What Does Home Insurance Cover?

Learn what kind of damage falls under the home insurance umbrella and how to select a reliable provider to ensure that your house is protected.

Updated: February 26, 2024
Matt Crabtree

Written By

Matt Crabtree


It goes without saying that becoming financially stable enough to own your first home is one of the more major milestones you'll achieve in life, but the excitement of homeownership certainly isn't without its own unique set of responsibilities — one of the most being home protection, not only in terms of security camera setups for your house but also in terms of home insurance.

Still, in addition to the seemingly endless other kinds of insurance involved with buying a house, insurance coverage can seem a little bit complex if you're new to homeownership.

So, throughout this article, we're going to be taking a closer look at all you need to know about this kind of protection — covering the basics, what additional insurance options are worth looking at, and, ultimately, what you should be looking for when choosing which provider you want to commit to.

Understanding the Basics: Buildings and Contents Insurance

Before we move further into some of the specifics, it’s definitely worth making a distinction between building and contents insurance, which are basically the two main components of home insurance.

Buildings insurance generally only covers the structure of your home — meaning the walls, roof, floors, and all the other permanent fixtures in your house, like your bathroom or kitchen.

Contents insurance, on the other hand, is more focused on the actual belongings that you have within the property rather than the physical structure — your furniture, appliances (kettle, toaster, etc.), clothes, and any other personal items you own.

Let's explore these two types of insurance in a little bit more detail throughout this next section:

Buildings Insurance: Protecting Your Property

Buildings insurance is the more obvious choice in terms of home insurance since it's safeguarding an investment that's arguably more valuable than all your individual personal belongings (excluding sentimental value, of course) — the house itself.

As touched on, this type of insurance is more for the structure of your home than anything in particular that's inside — so you're covered against things such as fires, floods, storm damage, subsidence, and even vandalism.

It's naturally going to depend on the severity of the damage that's been caused, but any of these examples are obviously going to be pretty expensive to deal with if you don't have some kind of backup, which is basically what building insurance is all about.

Generally speaking (usually depending on your provider), even the parts of your property you might not expect to be covered by buildings insurance might have some kind of protection — including things like fences, driveways, or even a shed that you might have on your property — so you'd always want to check the policy documents you were given so you've got an idea of what things are covered and what aren't.

Contents Insurance: Safeguarding Your Possessions

Alternatively, contents insurance is pretty self-explanatory in that it's primarily designed to protect personal belongings like furniture and jewellery from setting you back financially if they're somehow damaged or stolen.

Buildings insurance is generally a lot easier to get quotes for in terms of pricing, as you've normally got to go through a pretty extensive valuation process for each of the items that you're trying to purchase contents cover for to make sure their value is properly reflected (and therefore insured to the same value).

We'll come onto this in a little bit more detail later on in the article, but some policies might even offer additional protection if you've got any high-value items or personal possessions in particular that you take outside a fairly decent amount — like your phone or watch.

Extra Cover Options: Tailoring Your Policy to Your Needs

Standard buildings and contents insurance can generally be all you ever need, but if you want additional coverage, for whatever reason, you're certainly not short of options in terms of ways you can tailor your home insurance policy to match your preferences:

Accidental Damage Cover

Costs can add up pretty quickly if some kind of accident happens that involves either your home or belongings, so this is basically just a kind of coverage to protect you from things like spilling wine on the carpet or accidentally knocking over an expensive antique you have on the shelf, for instance.

This type of insurance could possibly fall under contents insurance, but the fact remains that you could be looking at fairly hefty repair or replacement bills if you aren't covered here, so accidental damage coverage is definitely something you want to make sure is in your policy.

Home Emergency Cover

Similarly to accidents, random house emergencies share a similar kind of unpredictability in terms of how unexpectedly they can hit you — from burst pipes and boiler breakdowns to potentially fatal electrical faults and roof leaks. 

So, home emergency cover is to ensure you've got all the assistance and financial support you need to fix these kinds of issues, whether it's the plumbing to sort the heating or hot water out or a locksmith in case you've lost your keys.

Naturally something that's going to provide you with a bit of comfort given how it's not only incredibly distressing but expensive to deal with these kinds of issues (especially if you need help with something at an awkward time, like a locksmith at three in the morning.

Alternative Accommodation

Following on from the previous point, a broken lock or a misplaced key is generally something you'd be able to solve without too much hassle.

But if things were a bit more serious and you actually could no longer stay in your house — whether it's because of a fire, flood, or any other kind of major damage — you're obviously going to need to find some form of temporary accommodation.

The problem is; however, this becomes massively expensive unless you're able to repair the damage in your house and immediately go back to living there.

Especially if you're having to move your whole family to somewhere like a hotel or rental property that charges by the night (not to mention the additional costs that come from not having access to a kitchen and needing to pay for food and drinks).

Even aside from paying for your costs while your home's being repaired, alternative accommodation cover protects you with this sort of thing, too, meaning you'll always have money for the extra costs that come with these alternative living arrangements like transport so you won't have to ask your friends or family for any favours.

Personal Belongings Cover

As touched on earlier in the article, it's pretty fair to assume you've probably got some sort of sentimental attachment to some of your personal belongings, whether it's your phone or some jewellery.

So definitely try to include some kind of coverage against theft, loss, or even damage in your home insurance policy so you know that they've got some peace of mind knowing they're at least partly safeguarded. 

Obviously, a lump sum of money can often not replace the personal value these kinds of items hold, but it's still nice to know you won't literally be left with nothing in the unfortunate event something you hold dear to you is damaged or lost — regardless of whether you were in the house, at work, or even travelling.

Specialist Home Insurance

Finally, it's worth mentioning what your options are if you own a particularly unique house or have any other kind of niche requirements that your standard home insurance policy probably won't provide — so this includes protection for if you own properties like listed buildings, thatched cottages, or even holiday homes, for instance.

In fact, this even extends to any kinds of historical features you might have on your property, as well as non-standard or other uncommon construction materials, and if it's in a remote location.

Now, obviously, this is a fairly specific checklist of reasons you'd opt for holiday home insurance, but if you are the kind of person — perhaps with a bit more wealth than the average reader — who has a unique aspect about where you live, you'd definitely want to make sure it's protected against any kind of damage so it can be preserved.

Understanding Home Insurance Costs

Moving forward, let's talk about what kind of factors generally tend to have an impact on home insurance cost because there are actually quite a lot of different variables — including things such as the value of your property, the level of coverage you've opted for, where your house is, and even your wider claims history.

As such, even though it'll also depend entirely on the specific provider you've gone to, it's hard to give even a ballpark figure of how much home insurance can set you back — especially when you consider all the additional features we just talked about that you could include as extras.

Still, putting all these different costs together, your insurer will assess them all to work out what your total home insurance premium is, which is essentially how much you'll be paying in insurance payments while you're under contract.

Now, it's obviously pretty tempting to skimp out on your home insurance and opt for a lower premium, but you often can't put a price on these sorts of things — so remember to get the best protection that you can afford without breaking the bank too much.

Making Informed Decisions: Home Insurance Comparison

There's a pretty broad range of home insurance providers available right now, so with so many choices to pick from, you're going to want to know how to differentiate a poor option from a quality one so you're able to choose the best one for your particular needs.

So, let's round things off by walking through some of the main considerations you should keep in mind when comparing different home insurance policies:

1. Coverage Options: Ensuring Adequate Protection

First and foremost, you'll want to ultimately know what specific coverage options you want to be included in your home insurance policy, as in one of the many additional coverage options we mentioned earlier in the article — such as accidental damage cover or even personal belongings protection — or whether you're just looking for something basic that comes with buildings and contents insurance.

Ultimately, pretty much every insurer is going to offer at least slightly different coverage for the next, so try to keep in mind how susceptible your house might be to certain risks like flooding or even theft so that you're able to pick a policy with protection against them.

2. Cost vs. Value: Finding the Right Balance

The overall cost of your home insurance policy is obviously one of the more significant factors that you're going to have to consider, but it's still paramount that you've found a balance between affordability and value rather than simply opting for the cheapest option you can find in order to save some money.

You're naturally going to save a bit of money in the short term if you select the cheapest option that's available to you, but you're at a way higher risk of being left underinsured if you need to make a claim for some reason.

On the other hand, though, this doesn't mean that the most expensive policy out there is necessarily the most valuable one for your specific circumstances, even in spite of how comprehensive its overall coverage might actually be.

Ultimately, what you should be looking for when you're comparing home insurance costs is not only what the premium is but also a bunch of other factors such as coverage limits, deductibles, or even if your insurer offers any kind of discounts or other incentives.

3. Exclusions and Limitations: Understanding the Fine Print

Put simply, these are basically just the circumstances or events that your insurer isn't going to cover, or at least will impose restrictions on — things such as wear and tear, gradual deterioration, or even acts of terrorism, for example.

Understanding these exclusions is essential to avoid any surprises when making a claim, and you'd similarly want to pay attention to any possible coverage limits or caps that might be on specific items — such as high-value jewellery or certain electronics — to ensure that your most valuable possessions are properly covered.

4. Reputation and Reliability: Choosing a Trusted Insurer

When it comes to selecting a home insurance provider, reputation and reliability are naturally pretty important, so you're going to want to conduct a thorough check into the reputation and reliability before you fully commit and make a decision.

One of the main ways that you can gain an idea of an insurer's reputation is by looking at their track record in handling claims; as a company with a generally consistent history when it comes to processing claims — especially during slightly more challenging times — is obviously one that's going to inspire a bit more trust than otherwise.

Fortunately, you should generally be able to gauge this sort of thing simply by checking out existing reviews from other people who hold the policy already so you can have some insight into how that particular insurer has handled claims in the past.

Additionally, consider the financial stability and strength of the insurer. A financially robust company is better equipped to weather economic fluctuations and honour their commitments to policyholders, and this should hold up even in the face of large-scale or unexpected catastrophes — so make sure you check out their financial standing by reviewing their credit ratings from an independent agency.

Finally, you should try to take into account what your insurer's customer service and support are like since a responsive and knowledgeable customer service team can actually make a significant difference whenever you need assistance with your policy or even if you just have a non-urgent question about coverage options answered.

So, try to look for an insurer that can prioritise customer satisfaction, which might come in the form of multiple convenient channels for communication like phone, email, or online chat.

Related Guides:

What Does Home Insurance Cover: FAQs

Does Home Insurance Cover Any Damage That’s Caused by Pests or Infestations?

How Does Home Insurance Address Liability Coverage, and Why Is It Important?

Does Home Insurance Cover Damage Caused by Home Renovations or Other Improvements?

Are There Any Particular Tax Benefits That Come With Home Insurance Premiums or Claims?

Am I Able to Customise My Home Insurance Policy to Include Coverage for Specific Items or Risks That Might Not Usually Be Covered?

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