Which disasters are covered by homeowners insurance?

Home insurance covers disasters both big and small — from burst pipes to tornadoes to house fires. However, your policy won’t cover flood or earthquake damage.

Kara McGinley

By

Kara McGinley

Kara McGinley

Property and Casualty Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley is an insurance editor at Policygenius, specializing in home, auto, and renters insurance. She's been writing about insurance since 2019, and her work and insights have been referenced in Kiplinger and WRAL.com.

Published September 24, 2021|6 min read

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In 2020, natural disasters caused $74.4 billion in insured property damage, an 88% increase over the previous year. [1] As hurricanes and wildfires continue to get more destructive in the U.S., it’s especially important to make sure you’re properly covered with the right type of insurance. Homeowners insurance covers many different types of disasters, both natural, like a tornado, and human-caused ones, like an electrical fire. 

However, not all disasters are covered by homeowners insurance. In this guide, we’ll discuss when your homeowners insurance can help you after a disaster, and when you may need additional coverage.

Key Takeaways

  • Homeowners insurance protects your home and personal property if they’re damaged or destroyed by a covered disaster, like hurricane or tornado winds or a wildfire

  • You should have enough dwelling coverage to cover the cost of fully rebuilding your home if it is destroyed

  • Certain disasters are not covered by standard home insurance, like floods and earthquakes. You can either add coverage or purchase separate policies for those disasters

  • Depending on what state you live in, you may need to pay a separate deductible for wind, hail, and tropical storm damage

Disasters that are covered by homeowners insurance

Home insurance can help pay to repair or replace your home, personal belongings, and other structures on your property (like a gazebo or detached garage) if they are damaged or destroyed by a disaster that’s covered by your policy. Your policy can also pay for additional living expenses — like hotel stays and restaurant meals — if you’re temporarily displaced from your home while it’s being repaired. 

You should make sure that your dwelling coverage limit (the coverage that insures the structure of your home) is equal to its replacement cost, which is the amount it would cost to fully rebuild your house after a disaster. Depending on how at risk you are for a disaster, you should also make sure your personal property is covered for its full value.

Depending on where you live, your home insurance may require you to pay more out of pocket expenses if your house is damaged by hurricane winds. Below are the different disasters covered by home insurance and coverage considerations that you’ll need to keep in mind.

1. Fires 

Home insurance covers the structure of your home and your belongings if they’re damaged by fire and smoke, like if you accidentally set your kitchen on fire while cooking and burn a section of your house down. 

Home insurance typically protects you from wildfires as well, however if you live in a high-risk fire area, like certain parts of California, it may be more difficult to find coverage. If you can’t find adequate coverage where you live, you may be able to purchase insurance through a FAIR (Fair Access to Insurance Requirements) Plan, which is a last resort coverage option offered through your state. 

Learn more about wildfires and insurance here

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2. Tornadoes

Wind damage caused by tornadoes are covered by homeowners insurance, as are the damages associated with it, like hail, wind-driven rain, and fallen trees. That said, it’s common for insurers in tornado-prone states, like those located in the Tornado Alley region, to require a separate wind and hail deductible that you’ll have to pay before insurance covers the cost of tornado damage. Wind and hail deductibles are generally anywhere from 1% to 10% of your dwelling coverage limit. Some insurers may give you the option to exclude wind and hail damage from your policy altogether if you want to keep costs down, but keep in mind that means you won’t be covered from any type of wind or hail damage if you choose to do this. 

3. Hurricanes

Homeowners insurance covers certain types of  tropical storms and hurricane damage, but just like with tornadoes, insurance companies in hurricane-prone states may charge a separate wind, named storm, or hurricane deductible. Most states on the Atlantic coast require a hurricane deductible, and it’s usually set at 1% to 5% of your dwelling limit. Hurricane deductibles are typically triggered once an official hurricane is named by the National Weather Service. Keep in mind that homeowners insurance does not cover flooding, so any flood damage that results from a hurricane would not be covered by your policy. You’ll need separate flood insurance for that damage.  

Read our complete guide to hurricane coverage here.

4. Explosions

Home insurance covers damage caused by most types of explosions, like ones caused by gas or propane leaks. It also covers explosions that happen off your property, like if your neighbor’s propane tank blew up and damaged your home. 

There are some instances when home insurance won’t cover explosions, though. Your policy won’t cover nuclear hazards, intentional and illegal acts, and acts of war. 

5. Volcanic eruptions

Standard home insurance covers damage caused by volcanic blasts, ash, dust, and lava flow. If the volcanic eruption leads to fire and smoke damage, home insurance will cover that, too. But if the eruption leads to an earthquake, homeowners insurance would likely not cover the quake damage.

6. Extreme cold and weight of snow and ice

Homeowners insurance covers damage caused by snow or ice buildup, like if an ice dam causes your roof to collapse. If extreme cold freezes your heating system or plumbing, home insurance may help cover the cost of repairs as long as the systems were in use, like if you had the heat on during a blizzard. But if you went on vacation for a couple of weeks and left the water tank on and it froze, you likely wouldn’t be covered. 

7. Lightning

Damage caused by lightning strikes are covered by homeowners insurance, so if a bolt of lightning strikes your roof and causes a house fire, home insurance can help cover the cost of repairs. If lightning directly strikes a tree on your property and it falls on your roof, that should be covered as well. If a lightning strike results in a power surge that fries your television, homeowners insurance may pay to replace your TV. 

8. Sudden water damage

Although a burst pipe may sound quaint in comparison to the disasters listed above, it can still result in thousands of dollars worth of damage. Home insurance covers sudden and accidental water damage, like if your plumbing bursts in your upstairs bathroom and destroys everything downstairs. 

Disasters that are not covered by homeowners insurance

Standard homeowners insurance does not cover every type of disaster, but there are typically coverage add-ons or separate policies that you can purchase to cover damage caused by the following: 

1. Flooding

Home insurance never covers flood damage. In order to be protected against flood damage, you’ll need a separate flood insurance policy. You should strongly consider flood insurance if you live in an area that’s at-risk for flooding. If you have a mortgage on your home, your lender may even require it. Most flood insurance policies are administered through the National Flood Insurance Programed (NFIP), a FEMA-backed program. You can also buy private flood insurance. 

Learn more about the NFIP here.

2. Earthquakes 

Homeowners insurance also doesn’t cover damage caused by earthquakes. To protect your home from quake damage, you’ll need to add a coverage add-on, or endorsement, to your home insurance. If your insurer doesn’t offer an earthquake endorsement, or if you’re worried about quake damage where you live, you may want to consider purchasing separate earthquake insurance.  

3. Mudslides

Mudslide damage is not covered by standard homeowners insurance. If mudflow damage is caused by a flood, flood insurance may cover the damage. 

4. Tsunami

Standard home insurance does not cover tsunamis or the flood damage that follows. You’ll need a flood insurance policy to cover water damage caused by tsunami floods.

5. Nuclear event

Nuclear events are not covered by homeowners insurance. If an explosion at a nuclear plant nearby damages your home, the energy company will likely be responsible for paying out for repairs.