UPDATED: APRIL 19, 2023 | 3 MIN READ
Smoke damage is one of the most expensive and damaging kinds of damage in your home. Smoke can cause serious issues with your property, and it can be challenging to determine if your insurance covers smoke damage. This article will explore how homeowners insurance covers smoke damages and what you need to do if you suspect that smoke has damaged your property.
What is Smoke Damage?
According to the Red Cross, home fires yearly cause almost $7 billion in property damage. But smoke damage is less obvious and potentially just as troubling.
Smoke damage is the result of a fire that has been put out, often by the fire department. The smoke left behind will have a corrosive effect on many different materials and make it difficult for people to breathe in the area where the smoke is present. Exposure can also cause health problems for people.
It can cause a lot of problems in the home, such as:
- Health hazards due to breathing in the soot particles in the air
- Damaged furniture and other items
- A musty smell from all of the smoke particles that are left behind
- Mold growth on walls, ceilings, and other surfaces
What Costs are Associated with Smoke Damage?
Smoke damage is a common form of property damage. It can occur in several ways but typically results from a fire. Smoke damages not only the home but also the belongings inside. The cost to repair smoke damage depends on many factors. These factors include the type and extent of the damage to your home and what belongings were damaged.
Common Costs Include:
- Hiring a professional to examine your home for any underlying damage
- Repair for any structural or cosmetic damage to your home
- Cleaning or replacement for damaged furniture or appliances
- Replacement for any damaged HVAC filters, drywall, or insulation throughout the house
- Additional living expenses for costs incurred during the home repairs
- Loss of use expenses if you rent out your home to tenants
How to File an Insurance Claim for Smoke Damage
First, knowing what type of insurance you have is essential to understand what your policy covers.
If you have property insurance, your insurer will cover the cost of any repairs or replacement costs above the deductible but within the policy limits in your plan. If you have homeowners or renters insurance, you must file a claim with your insurance provider.
Once they are satisfied with the damage and agree to cover the cost of repairs or replacement, then they can work with your property insurer for reimbursement.
You will need to provide them with specific information about the damage, such as how much of the house was affected by smoke and how long it took to clear up. Insurance agents may request more information, like pictures or video footage of the damage, before they process a claim.
You will also need to ensure that you stay in contact with your insurance adjuster throughout this process so they can help you if there are any problems with processing or if they have any questions about your claim.
Claims can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on how quickly you file the claim, if there are any claims errors, and what kind of coverage you have for smoke damage.
Next, when filing an insurance claim for smoke damage, you must do certain things for it to be successful. These include:
- Writing a letter explaining what happened and how much money was lost
- Gathering receipts and other documents related to the cost of repair
- Taking pictures of all damages, including any structural changes
- Making sure that you report all losses within 30 days after the fire.
If you have extensive damage, you can hire a public adjuster to help locate and document it to ensure you don’t miss anything.
You’ll also want to hire a professional thoroughly examine your home. Your insurance company will send someone out to do this, but you’ll want to have your own second opinion. You can hire a contractor, a structural engineer, or a fire remediation company to come in and take a look.
Often, the most damaging damage done by fires isn’t visible when you first return to your property. This unseen damage is why it’s crucial to have a professional fire restoration company evaluate the damage and recommend a course of action.
How do you prove smoke damage?
When there is smoke damage after a house fire, you might notice a smell of smoke or black soot on the walls and floors. However, the smoke damage could be less noticeable. The best way to prove smoke damage is by using the “smoke residue” test. To do this test, rub a chemical sponge on the affected areas. If the sponge shows residue, that indicates smoke damage in that area.
Does insurance cover fires caused by cigarettes?
In general, home insurance can cover the damage caused by a cigarette if it’s accidental. However, it’s important to understand your home insurance coverage limits and how they may or may not apply to this situation. For instance, many policies will not cover damages caused by negligence or arson. You would need to ensure that you were not negligent in any way for this type of fire damage to be covered.
Does insurance cover the smoke smell?
Most insurance policies will provide coverage for fire-related damage, including smoke-damaged items. If your smoke damage claim is accepted, it can help to repair or replace the affected items and may be able to cover professional cleaners or decontamination for your home to eliminate the smoke smell.
What can be salvaged after smoke damage?
When extinguishing a home fire, it leaves a lot of property damage behind. The smoke and soot have penetrated the surfaces in your home, leaving a tough job for you to clean up. You can salvage some things after fire and smoke damage; hard non-porous surfaces such as glass, metal, and hardwood floors are the easiest to salvage after a fire. You should remove anything that’s melted, burned, or charred.
What is the difference between smoke and soot?
Smoke is the airborne solid and liquid particles emitted from a fire. Soot is the black powdery material that occurs when something burns. Smoke consists of ash, soot, and other particles in the air that aren’t visible to humans. Soot is the incomplete combustion of fuel and is viable as black or greyish powder on walls, ceilings, carpets, or other surfaces close to where the house fire occurred.
What are the signs of fire damage?
There are a few things that could indicate fire damage. The most obvious sign is if you can see burn marks on your upholstery, walls, or ceiling. You may also find ashes in your home or the surrounding area. If there are no noticeable burn marks, you could still have fire and smoke damage if there is a smoke smell or smoke residue within the house.
What is a smoke eater?
A smoke eater is a device that removes smoke and odor from the air. Deodorizing the area of cigarette smoke, cigars, or other smoking materials from the air is the primary purpose of a smoke eater. Smoke eaters also remove cooking smells and other unpleasant odors from the carpets or upholstery.
What is a fire and smoke restoration company?
A fire and smoke restoration company is a company that specializes in the removal of fire-related substances from structures, buildings, and homes. A professional cleaning team responds to emergency fire damage services. They also respond when a wildfire or when there is an industrial accident. A fire and smoke restoration company will then complete the clean-up so it’s safe for people to re-enter.
What are the benefits of having a home insurance policy if you have a fire?
One of the most significant investments you will typically make is your home; fire damage can be expensive, so it’s important to protect your home with low monthly premiums. A standard homeowners insurance policy can help cover the repair or replacement of the items lost or damaged by the fire, including the structure of your home or your personal property.
How to Get Insurance Coverage for Smoke Damage
Stay calm and assess the situation if your home suffers smoke damage. If you have smoke or fire damage, you should contact a restoration company and start cleaning up. Documenting everything with damage is essential to get compensation for your losses.
Make sure you have adequate coverage before starting the insurance claims process.
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