Structural problems are defined as problems to the supporting structure of the home including the foundation, walls, roof, and patio. Most structural damage problems are visible and you’ll instantly know when you see them. Homeowners insurance is designed to protect your home against such issues and this guide will focus on the way insurance treats different structural problems/damage, when structural problems are covered, and deductibles for structural problems. We’ll also cover the top 5 structural damage types that your home might be experiencing.
Does home insurance cover structural problems? Yes, structural problems such as cracks in the foundation/groundwork, walls, roof, outhouses, doors, windows, and other parts of the home’s structure are covered under dwelling coverage. The circumstances leading to the structural problems determine whether the insurance company will pay out or not.
Note: If the structural problems occurred as a result of a natural disaster such as a hurricane or a flood, you’re likely covered by insurance. If they were maintenance-related and preventable, you can be rejected for your claim because the insurance company expects you to maintain your home.
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Top 5 Types Of Structural Problems
There are numerous structural problems a home can experience, from large cracks in the foundation to roof leaks. We’ve narrowed them down in 5 big types of structural damage:
Foundation Structural Problems
The foundation structural problem is the most dangerous a home can face because the entire home structure is built on foundations. The foundations must be solid in order to keep your home from collapsing. There are many things that can go wrong with a foundation and some of them are covered while others are not. Most small cracks won’t be covered because they are easily fixable, and you’ll need to show real damage if you file a claim for foundational problems.
It can take a long time to detect structural problems so make sure you carry out an investigation after every storm to find out if you have cracks in the foundation. If a named peril such as a rainstorm causes structural damage to your foundation and leads to cracks, you will be covered. Even if the insurance company won’t cover your claim for a foundation problem, they will likely cover the ensuring damage to your personal items.
Wall Structural Problems
Wall structural damage is the easiest to fix and it’s also easy to identify because you don’t have to actively look for the damage. If you have cracks and ruptures on the wall, you will be covered depending on the circumstances that lead to the cracks. The sole factor that will decide if your insurance company covers you is the reason that led to the crack.
Was it unexpected such as a lightning strike or a tornado? You’ll be covered for such unpredictable events. The only reason you may be rejected is if this crack occurred a year ago and you didn’t do anything to fix the damage. Wall structural coverage is only for unexpected events. Events such as earthquakes usually don’t cause a collapse but they can shake the building and cause the walls to rupture. Most homeowners plans don’t include earthquake coverage and you’ll have to purchase a separate earthquake endorsement.
Roof Structural Damage
The roof is always exposed to the elements and it can fall under pressure with rainfall, hail, snowfall, and ice. The biggest threat to the integrity of a roof is storm damage. In some cases, a tree can fall over and damage your roof. Make sure there are no trees hanging over your roof or trim them if they reach it because they can collapse and cause a hole in your roof, costing thousands in shingle replacements. Most of these events including falling objects will automatically be covered by home insurance.
If you have stormy weather, strong winds can carry flying objects at more than 150 mph and launch them directly at your roof. Flat roofs are increasingly popular in recent years with modern home designs and they are actually harder to maintain. The surface on a flat roof tends to wear out faster which means it requires constant maintenance. If the damage to the roof was caused by Mother Nature, your insurance company is going to cover you. Replacing a roof can cost thousands of dollars which is why you must have insurance for any structural problems here.
Patios/Deck Structural Damage
Patios and decks are directly attached to the main home which is why they’re considered part of the main dwelling. This entitles them to full-dwelling coverage as part of your home insurance plan. To install a new deck you can pay as much as $20,000, which is why you must be reimbursed for all storm damage to your deck.
Outbuilding Structural Damage
Many Americans have guest homes and secondary buildings on their property such as sheds, garages, workshops, and other buildings. These are called “outbuildings” by insurance companies and they have limited coverage compared to the main dwelling. If any of these experience structural damage, you can file a claim not exceeding 10% of your main dwelling coverage limit.
Your home insurance policy will also cover everything which could be considered a permanent part of a property. This includes doors, windows, locks, and security measures. This also includes bathroom and kitchen fixtures such as sinks, showers, and toilets: anything which you wouldn’t take with you if you moved.
Many policies cover outbuildings, like sheds and garages, but some will require you to purchase additional coverage. Your insurance typically won’t cover things like outdoor swimming pools or saunas. You can usually arrange cover with your insurer, but it will cost more than a standard policy.
When Structural Damage Is Covered
The insurance company will pay out on structural damage if it occurred due to unpredictable events and not maintenance issues. The following events will be covered:
- Unexpected Incidents. If you notice major cracks in your walls and you find out you had termites eating into your insulation, you will likely be covered because you had no idea there was a termite presence in your home. The same applies if termites eat into your foundation. These are not maintenance issues because you weren’t aware of them until the damage was done.
- Labor Accidents. If you hire an electrician to fix a light fixture in your home and they accidentally cause a crack in your ceiling, you will be covered for the repair. In this situation, you can also use their liability insurance to pay for your damage since contractors carry business insurance.
- Mother Nature. Homeowners insurance has 16 named perils on the average plan and most of those perils are nature-related. You will be covered for most weather-related damage such as rainstorms, snowstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, ice damage, and others. The only exception is floods and earthquakes which can be purchased as a separate endorsement.
Note: If any of these structural problems appear due to a lack of maintenance on your end, you will not be covered. Insurance companies only pay for innocent cases where you had no idea the accident was coming. When you’re filing a claim, the decision will be made entirely based on the circumstances that lead to the structural problem.
Deductibles For Structural Damage Claims
The deductibles for structural problems tend to be fixed and range between $500-1,500, depending on your insurance. The insurance company will allow you to pick a deductible amount and pay higher or lower monthly premiums as a result.
If your claim is approved, you’ll have to pay this deductible and the insurance company will pay for the rest of the damage once you receive a quote from a contractor. Note that once you claim your insurance payment you’ll be responsible for any damage that exceeds your maximum policy limits. Keep this in mind when you review your current policy and raise the limits accordingly.
Insurance companies generally don’t cover structural damage. Depending on your policy, they may or may not cover damages to your foundation. You are likely not to get any coverage if the damage can be classified as maintenance-related concerns. Whether you have an “all risk” or a general homeowners insurance policy, it pays to know what your policy provides for, or how your insurer treats issues related to your foundation. And because structural damages don’t manifest abruptly, the sooner that you find them, the better will be your chances to have them resolved with insurance coverage.
The aftermath of a tornado, hurricane, or flood can cause progressive damage to your foundation. Like a termite or pest infestation, the inherent dilemma is that you don’t get to see the effects readily, they sometimes take months or even years to show visible damage. And when you fail to address these issues promptly, the insurance company can consider them as negligence on your part because water seepage or a termite infestation can mean that you failed to maintain your house well. Maintenance issues or negligence are of course not part of your insurer’s responsibilities and proving that you did your part make a big difference.
Other causes of structural damage include ground collapse due to sinkholes, earth movement, and soil erosion. Water seepage due to roof damage can accumulate and possibly damage your foundation over time. Depending on the inclusions of your policy, acts of nature can be covered. But don’t be relaxed yet, the clarity and promptness of your report matter a lot to the insurance inspector who will try to avoid giving you the payouts. Your tact in dealing with your agent definitely matters.
In cases where there are actual structural issues, the first step is to hire an independent inspector to assess the damage and identify the actual cause. It’s good to have a detailed report because while you hope that your insurer covers all the damage, there can be certain conditions when they just won’t.
Next is to refer to your policy and identify clearly how your circumstances fit into the actual provisions. If your house is located in places identified to be prone to disasters such as sinkholes and tornadoes, it’s very likely that you don’t get to be covered for structural damages or that you would have to pay a hefty premium compared to those in other “safer” places. The area where you live, the quality of the soil, and any predisposition to slow but progressive foundation damage are red flags that insurance companies will almost usually avoid.
At any rate, keeping track of any structural damage that your foundation might incur will be essential to the overall integrity of your home and the safety of your family. Your keen attention to the provisions of your current insurance or the one that you consider buying determines whether your home will be covered from structural damage or not.