When a chimney fire occurs or lightning strikes your chimney, damage is incurred. Most folks’ insurance policies cover such occurrences, and a chimney professional must try to help homeowners to make the insurance process go as smoothly as possible. My number one recommendation when it comes to insurance claims, no matter what kind of insurance, is to document everything at the very beginning of the process. You need to be sure to document the date it occurred, the name of the professional(s) who come out to evaluate the situation, and the date(s) the professional evaluated the situation. Your professional should also be doing some documentation as well.
The service technician must document the damage, the date it was discovered, and how they discovered it. Most chimney fires are discovered by chimney sweeps who come out and observe signs that a chimney fire has occurred when running a video inspection of the flue system. This is a dangerous situation which cannot be ignored; you cannot continue to burn wood regularly in your fireplace without repair. You may notice exterior damage on the chimney caused by a lightning strike, in which case the technician should document that he came out to observe possible lightning strike damage at the request of the owner of the home.
Most insurance policies do not cover normal wear and tear of the chimney, for example, deterioration over many years. Similarly,they do not cover problems such as a clogged flue or spalling brick, which is almost always the result of poor maintenance of the chimney. Instead, documentation for insurance claims are used to file a “sudden occurrence.” It has been my experience that most insurance companies are willing to work with you so long as you provide the documentation and information that they require.
Fire is only supposed to be contained within the firebox of your chimney. When the fire escapes this area, it often causes vertical cracks in the flue tiles of a chimney, can warp a stainless steel liner, and cause other damage to the chimney and home in general. Documenting your claim on a large, roaring chimney fire is easy, seeing that the fire department must be called. What about slow burning chimney fires, which most home owners are not even aware occurred until a chimney sweep comes out and tells them. Chimney professionals are almost always willing to come out, meet with an insurance agent or a homeowner, and do whatever work is necessary in cases regarding sudden occurrence insurance claims. My policy is to never get ahead of the insurance agency and follow their lead when it comes to the claim, providing what documentation and service they require. Remember, it is not the chimney professional’s job to defend the home owner’s claim, but review observable facts and provide documentation that a person other than a trained professional could not do. Call out one or more professionals if you suspect a sudden occurrence has taken place; they can almost always make the insurance claim process less of a hassle.