Is Smoke Damage Covered By Insurance?


WRITTEN BY: Mark Romero

UPDATED: SEPTEMBER 21, 2022 | 3 MIN READ

Your insurance protects your home’s value in case of unfortunate events, like a break-in, a flood, or an earthquake. But what about smoke damage? 

Sure, your insurance will cover it if your whole house burns down because of a kitchen fire. Home fires are an all-too-common occurrence and one of the most frequent scenarios in which people call home insurance claims.

According to the Red Cross, home fires yearly cause almost $7 billion in property damage. But smoke damage is a little less obvious and potentially just as troubling. 

The short answer is your home insurance policy most likely covers smoke damage – but the extent to which it’s covered could be complicated. 

Let’s understand why the answer is so complicated and how to find out what you’re covered for. 

First – Exactly what does your home insurance policy cover? 

Generally speaking, a typical homeowners insurance policy will cover whatever damage results from a fire. Of course, that means damage from the flames themselves, but it should also include any damage from soot, ash, or smoke.

Essentially, damage caused by the byproducts of a fire should be as good as damage caused by the fire itself, but each plan is different.

Check Your Home Insurance Plan

You should first look at your contract to see exactly what’s covered – we can’t emphasize this enough. In rare cases, a contract may state that smoke damage isn’t covered.

In other cases, a contract could be very ambiguous regarding smoke damage, giving the company a loophole to say they cover damage from house fires, even though they won’t pay up on smoke damage. 

A contract could also cover certain parts of the repair process but not others. Maybe your company will insure any repair costs associated with smoke damage but won’t pay for professionals to examine your house and determine the extent of the damage.

Either way, the most important part of the claim process is ensuring you’re very familiar with your contract’s specific intricacies and limitations. 

What exactly is covered will vary contract-to-contract, but there are a couple of different parts of identifying and repairing smoke damage that your insurance company might cover. 

Some common costs associated with the process are: 

  • Hiring a professional to examine your home for any underlying damage
  • Living costs while your home is being repaired
  • Repair for any structural or cosmetic damage to your home
  • Cleaning or replacement for damaged furniture or appliances
  • Replacement for any damaged ventilation filters, drywall, or insulation throughout the house.

What should you do to ensure you get the most coverage for any smoke damage?

You should take two crucial steps when trying to get the most out of a claim on smoke damage: documentation and professional examination

Documentation

First, you’ll need to document every instance of damage thoroughly. Any cosmetic harm to walls, ceilings, floors, or upholstery might seem obvious because you live there. However, taking clear, well-lit photos of all the damage you can see will pay off.

An insurance adjuster who steps foot into your home for the first time might not necessarily be able to see the difference.

You don’t have to do this alone. If you have extensive damage, you can hire a public adjuster to help locate and document it to ensure you don’t miss anything.

Professional Examination

The second step is to have 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 an industrial hygienist to come in and take a look. 

This step is so important. Many types of damage aren’t apparent on the surface in the wake of a fire. Sure, it’s easy to spot any large stains on your ceiling or walls. But your home’s internal systems and furniture could also have been equally compromised. 

The smoke could have damaged your home’s ventilation system or any insulation in the walls. Or it could have settled into your carpets and any upholstered furniture. In this case, they might need to be professionally cleaned.

Invisible smoke damage could be a health concern. It’s also a huge portion of repair costs that you won’t be able to file a claim for without proof. 

How to Get Insurance Coverage for Smoke Damage

If your home experiences smoke damage, will your insurance policy cover the costs? The answer may surprise you. Standard homeowners policies usually don’t cover damage caused by smoke. Iit’s important to read your policy carefully or speak with an agent to be sure you’re fully protected.

Most insurers offer a separate endorsement for smoke damage, which can add several hundred dollars to your annual premium. However, this coverage is worth the investment, as repairing and replacing damaged belongings can be very costly.

So if you’re ever faced with the unfortunate reality of smoke damage in your home, don’t worry – you’re not on your own. Compare quotes from multiple insurers until you find one that offers the best protection at a price you can afford.