Water issue? The key to a claim is usually whether your home insurance policy excludes the specific problem.

Homeowners insurance generally covers certain types of water damage. For a common type of homeowners insurance, called an HO-3 policy, the key is usually whether the policy specifically excludes the particular water problem.

Water damage (along with damage from freezing) is the third most costly type of home insurance claim, according to the Insurance Information Institute. The average water and freezing damage claim came in at $8,861 for claims made from 2011 to 2015 (the latest numbers available).

Water damage typically covered

  • Burst pipes that are behind a wall or under a sink, or a pipe such as the one to your clothes washer). This includes pipes that freeze and burst, but generally not if you intentionally turned the heat off in the house.
  • An accidental water leak from an appliance, like a hot water heater or dishwasher. Note however that repair of the broken appliance itself is usually not covered.
  • Water from storms such as heavy rain and hail.
  • Water damage that comes through the roof after a storm or tree damages the roof. But things change if there's a question about lack of maintenance. A slow roof leak that wasn't fixed is likely not be covered, for example.
  • Water damage after a fire from water that was used to extinguish the flames.

Water damage usually not covered

Floods. A flood is officially defined as "a general and temporary condition where two or more acres of normally dry land or two or more properties are inundated by water or mudflow," according to FEMA. You can buy a separate flood insurance policy.

Water that backs up through an sewer, storm drain or other pipes from the outside. You can buy water backup coverage.

Water that seeps in through a foundation.

Making a water damage insurance claim

If you have water damage that's covered by home insurance, keep in mind that your insurance check will be reduced by the amount of your deductible. Can't remember what your deductible is? Check the "declarations page" of your homeowners policy.

Making a water damage claim can potentially mean a rate increase at renewal time. Insurers commonly raise rates when claims indicate a higher level of risk for a customer.