Flood insurance facts

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Flooding is one of the most common — and most expensive — disasters. At its worst, flooding can destroy entire communities. Even when it only affects a single home, the impact can be financially devastating — particularly because standard homeowners insurance policies specifically exclude flood coverage.

Fortunately, separate flood insurance policies are available and can help homeowners or renters recover after a flood incident. To help you understand what flood coverage is available, how it works and whether you need it, we gathered some of the most important flood insurance facts for you here.

In this article:

Key flood insurance facts

Some flood insurance information you should know:

Flood insurance facts 2021

If you have or are considering purchasing flood insurance, it is important to note that FEMA is rolling out a new risk rating system. Since most flood insurance policies are backed by FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), there is a high likelihood that if you have flood insurance, this new rating methodology will directly impact what you pay.

Called Risk Rating 2.0, this new system moves away from the traditional risk evaluation model of looking at your home’s location on a map. Rates used to be determined based on your home’s elevation and its placement within the national flood map. Risk Rating 2.0, however, brings a greater number of relevant factors into consideration, including FEMA’s most updated catastrophe models, advancements in actuarial science and, perhaps most importantly, the cost to rebuild your home.

Risk Rating 2.0 will kick in for any new policies after October 1. On April 1, 2022, all existing policies will need to use this rating methodology. FEMA predicts this new system will lower flood insurance rates for lower-cost homes while doing the opposite for higher-cost homes. They also expect that 23 percent of policyholders will see immediate rate decreases under Risk Rating 2.0.

How serious are floods?

With some flood insurance information under your belt, you might be wondering if this is a policy type you need. To help you get a feel for just how serious flooding can be, here are some data points about the damage they can do — and the threat they pose to human lives.

How damaging are floods?

Floods are one of the most expensive natural disasters. Even a small amount of water in your home can mean a serious expense, from replacing damaged furniture to dealing with mold remediation. To give you an idea of the damage a flood can do, here are some projected expenses based on home type and water level:

Flood Damage Cost Estimates (Floodsmart.gov)

1,000 sq. ft., one-story 2,500 sq. ft., one-story 5,000 sq. ft., two-story
1” of water $10,819 $26,807 $53,454
12” of water $29,360 $72,162 $143,519
24” of water $36,660 $87,326 $171,775
36” of water $39,831 $94,538 $185,704
48” of water $43,400 $103,355 $203,280

How dangerous are floods?

Expensive repairs are far from the only risk flooding can pose. Floods can also affect entire communities and even cause fatalities. Plus, flood danger is relatively unpredictable. While Texas and Kentucky have the most flood incidents, floods can affect any part of the country, from coastal states like Virginia to landlocked ones like Missouri. We also want to note that a state with a low number of flood incidents does not necessarily mean those floods are low-cost. Oregon, North Dakota and Wyoming all had relatively low numbers as far as annual flood events, but they ranked high in average insurance claims payments.

Take a look at the average flood danger level in your state.

Flood Danger by State (National Weather Service & FEMA)

State Annual flood events (2017) Annual flood events (2018) Annual flood events (2019) 3-year average annual flood events (2017 – 2019) Average NFIP flood insurance claims payment Flood fatalities, 2010 – 2018
Alabama 115 74 47 79 $3,900 6
Alaska 2 3 0 2 $6,800 4
Arizona 116 165 14 98 <$1,000 28
Arkansas 199 213 136 183 $6,800 63
California 260 150 197 202 $11,000 21
Colorado 62 91 4 52 $3,200 16
Connecticut 16 25 2 14 $2,600 1
Delaware 23 21 0 15 <$1,000 2
Florida 179 76 5 87 $5,100 7
Georgia 227 234 12 158 $4,100 3
Hawaii 78 93 24 65 $3,400 7
Idaho 122 27 16 55 <$1,000 1
Illinois 277 284 204 255 $2,300 27
Indiana 156 186 104 149 $3,600 15
Iowa 68 400 239 236 $4,900 5
Kansas 144 174 166 161 $6,100 10
Kentucky 228 449 196 291 $4,000 41
Louisiana 142 86 102 110 $9,900 22
Maine 25 23 14 21 $2,100 1
Maryland 55 193 7 85 $3,500 3
Massachusetts 69 92 5 55 $2,100 0
Michigan 29 50 27 35 $1,600 4
Minnesota 30 123 96 83 $4,600 2
Mississippi 224 175 95 165 $6,900 8
Missouri 301 204 300 268 $4,700 54
Montana 23 80 29 44 $2,900 6
Nebraska 89 100 72 87 $5,100 4
Nevada 30 29 4 21 $9,400 4
New Hampshire 35 28 13 25 $3,100 0
New Jersey 100 141 10 84 $4,400 10
New Mexico 89 96 1 62 <$1,000 15
New York 164 130 46 113 $8,000 15
North Carolina 124 362 44 177 $4,600 47
North Dakota 6 30 15 17 $12,000 5
Ohio 232 233 107 191 $3,500 17
Oklahoma 156 116 139 137 $5,300 49
Oregon 37 8 29 25 $8,100 4
Pennsylvania 173 260 36 156 $3,000 27
Rhode Island 5 5 0 3 $2,200 0
South Carolina 53 77 5 45 $3,600 21
South Dakota 35 198 271 168 $2,400 4
Tennessee 140 183 114 146 $6,000 37
Texas 418 380 273 357 $7,300 212
Utah 49 38 2 30 <$1,000 29
Vermont 28 27 15 23 $5,800 7
Virginia 131 571 48 250 $3,900 24
Washington 62 19 7 29 $5,600 1
West Virginia 104 285 72 154 $4,000 32
Wisconsin 93 205 46 115 $1,800 10
Wyoming 23 32 13 23 $8,100 8

What is flood insurance?

Flood insurance, which is designed to pay out for damage your home sustains after a flood, usually costs an average of roughly $700 each year. However, costs vary by state and rates are expected to change when FEMA rolls out the Risk 2.0 program in October 2021. For homeowners and renters in flood-prone areas, flood insurance serves as an important piece of their overall coverage portfolio because homeowners and renters insurance almost always exclude flooding as a covered peril.

Usually, flood insurance policies are backed by FEMA and sold through the NFIP, although you can buy flood insurance through a private insurer, too. If you want to learn more about how to buy flood insurance, our guide can get you started.

Flood insurance works like other types of insurance and pays out for expenses you incur when a covered flood incident damages your home or belongings.

What does flood insurance cover?

Flood insurance usually covers your home and personal belongings, assuming you get both dwelling and personal property (also called contents) coverage. Here are some things that are commonly covered:

  • The structure of your home, including the foundation
  • Plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems
  • Flooring
  • Appliances
  • Furniture
  • Electronics
  • Clothing
  • Window coverings

Just like homeowners insurance, your flood insurance may cover valuables like rugs or art, but there is usually a limit on the payout.

How do floods damage homes?

A little water may not seem like a significant concern, but even a single inch of water can do tens of thousands of dollars of damage to your home. Why is the total so high? Floods can damage your home in the following ways:

  • Structural damage: Flood waters can damage your flooring and compromise the integrity of your foundation. Flooding can also cause drywall deterioration and other structural problems.
  • Broken appliances:Most appliances are not designed to withstand water exposure. A flood could potentially ruin everything from your oven to your fridge to your washer and dryer.
  • Electrical system problems: Water is a problem for your home’s electrical system. Damaged wiring can also cause power surges that damage anything you have plugged in.
  • Septic tank issues: If you have a septic system at your house, floodwaters can wash in debris that clogs it.
  • Well water contamination: Similarly, flooding can wash debris and contaminants into your well.
  • Damaged belongings: Many of your household electronics would probably be ruined by a flood. Beyond that, while furniture and clothes may dry, if they were exposed to water for an extended period, you may have to contend with mold and mildew.

Floods and mold

Mold is a pervasive problem after flooding and can start to grow on a damp surface as soon as 24 hours after the area is first exposed to water. To prevent mold growth, you should air out your home as quickly as possible after the flood. Generally speaking, if your flood insurance provider finds that you could have avoided the mold by taking the proper steps after the flood, they will not cover the cost of mold remediation.

Facts about lowering your flood risk

The good news is that even if you live on a flood plain, you can take some steps to protect your home against water damage — and you can potentially land more affordable flood insurance as a result.

  • Elevate your property: If your home is already built, this will be a challenge. But if you have considered undertaking a new build, think about raising the base elevation at which your home will be built — or at least building on the highest part of your property.
  • Elevate your utilities: Your flood insurance will probably cost more if your utilities are situated below the base flood elevation (BFE) or the level to which water would likely rise in a flood. Move electrical panels, water heaters, HVAC systems and other utilities to the attic or place them on an elevated platform.
  • Install flood openings: Flood openings allow water to flow out of your house if the water levels rise inside. Basically, they prevent standing water in your home (which can also help to minimize mold damage). The NFIP will not count doors and windows as flood openings unless they have flood openings installed in them.
  • Fill in your basement or crawlspace: Generally, if your basement is located below BFE, the NFIP will either not cover it, or you could pay as much as 20 percent more for your flood insurance policy.

What is an elevation certificate?

To measure your flood risk with or without the above preventive measures in place, the NFIP may also require you to secure an elevation certificate for your home.

An elevation certificate measures the elevation of your home against the surrounding area, identifying things like the specific elevation of your lowest floor and any features of your home that could change its risk for flooding.

Ultimately, the most important thing is that you understand your home or apartment’s specific risk for flooding and that you purchase flood insurance to protect yourself.

Written by
Kacie Goff
Personal Finance Contributor
Kacie Goff is a personal finance and insurance writer with over seven years of experience covering personal and commercial coverage options. She writes for Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, NextAdvisor, Varo Money, Coverage, Best Credit Cards and more. She's covered a broad range of policy types — including less-talked-about coverages like wrap insurance and E&O — and she specializes in auto, homeowners and life insurance.