What is dwelling insurance?

Residential house with hammock in garden.

Home insurance policies are composed of several different types of coverage. One of the most important is dwelling coverage. Your policy’s dwelling insurance, which is also called Coverage A, is designed to cover the structure of your home, including your roof, the exterior and interior walls, and permanently attached structures like decks.

Bankrate’s insurance editorial team, which includes licensed insurance agents, explains the details of dwelling insurance to help you make informed decisions about your coverage. Our knowledge might help you better understand your current policy or shop for a new policy with confidence.

What dwelling insurance covers

When it comes to homeowners insurance, your policy most likely includes multiple sections of coverage. There is coverage to protect your personal belongings and coverage for the house itself, for example.

To help get a handle on the different coverage types, let’s look at an HO-3 policy, the most common type of homeowners policy. Standard HO-3 policies have six basic components:

  • Dwelling coverage, to repair or rebuild your house
  • Other structures coverage, to repair or rebuild any detached structures on your property
  • Personal property coverage, for your personal belongings
  • Liability protection, to cover legal fees and expenses if someone is injured or their belongings are damaged on your property and you are found liable
  • Medical payments coverage, to help cover injuries on your property for which you are not legally liable
  • Additional living expenses (also called “loss of use”), to cover your costs of living in a hotel, meal expenses and more while your home is being repaired after a covered loss

So, what is dwelling insurance? It is the first of these six components and is also referred to as “Coverage A” within the policy. In general, it will cover damage from any of these causes:

  • Fire and smoke
  • Lightning strikes
  • Wind damage
  • Hail
  • Explosions
  • Vandalism
  • Theft
  • Damage caused by the weight of snow, sleet or ice
  • Falling objects
  • Damage from an aircraft or auto
  • Volcanic eruption
  • Water damage caused by appliance overflow or heating/air conditioning malfunction
  • Frozen plumbing/heat ducts/sprinkler system/appliance

It is important to note that different types of home insurance cover different causes of loss, called insurance perils. Reviewing your policy and talking with a company representative is the best way to know what coverage you have. .

If you experience any of these covered losses, your dwelling coverage becomes essential. Dwelling insurance covers damage to your home, including the foundation, frame, walls and roof. It also generally covers things built into your house, like cabinets, permanent air conditioner units, furnaces and water heaters if they are damaged or destroyed by a covered loss like a fire. Dwelling coverage also typically covers structures attached to the house, such as an attached garage or porch.

What dwelling insurance does not cover

Not all incidents that can damage your home are covered by homeowners insurance dwelling coverage. This includes:


Flood damage is not included in most standard homeowners insurance policies. With changing weather patterns generating more severe storms, areas of our country that have never flooded in the past are more likely to do so now. You may want to consider flood insurance coverage to help cover flood losses should they occur. Flood insurance is available from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and through select private carriers.


Many areas of the U.S. experience earthquakes, especially along the West Coast.  If you live in one of these areas or another part of the country where earth  movement is common, you may want to consider adding earthquake coverage to your policy.

Damage from earthquakes can quickly add up. A quake can seriously damage your foundation, and even a minor tremor may cause cracks in walls and extensive property damage. Your HO-3 policy will cover fire damage caused by an earthquake, but structural damage is not covered.

If you live in an area where there is significant oil drilling, such as parts of Oklahoma, seismic activity may also be common and make the need for earthquake insurance more urgent.

Maintenance damage

A home is a complex structure with different systems — plumbing, heating, electrical — all working together to keep you comfortable and safe. It is the homeowner’s responsibility to keep these systems running properly. You need to be vigilant to problems, which could be anything from signs of termite infestation to a wet basement. If you fail to do so and your lack of regular maintenance results in property damage, your dwelling insurance may not cover it.

Sewer backup/Sump pump damage

Sewer backup/sump pump damage coverage, although very important, is typically not automatically covered by a standard home insurance policy. However, this does not lessen the value of this coverage. Sewer and drain line backup coverage, sometimes called water backup coverage, or sump pump damage coverage, is a common endorsement to add to homeowners insurance that provides coverage for your dwelling and personal property if they are damaged by a drain line backup. Backup losses commonly happen during heavy rains when a sump pump cannot keep up with the influx of water and overflows, spilling water into a basement or crawlspace. However, it is possible for sewer lines to back up anywhere in a home, including toilets, sinks and floor drains. A water backup endorsement must be added to a homeowners insurance policy to provide coverage for this type of loss.

Service line damage

Damage to your service line is another common policy exclusion for a standard homeowners insurance policy. Service line damage coverage protects you against losses relating to the various service lines running into your home. Each property insurer covers different service lines, but commonly covered ones include water, gas and sewer lines, as well as internet cables and electrical wires. This is a relatively new coverage in the insurance industry and your particular carrier may not yet offer it. Talk to your insurance professional about the service line coverage options available to you.

How much dwelling coverage do I need?

Determining how much home insurance you need may seem daunting, but there are some simple steps you can take to determine a ballpark figure.

  • Know the difference between market value and replacement value: How much you paid for your home isn’t necessarily how much you’ll insure it for. Home prices can be artificially high or low depending on factors like the home’s location or the state of the housing market. What you really want to know is your home’s replacement cost, which is how much it will cost to rebuild your home after a total loss.
  • Factor in your home’s size: Bigger homes will likely need more coverage, since they typically cost more to rebuild than smaller homes. Similarly, homes on a finished basement likely need more dwelling coverage to account for the extra space.
  • Consider your home’s features: Every home has its own set of features. Builder-grade homes, for example, will likely need less dwelling coverage than comparably-sized upgraded or custom homes with high-end finishes.
  • Think about your home’s age: Older homes may be more expensive to repair or rebuild due to non-standard lumber sizes or outdated building techniques.

Although having an idea of how much dwelling coverage you need can be helpful while you are gathering quotes, don’t let figuring out that number stress you each. Each insurance company has its own replacement cost estimator that will help you determine your proper coverage amount. Keep in mind that more dwelling coverage will usually result in a higher home insurance cost.

Types of dwelling coverage

When it comes to dwelling insurance, there are multiple different policy types. Some apply to homes, while others apply to condos and other property types.

Homeowners insurance dwelling coverage

Virtually all property insurance policies include dwelling coverage, including HO-1, HO-2, HO-3, HO-5 and HO-8 policies. That means that if you are buying home insurance.

Condo insurance dwelling coverage

HO-6 policies protect condominium owners. Here, dwelling coverage is a little complicated. Your HO-6 policy generally covers the interior of your property, your personal property and your liability needs. Your association’s master policy should cover the bulk of the structure itself. However, each condo association has its own unique master policy, which will influence how much dwelling coverage you need to purchase on your condo policy. Your association may cover nearly the entire structure of your condo, for example, which means you’d be able to purchase less dwelling insurance.

Rental property insurance dwelling coverage

If you own a rental property, it’s important to consider rental property insurance and understand how it works. Also known as a DP-3 policy type, this insurance policy includes dwelling coverage to cover the structure of your rental property in the event of a covered loss but also includes several coverage options not found in a standard HO-3.

Because landlords face different risks compared to homeowners, rental property insurance takes this into account with coverage options like wrongful eviction and loss of use. Additionally, because many cities and states have their own rental laws, it can be worthwhile to speak to a local insurance agent to learn more about rental properties in your area and what additional coverage choices they recommend.

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