Water Damage vs. Flood Damage

Water Damage vs. Flood Damage

When it comes to insurance, floods and water intrusion are two different things.

In this article, we cover the difference between water damage and flood damage.


Every living thing on earth relies on water to survive. But the very thing that keeps us alive can also cause a lot of destruction.

Flood and water damage claims are extremely common, affecting tens of thousands of Americans every year. Luckily, there are insurance policies that can provide a layer of protection against the costs of water and flood damage.

But, while water damage is typically covered under your homeowners insurance policy, flood damage isn’t. In fact, the insurance industry has completely different definitions for these terms (and different policies to cover each one).

Let’s take a closer look at the difference between water damage and flood damage.


Flood Damage Isn’t “Water Damage”

“What do you mean flood damage isn’t water damage? Floods are caused by water!”

Regardless of how you define these terms, it’s your insurance carrier that decides what your policy covers…as well as what it doesn’t.

According to the National Flood Insurance Program (and the insurance industry), a “flood” is defined as “a general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land area or of two more more properties” from surface or groundwater.

Man cleaning up water from burst pipe

Water damage, on the other hand, is limited to “sudden and accidental” loss, such as a burst pipe.

There are times when flood and water damage can overlap. For example, if a hurricane blows rain up under your roof, that would count as water damage. But if the same storm causes a storm surge that fills up your first floor, that’s considered flood damage.

(There is also a third type of loss—Water Backup and Sump Pump Overflow Coverage—that requires an endorsement to your policy, as it’s not covered by most standard homeowner’s insurance.)

While both flood and water damage are caused by good ol’ H2O, it’s where that water comes from that’s instrumental in deciding which policy you should turn to for coverage.


Which Type of Claim Do I Have?

With so much overlap and confusion regarding water damage vs. flood damage, you might have a difficult time determining which policy to turn to following loss or damage (or whether you are covered at all).

In the event you find yourself underwater (literally!), there are two main questions you can ask yourself to help you determine whether you have a flood claim or a water damage claim.

Houses in flooded neighborhood

1. How many properties are affected?

Remember, floods are defined as events that affect two or more acres or two or more properties. If your neighbor is also underwater, that’s a flood. If yours is the only home affected in the immediate area, it could be water damage.

2. Where did the water originate?

If the water originated from plumbing, HVAC systems, or other man-made additions to your home, that would not be considered flood damage.

Flood damage typically starts from groundwater—lakes, rivers, oceans, mudflows, accumulated water from rain, or even a busted fire hydrant.

It’s worth noting, however, that insurance is a lot simpler on paper (or a blog) than it is in real life. There may be certain instances where you may have both water and flood damage, or neither of these terms may apply.

For example, heavy rains can cause either water damage (if the damage started at the roof) or flood damage (if the damage began at ground level).

Woman making phone call to file insurance claim

Filing a Flood or Water Damage Claim

We can write about “standard” insurance policies all day long, but the only way to determine whether you are covered in a particular circumstance is to read your policy.

Depending on the type of homeowners insurance you have, your policy will list either the type of perils it covers or the types it excludes, as well as any other exclusions or restrictions.

We understand, however, that insurance policies can be difficult to understand when you weren’t the one who created it. If you’re bewildered by the barrage of insurance lingo, you can always have your insurance agent explain it to you and walk you through your coverage.



Just because flood coverage isn’t included on a standard homeowners policy doesn’t make it “optional” coverage. As a homeowner, you need to make sure you’re protected against all of your home’s vulnerabilities, including flood and water damage.

Yet virtually no one is adequately protected by a standard homeowners insurance policy.

At Harry Levine Insurance, we aren’t just agents, we’re insurance experts. We are more than happy to sit down and discuss your budget, your goals, and things that keep you up at night to create a network of coverage that’s just right for your family.

From flood insurance to umbrella insurance (and everything in-between), you can count on us for excellent service! Call today for a free quote.

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