Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Wood Rot?
Foundational damage to a home is the last situation any homeowner wants to face. No matter how minor, these issues cost thousands of dollars to fix, and it’s not a repair that can wait. While a broken appliance is inconvenient, structural problems can make a home unlivable!
From groundwater seeping in below the foundation to leaks from the roof, water is a perpetual concern that can attack a home’s structure in many ways. When left untreated, moisture will cause wood rot, extensive damage, and costly repairs.
Homeowners insurance is a crucial crutch in managing the expense of home damage from wood rot, but you can’t expect a payout in most situations. If you’re worried about the crippling damage of wood rot in your home, we’ll explain the extent of homeowners’ coverage for wood rot and how you can prevent a costly repair bill.
Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Wood Rot?
Wood rot results from excessive and consistent moisture in the wood. Moisture exposure can happen in numerous ways, from spilled drinks to forces of nature.
Your homeowner’s insurance will likely pay to repair wood rot if the moisture exposure that caused it occurred from a covered peril. Covered perils are sudden, accidental, and internal, meaning water didn’t come from the ground outside. Examples of covered situations can include:
Flooding is typically not a covered peril under a homeowners insurance policy. But you may be able to purchase coverage as a rider if you live in a flood-prone area. Many insurance companies include or offer endorsements specific to fungi and bacteria that limit or expand coverage.
When Isn’t Wood Rot Covered?
Homeowners’ insurance will not cover wood rot that resulted from intentional or preventable causes. While damage from a sudden burst pipe may be unavoidable, high humidity that causes gradual fungus growth and wood rot stem from poor maintenance. In these cases, insurance will not pay for repairs.
Insurance does not cover normal wear and tear and maintenance issues, two common causes of high moisture and eventual wood rot in the home.
Because rot takes a while to set in, your insurer may still deny a rot claim from a covered peril if they can’t determine that it didn’t happen from negligence on your part. If there is hidden damage, insurers may give you a time window (often 30 days) to report it.
What Causes Wood Rot?
Though moisture is the catalyst, fungi are what cause wood rot. With water, oxygen, and food, these microscopic organisms begin breaking down wood. The three general types of wood rot are white rot, brown rot, and soft rot.
White rot occurs in temperatures of 65°F–90°F. Fungi that create white rot degrade lignin in wood, leaving white or yellow shades in spongy, fibrous wood behind. Many white rot fungi attack only the lignin, while others consume the cellulose too.
Brown rot, or dry rot, is a specific fungus (Serpula lacrymans) requiring similar temperatures and excess moisture levels as white rot but spreads more rapidly. Unlike white rot, dry rot can move through inorganic material like masonry to attack other wood structures.
You can identify brown rot by shrunken wood that appears dried out and cracked into cube shapes. Alongside a musty smell, you may also notice white, cottony growth under humid conditions, sometimes developing teardrops. In drier conditions, grayish skin may appear with touches of yellow or lilac colors.
Although soft rot breaks down wood slower than brown or white rot, soft rot can set in at any temperature from 0°F to 110°F. Soft rot-infested wood is soft and spongy, with the fungus degrading cellulose to destroy the wood in a honeycomb-like pattern.
Soft rot is the least concerning of any fungus variety, as it tends to stick to woodland environments. But if it infests your home, it can be stubborn to remove, and it will be more likely to attack places where other fungi cannot grow, such as exterior wood panels.
How to Monitor and Prevent Wood Rot
After identifying wood rot, the critical first step is to identify and remove the source of the moisture that caused it to prevent further damage. If the wood rot resulted from a potentially covered peril, reach out to your insurer to discuss your coverage as soon as possible.
Wood rot is often easy to avoid in covered situations, especially if you are prompt with your damage claims. For instance, if a pipe bursts in your bathroom, it might ruin the subfloor, which could eventually develop wood rot. But if you make a claim, that damage would likely already be part of a covered replacement.
When preventing wood rot, unprotected maintenance issues and wear and tear can cause the most headaches. If you don’t pay attention to your house and perform regular checks, prolonged humidity or slow leaks will lead to rot, and you won’t be able to make a claim.
Performing maintenance checks on your home and its systems twice a year is crucial in identifying problems throughout the home that could lead to wood rot. Pay special attention to trouble areas, such as basements, and install humidity meters to monitor moisture levels if necessary.
Because it takes so long to develop, wood rot can be tricky from an insurance standpoint. In most cases, wood rot will not have coverage, so prevention is crucial in saving yourself from costly repairs. With regular property maintenance, reviewing your insurance policy, and prompt communication with your insurer, you can avoid any nasty surprises.
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