracking and peeling in paint or warping, sagging and buckling in floors. After approximately 24 hours after being exposed to water, mold can begin growing. It will cost between .75 and .50 per square foot for basic cleaning services, depending on whether a home was exposed to clean or grey water.
A sewage backup may be more likely to happen than homeowners may think – the Civil Engineering Research Foundation reports that the likelihood of sewer failure increases by 3 percent every year, and the average age of a sewer line is 30 years old, when the average lifespan of a sewer line is 30 to 50 years, depending on the materials used in construction.
When a sewer backs up, grey or black water can cause disease, destroy valuables and damage homes. If sewage gets into a HVAC system, it must be professionally cleaned and sanitized to prevent health hazards. Floors and walls must be sanitized, and carpets and drapes steam cleaned or discarded. And, of course, plumbing fixtures should be flushed out and sanitized. The longer wastewater sits, the greater the chance for disease and mold.
The average cost to clean up after a sewer backup is between ,500 and ,000, depending on the severity. Those costs are in addition to the cost of repairing plumbing or replacing service lines. Many homeowners are unaware that they are responsible for the water and sewer lines that serve their home, and it’s often an unpleasant surprise when they learn otherwise.
Clues that a service line is failing includes a lawn that is perpetually wet, even during a dry spell, bubbling or squishy spots and a foul odor. A slow drain can herald a failing sewer service line up to six months prior, but some homeowners may put off maintenance because of the expense, only to lead to a more significant one down the line.
Offer your residents affordable repair service plans to protect against the cost of replacing or repairing water and sewer service lines by entering into a partnership with the National League of Cities Service Line Warranty Program, administered by Utility Service Partners, a HomeServe company. With a nationwide network of vetted, licensed contractors and an award-winning, 400-seat call center, Utility Service Partners is ready to respond to emergency repairs 24/7/365.
In addition to providing emergency repair protection, Utility Service Partners also provides a no-cost educational program and a royalty program to qualifying cities. For information on giving your residents peace of mind, contact us.

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