Flood insurance coverage — explained
Flood insurance reimburses you for damage to your home and belongings due to a flood. Homeowners insurance typically doesn't cover flooding, so you’ll need a separate flood insurance policy if your home is in a flood-prone area. Your mortgage lender may even require this coverage if your home is in a FEMA high-risk flood zone and you have a federally backed mortgage.
To help you understand if flood insurance is right for you, we broke down what it covers, what it doesn’t cover, and when you’ll need to use it instead of homeowners insurance.
What flood insurance covers
Flood insurance covers damage to your home and belongings directly caused by a flood event. Most flood insurance is sold through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a federally regulated program with two types of coverages that you can purchase together or separately, depending on your needs.
Building property coverage: Covers your home and built-in systems like your plumbing and electric. This policy has a maximum coverage limit of $250,000.
Personal property coverage: Covers your personal belongings. This policy has a maximum coverage limit of $100,000.
Building property coverage
This covers flood damage to the physical structure of your home and any detached garages on your property. In the event your house is flooded and your floors and walls are severely damaged, this coverage can cover the cost of tearing out and repairing the damaged portion of your home.
Here’s a look at the specific parts of your home that are covered under building property coverage, according to FEMA. 
Walls, floors, and ceilings
Electrical and plumbing systems
Central air conditioning systems, furnaces, and water heaters
Refrigerators, stoves, and other built-in appliances
Permanently installed carpeting over an unfinished floor
Permanently installed paneling, wallboard, bookcases, and cabinets
Garages not attached to your home (up to 10% of building property coverage)
Debris removal expenses
Personal property coverage
This covers flood damage to your personal belongings inside your home. With personal property coverage, the following items are protected against flood damage, according to FEMA.
Clothing, furniture, electronics and other belongings in your home
Window air conditioners
Portable microwave ovens and dishwashers
Carpets that are not covered under building coverage
Washers and dryers
Artwork, fine furs, jewelry, and other expensive valuables (up to $2,500)
With FEMA flood insurance coverage, your personal belongings are covered at their actual cash value. This means the amount your insurance company reimburses you during a claim is based on the value of the items at the time they were damaged.
What’s NOT covered by flood insurance
Flood insurance doesn’t cover flood damage that originates in your home. That means if your house floods because of a roof leak or burst pipe, flood insurance wouldn’t cover water removal or repair costs — however this type of water damage may be covered by homeowners insurance.
Flood insurance generally won’t pay to repair or replace the following items:
Additional living expenses after a loss
Financial losses due to business interruption after a loss
Self-propelled vehicles, like cars and their parts
Does flood insurance cover water damage to basements?
Basements, crawl spaces, and any other floors below ground-level have a greater probability of being flooded than other parts of your house, so NFIP flood insurance policies generally limit coverage for basements.
According to FEMA, the following home features and belongings are not covered if they’re located in your basement at the time of the flood:
Window treatments and fixtures
Carpeting, rugs, or floor tiles
Drywall for walls and ceilings
Walls and ceilings not made of drywall
Most personal belongings, including clothing, electronics, kitchen supplies, and furniture
When do I need flood insurance?
While flood insurance is not required by law, your mortgage lender may require you to purchase a building coverage policy if you have a federally regulated mortgage and your home is in a FEMA-designated floodplain.
If the following apply to your house or mortgage, you’ll likely need to purchase flood insurance.
Your home is located in a high-risk flood zone according to FEMA flood maps. If your house is in a zone that starts with an A or V, that means you’re in a FEMA floodplain.
You have a federally regulated mortgage with the FHA or VA, or your loan is backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
You live in on of the 22,000 NFIP-participating communities.
But even if your mortgage lender doesn’t require this coverage or your house doesn’t have much perceived risk, flood insurance is still a good idea.
Around 80% of Hurricane Harvey victims didn’t have flood insurance, according to researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, and this could be because many homeowners don't realize that home insurance doesn't cover flooding. 
Learn more >> When is flood insurance required?
Private flood insurance vs. NFIP coverage: Which option is better?
If private flood insurance is available in your area, you may want to consider one over an NFIP plan. For one, NFIP flood insurance only covers your home and personal property up to $250,000 and $100,000, respectively.
As climate change intensifies and flood events continue to increase in frequency and size, you’ll want to consider a policy that can cover your home for a full rebuild, and the NFIP’s maximum limits may not be enough.
With private flood insurance, maximum coverage limits are higher, and policies generally come with additional protection like loss of use coverage. Additionally, you may find that private flood insurance is cheaper if you live in a lower-risk area.