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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Joel...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Aug 28, 2021

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Our flood insurance articles tend to get a few more visits this time of year.

After record snowfall this past winter, we’re expecting to field quite a few more inquiries about flood insurance coverage.

Many insurance agents will tell you they have a hard time convincing their insured to purchase flood insurance, as many homeowners incorrectly believe there is coverage against flood contained within a homeowners insurance policy (Do I need flood insurance?).

But as mentioned countless times already, flood insurance is only covered by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). It is not found in standard homeowners insurance policies. However, it can be purchased through insurance agents.

(Read more about where you can purchase flood insurance and how much flood insurance costs.)

One particularly frequent coverage question pertaining to floods is whether or not seepage of water into basements is covered by a flood policy.

So what’s the official word on basement flood coverage and water seepage? Let’s take an in-depth look and while we’re at it, let’s include sewer backup here as well since both are common causes of flooded homes.

Is seepage covered?

Seepage resulting from flood waters, even when the actual flood waters haven’t entered your home, is covered by your standard flood insurance policy. There are a few items to note when trying to determine if your particular insurance claim will be covered. These items may seem sort of obvious, but nonetheless, must be considered.

1. The “loss” suffered to your home must be within an area that meets the definition of a flood. Meaning a particularly heavy rain that may have caused water damage, but not been officially designated a flood, will not be covered.

2. The seepage or sewer backup must be a result of the flood. There may be instances where one or the other of these perils affects you, but were not caused directly from the flood. It may be rare…but it happens.

3. There is no coverage for your basement if it does not meet the definition of a basement based on the NFIP guidelines. So we’re clear here, the NFIP considers a basement to be a room or building area where the floor is BELOW GROUND LEVEL ON ALL SIDES.

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What’s Covered in the Basement?

It’s important to remember that there are two types of flood insurance coverage. Put simply, they are “building property” and “personal property.”

Building Property

The building property flood policy will cover your basement for the boiler, furnace, or water heater, and also items such as unfinished drywall for walls and ceilings, floor, nonflammable insulation, stairways and staircases attached to the building and clean-up.

Notice that large electronic or gas “items” like the sump pump, boiler, furnace and hot water heater are building property and not personal property. Keep in mind these items are necessary to “keep the house running.” We make this distinction because a few items on the property list below, counter intuitively, aren’t considered building property.

Personal Property

When it comes to personal property coverage for the basement, coverage includes air conditioning units, portable or window type, clothes washers and dryers, food freezers, other than walk in, and the food in any freezer.

Notice relatively large electronic items that are not deemed “necessary” to run the home (at least to the NFIP anyway), like window air conditioners and freezers, are listed as personal property and building property.

In other words, you need to buy both types of flood coverage to make sure you are fully prepared for a flood.

What’s Not Covered in the Basement?

There are a few things you should move from the basement to higher ground during a flood. While these items ARE covered if they are not in the basement, you’d be out of luck if they are.

– Couches
– Chairs
– Televisions and other personal electronics
– Carpet
– Beds
– Other items not listed above are NOT covered in a basement.

What does flood insurance not cover?

In addition to what’s mentioned above, flood insurance doesn’t cover damage caused by earth movement or damage to any structures outside of your actual dwelling, unless included specifically as an add-on or endorsement. Flood coverage also doesn’t provide loss of use additional living expense payments.

Your flood insurance also might not cover currency, precious metals, or other valuable items in your home, so you may wish to insure these separately. Talk to your insurance company about your specific coverage needs.

What’s the bottom line?

Flood insurance covers your basement against flood damage. If you live in an area with a high risk of flooding, it’s recommended you get a flood insurance policy.

Your basement needs to meet the definition of a “basement” under the National Flood Insurance Program guidelines. If you’re worried about having enough coverage, you can add additional coverage by purchasing separate policies with different companies. This allows you to insure more than just your primary residence. If you live in a high risk zone, consider buying supplemental flood insurance. The cost varies depending upon location.

Don’t sign up for the first policy you see. Compare quotes from multiple companies to find the best deal.