Does Home Insurance Cover Storm Damage?
Most standard home insurance policies cover storm damage from common storm events, such as damages caused by thunderstorms and snowfall. However, the details matter. Extreme storm events that could be categorized as natural disasters — such as hurricanes, tropical storms, and floods — are usually excluded from standard home insurance coverage.
If you live in an area with frequent weather events, storm damage could pose a recurring threat to your home. Learn more about how home insurance protects your home against storm damage, and where you may need to seek additional coverage.
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With High Repair Bills, Storm Damage Can Do More Than Dampen Your Spirits
The EPA has confirmed that the rising global average temperature has created increases in many perils, including intense rain, sleet, and snow events. Damages from these storm events can be costly to repair. The 2021 Polar Vortex winter storm event that affected 22 states caused $15 billion of insured losses. Even common storm events like thunderstorms can cause expensive damages: lightning damage accounted for more than 71,000 home insurance claims in 2020, with an average cost of $28,885 per claim.
However, home insurance can help homeowners pay for these costly repairs. When evaluating your insurance coverage, it’s critical to understand exactly what your standard home policy does and does not cover so you can add coverage where needed.
How Does Home Insurance Cover Storm Damage?
Home insurance is comprised of several coverage types within each policy. When it comes to damage caused by a storm, these are the coverages you will most likely utilize:
- Dwelling coverage: This type of coverage helps repair or rebuild the physical structure of your home that are damaged by a storm. For example, dwelling coverage would cover repairs if a windstorm knocks a tree into your house or a blizzard rips the shingles off your roof.
- Other structures coverage: This type of coverage acts the same as dwelling coverage, but helps repair, rebuild, or replace other structures on your property that are not attached to your house, like sheds and detached garages. For example, other structures coverage would cover repairs if the weight of ice and snow causes your shed to warp.
- Personal property coverage: This type of coverage helps repair or replace your personal belongings that are damaged or destroyed by a storm, like furniture, clothing, and electronics. For example, personal property coverage would cover replacing your electronics if a lightning strike causes a power surge that destroys them.
- Additional living expenses coverage: This type of coverage helps cover the costs of you having to temporarily live somewhere else if a storm damages your home so badly that it is uninhabitable until it is repaired. For example, if a storm caused your entire roof to cave in, living expenses coverage would cover your hotel or motel stay while your home is being fixed.
However, keep in mind that none of your coverages will apply for damages caused by excluded events, like floods, earthquakes, and some other natural disasters. Instead, you may purchase an optional stand-alone policy to protect your home, such as flood insurance.
What Kinds of Storm Damage Are Covered?
Homeowners insurance typically covers damages caused by:
- Water, except floods
- Wind, including fallen trees
- Ice and snow
- Lightning strikes and power surges
Each of these events are known as perils, and if the damage is caused by a covered peril, then your insurer typically covers your damage-related repair expenses. Some insurance companies may also offer riders or endorsements. These are optional add-ons you can purchase to cover certain events that would normally not be covered, such as water damage caused by a sewer backup.
Water, Except Floods
- Dwelling coverage: A severe winter storm caused a pipe to break in your home and damage the drywall
- Personal property coverage: After high winds blew your windows in, subsequent rainfall got in and damaged your belongings
Home insurance coverage for water damage is limited to non-flooding events. This means while rainfall coming into your home and damaging your belongings is covered, water coming into your home from a river that broke its banks due to excessive rainfall would not be covered under a standard home insurance policy.
Beyond storm damage, home insurance typically covers water damage that is sudden and accidental, such as a washing machine leak that ruins your flooring. On the other hand, gradual damage, such as a leaking pipe that the homeowner failed to fix, typically is not covered.
Standard home insurance policies also typically exclude certain other types of water damage, such as water backing up from an outside sewer or drain unless an endorsement is added to the policy.
- Dwelling coverage: The strong gusts during a thunderstorm blew a tree down onto your roof
- Personal property coverage: Strong winds tore your patio furniture off the ground and destroyed it
Wind damage may be caused by a variety of storms, such as tornados, hurricanes, tropical storms, thunderstorms, microbursts, and Nor’easters. These wind storms can remove the siding from your home, rip shingles off the roof, or blow the windows into the house. In many cases, standard home insurance policies cover wind damage insurance claims, though in some states, policies may have special higher deductibles for certain types of wind damages, such as those caused by hurricanes.
Ice and Snow Damage
- Dwelling coverage: The weight of snow on your roof caused it to crack
- Personal property coverage: Ice forming on your outdoor furniture caused it to warp and crack.
Ice and snow damage is typically covered, but water damages caused by melting ice and snow is not always covered. For example, if your home floods as a result of melting snow, this may not be covered because it would be considered a flood event. In addition, in areas where hail storms are common, some insurance companies may exclude hail damage from coverage.
Lightning Strikes and Power Surge Damage
- Dwelling coverage: A lightning strike causes a fire, which damages your home’s wall before it is put out.
- Personal property coverage: A lightning strike causes a power surge, which destroys all of the electronics plugged into your home’s outlets.
Lightning strikes and power surges — whether they are caused by lightning or something else — are typically covered under standard home insurance policies. It should be noted that if a lightning strike causes a power surge, everyday surge protectors are often not enough to protect your electronics from damage.
- Dwelling coverage: A wildfire spreads to your home and damages half or all of it before it is put out.
- Personal property coverage: A nearby wildfire causes smoke to come inside your home and damage your furniture, electronics, and clothing.
Standard home policies may cover wildfires, but the extent of coverage may vary depending on where you live and your exact policy. Some states, like California, continue to experience longer wildfire seasons. As a result, some insurance companies do not offer policies in California, and other areas where wildfires are common may experience limited insurance options too.
What Types of Storm Damage Are Not Covered?
As previously mentioned, there are a few types of storm damage that are not typically covered under standard home insurance policies:
- Sewage and drain backups
- Hurricane and extreme windstorms
- Maintenance issues
Flooding may occur as a result of heavy storms, over-saturated ground, melting snow, or overflowing or surging bodies of water, like rivers, ponds, lakes, or the ocean. When these types of floods cause damage to a home, many standard homeowners insurance policies do not cover the resulting damages.
How to Get Coverage: Flood Insurance
Homeowners can purchase a separate stand-alone flood insurance policy. This would provide dwelling and personal property coverage for flood events. Flooding is becoming more frequent along the U.S. coastline, making it even more important for homeowners in coastal areas to consider whether they need this extra coverage.
Flood insurance can be costly, but programs offered through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is designed to be more affordable. However, it does not include loss of use coverage. This means if your home is uninhabitable because of a flood, you would not be covered for your additional living expenses by either your standard home insurance policy or NFIP policy. On the other hand, private insurance companies offering flood insurance may include loss of use coverage.
Sewage and Drain Backup Damage
Home insurance policies may explicitly say that damage caused by a sewage or drain backup is not covered under the standard policy. Sewage damage may result during a storm, for example, if the weight of ice or snow crushes or breaks a pipe, causing the water to back up into the home. Unfortunately, many homeowners don’t realize these damages are not covered until it’s too late.
How to Get Coverage: Rider or Endorsement
Homeowners can purchase separate sewer backup coverage or add an endorsement to their existing homeowners policy. This would provide dwelling, personal property, and loss of use coverage if a sewage and drain backup creates thousands of dollars of damage to your walls, floors, electrical systems, furniture, and other belongings.
Hurricanes and Extreme Windstorm Damage
Standard homeowners insurance policies cover damage caused by strong winds, but may have limitations on wind damage caused by a larger event, such as a tornado or hurricane. If you live in a hurricane-prone area, your policy may specifically exclude wind damage altogether, or only provide coverage if it was not related to a hurricane.
Named Storm Deductible
Standard policies may also have a separate hurricane or windstorm insurance deductible, also known as a “named storm deductible.” These typically go into effect when a storm reaches a certain strength and becomes a named hurricane.
Once they do, you may need to pay a higher deductible if you need to make a hurricane-related storm damage insurance claim. While some hurricane deductibles are a flat dollar amount, others are based on a percentage of the home’s insured value.
How to Get Coverage: Rider or Endorsement, or Windstorm and Flood Insurance
If your policy excludes hurricane or wind damage altogether, you may need to purchase an endorsement or separate windstorm and flood insurance policies. There is no singular type of insurance specifically for hurricanes; instead, homeowners combine windstorm and flood insurance policies to best protect against hurricane damage. Windstorm insurance usually includes dwelling, personal property, and loss of use coverage.
The U.S. has an average of 16 major earthquakes per year. If your home happens to suffer damage during an earthquake, you may find that your standard home insurance policy does not cover it.
This can be a serious concern for those living in areas where earthquakes and aftershocks occur regularly, as earthquakes can cause damage to your home’s foundation, beams, columns, floors, and walls. In extreme cases, they can even cause a total collapse.
How to Get Coverage: Rider or Endorsement, or Earthquake Insurance
In some states, homeowners can purchase a separate stand-alone earthquake insurance policy or add an endorsement to provide protection against these events. This would provide dwelling, personal property, and loss of use coverage if your home is destroyed by an earthquake.
However, insurance companies typically have criteria that your home must meet to be issued coverage. For example, location requirements and structural requirements, such as ensuring your home is bolted to its foundation.
If your home suffered damage during a storm but it was found that the damage was likely more due to maintenance or installation issues than the storm itself, your home insurance will not cover it. For example, if your roof was already in poor condition before the storm damaged it further, your insurance will not cover repairs.
How to File a Claim for Storm Repair
If you intend to file a storm damage insurance claim, it’s important to file before the insurance company’s time limit. Though insurers may have their own nuances and preferences, the claims process is generally as follows:
- Start the process by assessing the storm damage and taking photos. As soon as it is safe to do so, review the damages to your home and belongings. Take photos of the damage — both up close and overall — and of any relevant contextual details. For example, it may be useful to take photos of storm damage done to your neighborhood street in general in addition to your specific home.
- Make a detailed list of items that are damaged. Collect receipts if you can or make a list of the dates they were purchased and the approximate value. Do not throw any damaged items away, as you may need to provide them to your adjuster.
- Contact your insurer to start your claim. During this process, you may need to accurately describe the property damage and explain any special needs you or your family may be facing.
- Schedule an inspection. The insurance company may send an adjuster to inspect the damage and determine the amount of coverage that will be provided. Make sure to give the adjuster any documentation or information you have regarding the damage.
- Get estimates for the repairs. Get an estimate from two to three licensed contractors to ensure you are getting the best price. Your insurance company may have requirements for any contractors hired to do the repairs, so be sure to ask for that criteria too.
- Review the claim settlement. Once the insurance company has reviewed the claim and determined the amount of coverage, they will give you a claim settlement. Review the settlement carefully to ensure you understand and agree with the amount of coverage provided. Be sure to factor in your policy’s coverage limits and deductibles.
- Complete the repairs. Once you have your claim settlement, you may hire licensed contractors to complete the repairs and use the settlement to pay for the repairs.
- Keep track of all expenses and receipts. Keep records of all communication with your insurance company and contractors to ensure a smooth and successful claims process.
The time it takes for your claim to be resolved and for you to receive a claim check may vary depending on your location, the complexity of the claim, and your insurance company. Some states require companies to process and pay out in a timely manner, so be sure to check your state’s requirements.
Deductibles and Coverage Limits For Storm Damage
When looking over your claims settlement, consider your deductibles and coverage limits because these details affect the amount of pay out you can receive even if the event is covered.
- Deductible: The deductible is the out-of-pocket cost you must pay upfront before your insurance kicks in to help cover costs. For example, if your deductible is $500 and it will cost $1,500 to replace your damaged electronics, you must pay $500 before your home insurance covers the remaining $1,000. If you have a separate deductible for wind or hurricane damage, this deductible is often higher than your standard home insurance deductible.
- Coverage limit: The coverage limit is the maximum amount your home insurance policy will pay for that specific coverage type. For example, your dwelling coverage has its own limit, while your personal property coverage has another. Your claims will only pay out to the policy’s limits. For example, if your dwelling coverage limit is $100,000 and heavy rains have caused $150,000 worth of damage, the pay out would only be up to the coverage limit of $100,000.
How to Protect Your Home Against Storm Damage
Taking steps to proactively protect your home from damage may help you avoid the hassle of filing storm damage insurance claims in the first place, or otherwise minimize damage to avoid having your damages exceed your coverage limits.
- Secure loose outdoor items: Move patio furniture, grills, and other outdoor items inside or secure them to prevent them from becoming projectiles during a storm.
- Keep trees trimmed and healthy: Trim trees and remove dead branches regularly to prevent them from falling on the home during a storm. Also ensure that your tree is in good health each year, looking for signs of rotting or other issues that would compromise its strength to withstand a storm.
- Inspect your roof: Replace missing or damaged shingles. Install hurricane straps or clips to reinforce the roof and prevent it from being lifted off during a storm.
- Keep your gutters clear: Gutters that do not work efficiently can compound water damage. Point downspouts away from your foundation
- Invest in storm shutters to help protect your windows and glass doors: Storm shutters or impact-resistant windows can help protect your home from flying debris and strong winds during a storm.
- Ensure doors and windows are properly sealed: Install weatherstripping and sealant around doors and windows to prevent water from entering your home during a storm. Replace caulking if needed.
- Reinforce double-entry doors and garage doors: Stronger doors reduce the risk of it being blown open during a storm.
- Regularly inspect your sump pump and install a battery backup: A sump pump can help prevent water damage in the basement by removing excess water during a storm.
- Inspect your fence and repair any loose posts: Loose posts can act as projectiles during a storm.
- Repair any loose siding: Loose siding can be sheared away in a storm, and it may be challenging to find matching siding. Your home insurance will only cover replacing the damaged or missing pieces, not all of your home’s siding.
- Invest in a backup generator: A backup generator can provide power to your home during a power outage caused by a storm, which could reduce further damages and injury.
- Create an emergency kit: Create an emergency kit that includes water, non-perishable food, flashlights, and first aid supplies in case of a storm or other emergency.
- Know the evacuation route: In areas prone to hurricanes or other severe storms, it is important for homeowners to know the evacuation route and have a plan in place in case of an emergency.
- Review your insurance coverage: Review your insurance coverage to ensure you have adequate coverage for storm damage.
Once there is a storm in your area, you have limited time to prepare. Consider adding some of these tasks to your ongoing maintenance schedule to help ensure your home is as safe as possible when severe storms arrive.
What This Means For You
Storm coverage is a vital part of your home insurance policy because it can protect your home and your finances in the event of severe weather events. Most standard home insurance policies include protection against damage caused by lightning, hail, wind, and rain, which can all lead to costly repairs. However, depending on where you live, your insurance policy may have exclusions, and you may need to purchase additional coverage through policy endorsements or separate stand-alone flood, earthquake, or windstorm policies. It’s important to review your policy to ensure you have adequate storm coverage for your needs.