Property Insurance

Where there's Fire there's Smoke

Fire, Smoke and Insurance Claims

The majority of the insurance claims in California, or in any other fire, will not be for the "total loss"burned down houses but for homes damaged by smoke. From the street these homes may look like they have no damage at all, especially when sitting next door to a burned out shell or smoking slab. Many people will count their blessings when they drive up to see their home intact only to find out later they are still in for a long and involved claim and repair process.

Numerous homes that look undamaged will have very large insurance claims due to the cost and effort involved with eliminating smoke damage and odors.

Smoke is insidious, it goes everywhere and gets into everything. The smell is very hard to get rid of and even non-porous surfaces cannot be properly cleaned without professional help. When a home is filled with smoke it will cling to all surfaces.

The worst damage will be to "soft" surfaces such as; carpeting, padding, vinyl, wallpaper, insulation, furniture and clothing. Some of these items may be unusable and will have to be replaced. Many items in a home that look like solid surfaces are actually very porous and subject to extensive smoke damage this can include marble, stone, tile, concrete and countertop surfaces.

Another major problem area is hidden surfaces and cavities including attics, ductwork, vents, wall cavities, electric boxes and cabinets. Appliances, computers and other electronic equipment can also be very hard to clean and thoroughly deodorize.

The longer it takes to get a building and its contents cleaned the worse the damage will get. Smoke and soot will settle on all exposed surfaces requiring cleaning at the very least. Plastic surfaces will start to yellow and discolor almost immediately. Fiberglass fixtures, countertops, appliances, grout and furniture will stain very quickly and can easily become permanently fixed. Smoke creates a residue of acid particles on the surfaces that can etch, pit and corrode almost anything.

There will be a lot of items, building and personal property, that will have to be replaced from just smoke damage. The odor is impossible to remove from some soft or porous items. Certain fabrics and materials can be difficult to deodorize even with professional dry cleaning.

How to look for Smoke damage?

If you have a home in a fire area it may be difficult to tell if the smoke smell is in your home or just the whole neighborhood in general. You can look for signs that your home has damage. The first place to look is around your HVAC (heat, vent and air conditioning) registers and returns. Look for dark residues or build up on and around the registers. Check for dark areas on the walls and ceilings in the upper corners of rooms. Next, check your mechanical area where the air handler, furnace and/or water heater may be located. These areas are built to ventilate themselves so air flow should make smoke patterns obvious. Also you can remove electric outlet and switch plate covers, look for discoloration from the fresh area under the plate to the adjacent exposed surface. If you have an attic access door check around it for signs of discoloration and look up into the attic with a good flashlight. Look at the clothes in your closets, check the exposed outer shoulder area of light colored items compare it to the bottom middle of the same item.

If you find signs of discoloration or smoke in any of these areas you may well need professional cleaning, or much more, throughout your home. You will need to start calling cleaning contractors for a professional evaluation and your insurance company. The sooner smoke damage is taken care of the better it will be for you, your home and your insurance company.

Substantial property damage
will occur if your
water heater fails or ...

in this case. ... "Explodes"!

The water heater can be
a ticking time bomb,
inside your home.

  •   Click Here to Watch Video

  • Check your Water Heater regularly and test the Temperature Pressure Release valve annually!

    Home Owners Insurance and Trees
       - You Love Them Your Insurance Company Hates Them

    Coverage for damage caused by trees and for trees themselves is one of the many confusing areas in a Homeowners insurance policy.    Click here for the full article

    Questions from the Field

    This Week's Subject: FIREPLACE

    Question from K.D.
    My aunt lives in the hills of San Leandro, her fireplace is on the side of the house that is flat land. She is very elderly and I have gone to help her get things around the house in order. After having a painting contractor come over to see the eaves that need attention.

    The photo here is showing a masonry chimney damaged by a lightning strike. The left flue is broken and a brick just above the ridge has blown out. There is also minor damage to the roof shingles and flashing just on the other side of the ridge.
    Click HERE to Read Complete Question

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