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I have the opportunity to add some coverage to my insurance that would cover a sewer line collapse (amongst other issues with underground services).

Is there any rule of thumb as to how long they normally will last without attention?

In my case, I've got a house from the 1950s which probably has clay or concrete sewer piping, so we don't have the durability of PVC or HDPE.

Should I be sweating that this thing is going to go in the next 10-15 years?

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Collapses are just one problem with clay sewers. Probably more common are roots clogging the pipe. If they do collapse, it can occur under your foundation slab, or out in your yard.

Some 60 year old clay sewers might still be in great condition while others not so great. If you want to know the condition of yours then get a video inspection.

Do you have a basement and is it finished? Obviously a finished basement is a lot more costly to repair than an unfinished one. If a collapse does occur, the backup will occur pretty slowly (versus from the city where you might get a few feet of water in your basement quickly). Water alarms can be obtained relatively cheaply and would alert you to the issue early on.

Ultimately you need to weigh the cost of the insurance against the cost of repair. Remember that insurance companies don't make their billions by paying out claims to people.

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In our neighborhood of 1950s houses, many of the cast concrete pipe sections are, and have been, collapsing—probably even ours.

To shorten the time you pay this extra coverage, wait 4-5 months after coverage begins and when the soil is soft (Spring rain, thaw, or whatever), and then buy a truck load of barkdust, wood chips, sawdust, top soil, coal, or what have you to be delivered. Have them drive over the soil above the route of the sewer pipe. (And then drive to wherever it should be dumped.) You probably now have a collapsed sewer line, and can file a claim for its repair. If it is well-repaired, you can then forever drop the coverage.

It is no fun without a working sewer line. Perhaps you can be on holiday from when it fails until it is replaced....

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    Of course, if you intend to commit insurance fraud, you should probably not post your plans on the internet...
    – Hank
    Nov 7 '14 at 0:49
  • @HenryJackson: I am not aware of this type of insurance being available to me, though the above seems to have happened inadvertently. I figure we'll be renting a backhoe to replace the pipe ourselves.
    – wallyk
    Nov 7 '14 at 0:58
  • Aside from insurance fraud, the scenario outlined is not covered by any of similar policies I was "offered" (by unsolicited offers by mail). The policies I have seen pay out only for "normal wear and tear", not for a "natural disaster" or a man-made break by whatever means. Who gets to define what constitutes "normal wear and tear"?? The insurance company that doesn't want to pay out, that's who. Be careful. Nov 7 '14 at 17:33

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