What Is Fire Insurance?

Fire insurance is property insurance that covers damage and losses caused by fire. The purchase of fire insurance in addition to homeowner’s or property insurance helps to cover the cost of replacement, repair, or reconstruction of property, above the limit set by the property insurance policy. Fire insurance policies typically contain general exclusions, such as war, nuclear risks, and similar perils.

[Important: While homeowner's insurance includes coverage for fire damage, fire insurance provides extra coverage to offset any additional costs to replace or repair property that surpasses the limit set by the insurance policy.]

Understanding Fire Insurance

Some standard homeowner’s insurance policies include coverage for fire, but the policy may not be extensive enough for some homeowners. If the policy excludes coverage for fire damage, then fire insurance may need to be purchased separately—especially if the property contains valuable items that cannot be covered with standard homeowner's coverage. The insurance company’s liability is limited by the policy value and not by the extent of damage or loss sustained by the property owner.

Fire insurance policies provide payment for the loss of use of the property as a result of a fire, or for additional living expenses that were necessitated by uninhabitable conditions as well as damage to personal property and nearby structures. Homeowners should document the property and its contents to simplify the assessment of items damaged or lost during a fire. 

A fire insurance policy includes additional coverage against smoke or water damage due to a fire and is usually effective for one year. Fire insurance policies that are about to expire are usually renewable by the homeowner, under the same terms as the original policy.

How Fire Insurance Works

Fire insurance covers a policyholder against fire loss or damage from a number of sources. Sources include fires brought about by electricity, such as faulty wiring and explosion of gas, as well as those caused by lightning and natural disasters. Bursting and overflowing of a water tank or pipes may also be covered by the policy.

Most policies provide coverage regardless of whether the fire originates from inside or outside of the home. The limit of coverage depends on the cause of the fire. The policy will reimburse the policyholder on either a replacement-cost basis or an actual cash value (ACV) basis for damages.

If the home is considered a total loss, the insurance company might reimburse the owner for the house's current market value. Typically the insurance will provide a market value compensation for lost possessions, with the total payout capped based on the home's overall value.

For example, if a policy insures a house for $350,000, the contents are usually covered for at least 50-70% of the policy value or a range of $175,000 to $245,000. Many policies limit how much reimbursement covers luxury items such as paintings, jewelry, gold, and fur coats.

Special Considerations

A policyholder should check the home's value each year to determine if there is a need to increase the coverage amount. A policyholder cannot get insurance for more than a home's actual value. Insurance companies may offer stand-alone policies for rare, expensive, and irreplaceable items that are otherwise not covered in standard fire insurance.

Key Takeaways

  • Fire insurance is property insurance that provides coverage for loss or damage to a structure damaged or destroyed in a fire.
  • Homeowner's insurance usually covers fire damage but it may be capped at a rate that is less than the cost of the losses accrued, necessitating a separate fire insurance policy.
  • The policy pays the policyholder back on either a replacement-cost basis or an actual cash value (ACV) basis for damages.