Contents vs. Building Coverage in Flood Insurance

Updated: Mar 30

No matter the insurer, flood insurance policies provide protection for items under two different coverages: coverage for the building’s structure (the house structure) and coverage for its contents (items inside the building). The differences between the two play a major role in determining what exactly is covered and how much financial compensation you could receive after a flood.

Just how much coverage is available for each is determined by the flood insurance policy you buy. Policyholders with an NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) policy may find their coverage to be limited when compared to policies purchased through the private market.

No matter which policy you buy, your flood policy’s building coverage typically covers things like:

  • Electrical and plumbing systems

  • Furnaces, water heaters, central air conditioners, heat pumps and sump pumps

  • Fuel tanks, well water tanks and solar energy equipment

  • Built-in appliances such as dishwashers

  • Refrigerators and cooking ranges

  • Permanently installed carpeting

  • Permanently affixed cabinets, paneling and wallboard

  • Bookcases that have been permanently installed

  • Window blinds

  • Foundation walls and staircases

  • Anchorage systems

  • Detached garages

Flooded Basement

Personal property/contents coverage typically includes:

  • Clothing

  • Furniture

  • Electronic equipment

  • Washers and dryers

  • Artwork

  • Sporting goods and toys

  • Carpeting installed over other types of flooring not included in building coverage

  • Portable air conditioners

  • Curtains

It’s important to note that most flood insurance policies don’t automatically provide contents coverage. If coverage for personal property is desired, it must be purchased in addition to building coverage. And while homeowners in high-risk flood zones are required to have building coverage, whether or not they insure their personal property is entirely up to them. According to FEMA, only one in four homeowners with a standard flood insurance policy is covered for damage to their contents. That’s a sizeable gamble when you consider the out of pocket expenses that could be needed to replace damaged personal property.

If you have a finished basement, or an unfinished one that houses personal property, you should consider what coverage is available for these items when shopping for a flood policy. While basement flooding caused by water seepage through a cracked foundation or back up from a plumbing system aren’t typically covered by flood insurance policies, there are policies available through the private market that cover repair costs for finished walls, flooring, cabinetry, and more, if the damage is caused by a covered flooding event.

In addition to basement coverage, private insurers, accessed through, offer increased policy limits with building coverage up to $5 million and contents coverage up to $200,000. The NFIP’s building coverage maxes out at $250,000 and contents its coverage is capped at $100,000.

Whether you select a policy through the private flood insurance market or the NFIP, it’s important to understand what your policy covers, and in the event of a flood loss, what falls under your building or contents coverage. Dealing with the loss of personal items or damage to your home is never easy, but with the right policy, you can get back on your feet in no time!

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