What Is Dwelling Coverage, and How Much Do You Need?

Dwelling coverage can reimburse you if a disaster damages or destroys the structure of your home.
Sarah Schlichter
By Sarah Schlichter 
Updated
Edited by Caitlin Constantine Reviewed by Brenda J. Cude

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Nerdy takeaways
  • Dwelling coverage is the part of a home insurance policy that covers the structure of your house.

  • Dwelling insurance can help pay for repairs after a fire, windstorm or other covered disaster.

  • You should buy enough dwelling coverage to completely rebuild your home.

Nerdy takeaways
  • Dwelling coverage is the part of a home insurance policy that covers the structure of your house.

  • Dwelling insurance can help pay for repairs after a fire, windstorm or other covered disaster.

  • You should buy enough dwelling coverage to completely rebuild your home.

Dwelling coverage is one of the most important parts of a homeowners insurance policy. If your house burns to the ground or a fallen tree crushes your roof, dwelling coverage would pay to help you repair or rebuild.

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What is dwelling coverage for homeowners?

Dwelling coverage is the part of a homeowners policy that pays to repair damage to the structure of your home, or to rebuild it if it’s destroyed. Dwelling insurance will cover you up to the limit of your policy.

Your home’s structure includes the roof, foundation, floors, doors, windows and walls. Dwelling coverage also generally extends to any attached structures, such as garages, porches, decks, and built-in appliances and fixtures. However, it doesn’t include your belongings, unattached structures (such as a shed) or the land your home sits on.

Did you know...

Dwelling insurance is sometimes called Coverage A because it’s often the first type of coverage listed in a homeowners policy.

What is dwelling coverage for condo owners?

In a condo insurance policy, dwelling coverage works differently. Most condo residents own only their own unit, not the building itself, so your policy’s dwelling insurance doesn’t need to cover things like the roof or outer walls. Your condo association likely has a master insurance policy that covers the structure of the building.

However, you may need dwelling coverage for built-in cabinets, appliances and floors within your unit. Exactly what you need to cover depends on what your association’s policy includes.

For example, many condo associations cover your unit’s walls, ceiling and floor but not anything attached to them. So if you want coverage for your carpet, built-in cabinets and appliances, you’ll need dwelling insurance.

Learn more about condo insurance.

🤓Nerdy Tip

A condo’s dwelling coverage may also be called building property coverage in your policy.

Is dwelling coverage required?

Though you’re not legally required to buy dwelling coverage, your lender will likely require it if you have a mortgage. This helps protect the lender’s financial investment, but it also protects your own. Imagine having to repay hundreds of thousands of dollars on a mortgage for a house that burned down, with no insurance money to rebuild it.

You may see a mortgage lender require “hazard insurance,” but don’t worry. That’s generally the same thing as dwelling coverage, and buying a standard homeowners policy will likely fulfill the requirement. (You may also need to buy flood insurance if you’re in a high-risk zone.)

If you don’t have a mortgage, you could conceivably go without dwelling coverage. But it’s probably not a wise idea unless you could afford to rebuild your home yourself after a catastrophe.

What does dwelling insurance cover?

Dwelling insurance covers a number of potentially damaging events, often called “perils” in your policy. Most homeowners insurance policies cover any event that isn’t specifically excluded. This is known as “open perils” or “all risks” coverage. You’ll typically have coverage for perils like:

  • Fire, lightning and smoke.

  • Wind and hail.

  • Vandalism.

  • Freezing.

  • Weight of ice or snow.

  • Volcanic eruption.

  • Explosions.

  • Riots.

As long as your homeowners policy doesn’t exclude a given disaster, your dwelling insurance should cover it.

However, condo policies and uncommon homeowners policies known as HO-1 and HO-2 policies may have less generous dwelling coverage. Known as “named perils” coverage, these types of insurance may cover your dwelling only for perils listed in the policy. This generally includes the disasters listed above but not much else.

Condo owners may be able to upgrade their policies to “open perils” coverage if they want insurance for a broader range of disasters. Homeowners with HO-1 or HO-2 policies can ask their agent about more generous options.

What does dwelling insurance not cover?

Even the best homeowners or condo policy won’t cover certain disasters, though you may be able to buy extra coverage. Here are a few examples.

Flooding

If a hurricane pounds your area with rain or a nearby river overruns its banks, your dwelling coverage usually won’t pay for any resulting water damage to your home. If your home is at risk, you can buy flood insurance through the federal government or a private company. See how to choose the best flood insurance.

Earthquakes, landslides and mudslides

Homeowners and condo policies generally won’t cover damage due to “earth movement,” which includes earthquakes, landslides, mudslides and sinkholes. Your insurer may offer additional coverage for these disasters.

Water backup

Most home insurance won’t cover damage that results from a failed sump pump or a backed-up drain. If you’re interested in this coverage, you can typically add it via an endorsement to your policy.

Did you know...

An endorsement is an add-on to your policy. Insurance companies can use endorsements to add or limit coverage or to change other terms of your policy.

Maintenance or wear and tear

Insurance is designed to help with sudden accidents, not routine maintenance issues. Your dwelling coverage is unlikely to help with things such as a foundation that cracks due to settling or a roof that starts leaking because it’s 20 years old.

Infestations

Termites, rodents and other invasive pests can do plenty of damage to the structure of your home, but your dwelling insurance probably won’t cover it. Insurers consider this kind of damage a maintenance issue that homeowners should expect to pay for themselves.

Vacancy

If you divide your time between homes, or you’ve got a house sitting empty while you’re waiting to sell it, you might not have as much coverage as you think. Many home insurance policies won’t cover certain types of claims such as vandalism if the house is vacant longer than 30 or 60 days. Learn more about unoccupied and vacant home insurance.

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How much dwelling insurance do you need for a house?

Your dwelling coverage limit should be enough to rebuild your home if it’s destroyed. This amount isn’t necessarily the same as the price you paid for the house. Instead, this number depends on the features of your home and the building costs in your area.

You can get a rough estimate of your rebuilding cost by multiplying the square footage of your home by the average local building cost per square foot. (Local builders and insurance agents may be able to help you find this figure.)

However, this cost may go up or down depending on the specifics of your home. For instance, do you have high-end fixtures and hardwood floors? These would probably cost more to replace than carpets and laminate countertops.

Every insurance company has a slightly different formula for calculating the replacement cost of your home. The more information you can provide about your home’s size and features, the more accurate the estimate will be. In some cases, an insurance company may require a home insurance inspection to get a first-hand look at the features of your house.

Keep in mind that rebuilding costs can change over time. For example, building costs often go up due to high demand after a hurricane or other natural disaster. Pandemic-related supply chain issues have also sent building costs skyrocketing in recent years. Such increases could leave homeowners underinsured if they haven’t reevaluated their dwelling coverage in a while.

To make sure your own policy limits don’t fall short, consider adding one of the following:

Extended replacement cost coverage. This endorsement raises your dwelling limit by a certain percentage, such as 25% or 50%. Say your dwelling coverage limit is $300,000. If your policy provided 125% of replacement cost coverage — your dwelling coverage limit plus an extra 25% — your policy would pay up to $375,000 to rebuild your house.

Guaranteed replacement cost coverage. This endorsement is even more generous, paying whatever it takes to rebuild your home, with no fixed limit. Not all insurers offer this option.

You may also want to ask whether your insurance company automatically adjusts your coverage limits for inflation.

Beyond rising building costs, you might also need more dwelling coverage if you make improvements to your home. So if you renovate your kitchen or put on an addition, let your insurance agent know. Learn more about home renovation insurance.

Finally, ask whether your policy includes ordinance or law coverage. This pays to bring your home up to the latest building codes during repairs or rebuilding. If your policy offers little or no such coverage, you can often add it by endorsement.

How much dwelling insurance do you need for a condo?

Condo owners generally need less dwelling insurance than homeowners do because they don’t have to insure their roof or the outer structure of their building. (As noted above, the association’s master policy takes care of these.)

But you might need dwelling coverage for things like hardwood floors, wall-to-wall carpeting, bathroom fixtures, kitchen cabinets and built-in appliances. In some cases, your association’s policy might cover original fixtures but not improvements you’ve made to your unit.

Condo coverage varies from state to state and between communities. Your best bet is to consult an agent to help you figure out what your association covers and which parts of your unit you need to cover yourself.

How does dwelling coverage work?

Like other types of insurance, dwelling coverage is essentially a contract. As long as you pay your premiums, the insurance company will pay you if a covered event happens to your home.

The first step to getting a dwelling coverage payout is filing a claim. Some insurance companies let you do this online or through an app, while others have you report claims by phone. You may be asked to submit documentation of the damage, such as photos or video. The company may also send an adjuster out to see the home in person.

Any payout you receive will likely be subject to a deductible, the amount you’re responsible for paying. This may be a dollar amount or a percentage of your dwelling coverage. For example, if you have a $1,000 deductible and there’s $15,000 worth of damage to your home, your insurer would pay $14,000.

With a percentage deductible, what you pay for a claim would depend on how much dwelling coverage you have. So if your house is covered for $250,000 and you had a 1% deductible, you’d pay the first $2,500 of any claim.

🤓Nerdy Tip

In some cases, you may have different deductible amounts for different types of claims — such as a percentage deductible for wind and hail damage and a flat dollar amount for all other claims.

If your roof is damaged, your insurance company may not necessarily pay you enough for a brand-new roof. Some insurers cover older roofs for their actual cash value instead of paying for a full replacement. Here’s how that could work:

You paid $10,000 for your roof. It was designed to last 20 years, but after 10 years it suffers major damage in a hurricane. If you had replacement cost coverage on your roof, your insurance company would pay the full price of a new roof, minus your deductible.

But if you had actual cash value coverage on your roof, the insurance company would pay only the depreciated value of your current roof. Because the roof is halfway through its expected lifespan, the insurer will deduct half the value, leaving you with a payout of just $5,000, minus your deductible.

How much does dwelling coverage cost?

Dwelling coverage is just one section of a homeowners, condo or manufactured home policy. The average cost of homeowners insurance in the U.S. is $1,820 per year, according to NerdWallet’s rate analysis. That assumes dwelling coverage of $300,000. Your own rate will differ depending on where you live and how much coverage you need.

The average cost of condo insurance in the U.S. is $511 per year, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners

. (Data was gathered in 2020, the most recent year for which rates were available.) The cost of manufactured home insurance in the U.S. generally ranges from $700 to $1,500 per year, according to American Modern Insurance Group, a prominent mobile home insurer.

In general, the more dwelling insurance you need, the more your policy will cost. You may be able to reduce your rate by choosing a higher deductible, bundling multiple policies or shopping around for quotes from several companies. Find more ways to cut the cost of homeowners insurance.

Frequently asked questions

Extended dwelling coverage is extra insurance beyond the dwelling coverage limit stated on your homeowners policy. Say your home is covered for $250,000, and you have 25% of extended dwelling coverage. That means you’d have up to 25% more money available — a total of $312,500 — to rebuild in case costs were higher than you expected. Some insurance companies offer extended dwelling coverage as an add-on, while others include it with their standard policies.

Dwelling coverage includes the entire structure of your home, including the roof. It will generally pay to fix or replace your roof if a fire, windstorm or other covered event damages it. However, your policy won’t cover ordinary wear and tear. If your roof starts wearing out after 25 years, you’ll need to pay for a new one yourself.

Your dwelling coverage limit is based on how much it would cost to rebuild your home. Building costs have risen over the past few years due to inflation, worker shortages and supply chain problems. While you can ask your insurer to reduce your dwelling coverage limit, this could leave you underinsured if a fire or other disaster destroys your home.

Methodology

NerdWallet averaged rates for 40-year-old homeowners from various insurance companies in every ZIP code across the U.S. All rates are rounded to the nearest $5.

Sample homeowners were nonsmokers with good credit living in a single-family, two-story home built in 1984. They had a $1,000 deductible and the following coverage limits:

  • $300,000 in dwelling coverage.

  • $30,000 in other structures coverage.

  • $150,000 in personal property coverage.

  • $60,000 in loss of use coverage.

  • $300,000 in liability coverage.

  • $1,000 in medical payments coverage.

We made minor changes to the sample policy in cases where rates for the above coverage limits or deductibles weren’t available.

These are sample rates generated through Quadrant Information Services. Your own rates will be different.

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