Although expansive soils cause more damage to homes in the U.S. than floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural perils combined, standard home insurance policies don’t usually cover the loss. Standard policies generally include earth movement exclusions, such as those relating to expanding soils, which can damage your home’s foundation. Still, there are ways in which you may be able to get additional coverage to pay for repairs.
Expansive Soil Problems
While about 50 percent of the homes in the U.S. are built on expansive soils, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that half of those homes will suffer some level of damage. Expansive soils contain clay, which expands when it gets wet and then shrinks when weather conditions are dry. These extreme changes create pressure which can damage a structure’s foundation. Damage can also occur to your driveway, walkways, and underground utilities.
Why Standard Policies Don’t Include Coverage
Since earth movement due to expansive soils isn’t considered a sudden and unexpected event, standard home insurance policies usually won’t pay to repair the damage. Although expansive soils can cause major damage to a home, particularly wood-frame structures, there are methods for reducing the potential for damage.
If you live in an arid region that experiences wet and dry seasons throughout the year, your home may be particularly prone to damage that soils which swell with moisture can cause to foundations. Inspection by a qualified professional prior to purchasing a home or building lot can detect the presence of expanding soils or existing damage caused by expanding soils.
Your insurance policy may cover the loss only if there was nothing within reason that you could do to prevent damage. Providing for adequate surface drainage that collects runoff water is one way to prevent moisture that can lead to swelling soils and subsequent damage to building structures. Another way to avoid or reduce damage caused when soils swell from moisture and push upward is to extend the foundation deeper when building a new home. Although installing a new foundation under an existing home is costly, it can be a worthwhile investment if you live in a high-risk area for expansive soils. You may have an easier time getting insurance coverage as well.
Availability of Special Endorsements
Generally, insurance companies don’t offer special add-ons or endorsements to home insurance policies to cover foundation damage and repair. But insurers that deal in unique risks often offer special programs that cover different types of earth movement under which the policy will insure a related loss.
In some states — especially those where unstable soil is a major problem — insurance companies allow homeowners to add the excluded coverage back on to their standard policy for added cost. If that isn’t possible and your home is at high risk for geologic problems, such as expansive soils, you may be able to buy a separate policy from a company that insures just about any type of risk. Contact a local provider, such as one from Hamlin Robert & Ridgeway Limited, for further assistance.