Chimneys and Homeowners Insurance: What You Need to Know
Homeowners insurance is a tricky game with a great many variables in determining what is considered a valid claim and what isn’t. A common question some people have is if repairs to a chimney are covered under a typical homeowners policy.
If you currently own a home and have a policy on it, the documentation will tell you to what extent chimney repair/replacement is covered and under what circumstances. If you don’t want to wade through all that, a quick call to your agent should answer your questions.
If you’re not a homeowner but expect to become one in the future, you may be curious about how homeowners insurance policies deal with chimney issues. The easy answer is that some issues are almost always covered while others aren’t. Let’s look at this in more detail.
Chimney issues that are and aren’t covered by “standard” policies
Generally, insurance policies protect against sudden and unexpected damage – to any part of the house, not just the chimney. Defining “sudden” and “unexpected” can be a little complex, but broadly speaking, these terms mean things that happen out of the blue, were not expected, and should not have been expected.
A tornado is unexpected. So is a flash flood or an earthquake. These types of events also fit the definition of “sudden,” and are always covered by homeowners insurance.
Normal wear and tear, however, typically is not covered; i.e., you can’t have a 95-year-old chimney that’s falling apart and expect your insurance provider to pay for a new one. Likewise, if you’re using a backhoe to do some dirt excavation and accidentally run into the house and bring the chimney down, don’t expect your insurance policy to come to your aid.
Lightning and chimney fires
The most common – and most insurance-covered – damages to chimneys include lightning strikes and chimney fires. Lightning clearly fits the definition for “sudden” and “unexpected,” and homeowners rarely have trouble getting compensated when a bolt of lightning destroys a chimney. Chimney fires also usually result in hassle-free claims, but not always.
Intense heat from a fireplace can ignite even small amounts of creosote in the flue, resulting in a damaged or destroyed chimney. A homeowner can’t be expected to have the chimney cleaned after every use, and with wood-burning fireplaces, creosote will begin to build up fairly quickly. The trouble arises when the insurance company questions the level of maintenance the chimney has had and the way the fireplace was used.
If negligence is suspected, there will be a problem with the claim. Neglecting to have your chimney cleaned during eight years of regular use and then having a fire won’t be considered “unexpected” damage by most insurance carriers, although the fire might be “sudden.”
The best way to avoid issues with your homeowners insurance provider is to have your chimney and fireplace inspected and cleaned once every year. As they say, the best cure is prevention, and insurance issues aside, you never want to deal with the hassle of a seriously damaged chimney.
Want to make sure your chimney is in excellent repair? Homeowners in the Richmond, Va., area rely on Chimney Saver Solutions to get the job done right the first time. We provide full-service chimney cleaning, inspection, maintenance and repair. Call us at (804) 440-5000 to arrange an appointment or if you have questions.