As a critical structure that vents smoke and gases from your home, it’s essential to properly maintain your chimney. But what if a covered event like a storm or fire damages your chimney? Will homeowners insurance pay for repairs?
The answer is – it depends. Homeowners insurance will typically cover chimney damage caused by specific covered perils. But wear and tear or improper maintenance issues are not covered.
Below we’ll explore:
- What dwelling coverage is and how it applies to chimneys
- Typical covered causes of chimney damage
- Common exclusions for chimney repairs
- The claims process for chimney damage
- Steps to prevent chimney damage
- When to enlist a chimney professional
By understanding how homeowners insurance handles chimney repairs, you can make repairs quickly and efficiently if the need arises.
How Dwelling Coverage Applies to Chimneys
A standard homeowners insurance policy provides dwelling coverage to repair or rebuild your home if it’s damaged. This coverage also applies to structures attached to your home, like a chimney.
Dwelling coverage is for direct physical loss to your home, subject to your policy’s listed perils. If the damage is from a covered cause of loss, dwelling coverage will pay for chimney repairs up to your coverage limit.
For example, if lightning strikes and damages your chimney, this sudden accident would be covered. The insurer would pay to repair or rebuild the damaged chimney section.
On the other hand, slow wear and tear or maintenance issues would not be covered under a standard dwelling policy.
Covered Causes of Chimney Damage
Not all damage is covered. But there are some common sudden, accidental causes of chimney damage that dwelling coverage does typically cover:
Fire – If the chimney itself catches fire or if the chimney is damaged as a result of a house fire, dwelling coverage would pay for repairs. However, if the fire resulted from long-term creosote buildup or lack of maintenance, it may not be covered.
Lightning – A lightning strike that results in physical damage to the chimney itself would be covered. Any exterior or interior damage from the strike would also be covered.
Heavy storms – Wind damage from storms can displace chimney bricks or even topple chimneys. Dwelling coverage will pay to repair or rebuild storm-damaged chimneys. Weight of ice and snow that causes collapse may also be covered.
Falling trees/branches – If a falling tree or branch strikes and damages your chimney, the sudden accident would be covered under dwelling coverage.
Vehicle/aircraft – Accidental collision damage from a vehicle or aircraft crashing into your chimney would be covered.
Vandalism – If someone vandalizes your chimney, the damage would be covered. This includes damage from thrown objects.
In situations like these where sudden, accidental damage occurs, filing a claim to repair your chimney should go smoothly. Just be sure to document the damage with photos and get a police report for vandalism.
What’s Not Covered for Chimney Repairs
While the causes above are covered, a homeowners policy excludes long-term wear and maintenance-related issues. Damage not caused by an accidental peril will be denied. Here are some examples of chimney damage typically NOT covered:
- Deterioration from age or improper construction
- Gradual weathering over time
- Damage from lack of maintenance, such as a chimney fire sparked by creosote buildup
- Past damage that existed before a covered peril occurred
- Upgrades or improvements beyond pre-loss condition
- Damage from floods, earthquakes, or landslides (unless those specific endorsements were purchased)
Normal wear and use over many years can cause chimneys to crack, shift, or deteriorate. Since this happens gradually over time, it is not covered. Make sure to have your chimney inspected annually and address any maintenance needed to prevent uncovered damage.
The Chimney Damage Claims Process
If your chimney sustains sudden accidental damage, follow these steps to file an insurance claim:
Take photos of the chimney damage, both up close and showing the full structure. Also photograph any related damage.
Make temporary repairs if needed to prevent further damage from weather exposure. Save receipts for materials purchased.
Call your homeowners insurance company to report the claim. Provide details about what caused the damage.
Your insurer will assign an adjuster who will visit to inspect the damage and determine coverage. Point out and explain the damage.
If approved, your insurer will pay to have the chimney repaired or rebuilt according to local code. You will likely need to cover your deductible.
For extensive damage, obtain 2-3 bids from reputable chimney repair companies. Your insurer will select the most reasonable quote.
Oversee repairs and ensure the chimney is restored properly. Submit any remaining bills to your insurance company.
Always be truthful when filing chimney damage claims. Attempting insurance fraud can lead to denial of claims, cancellation of your policy, and potentially criminal charges.
Preventing Chimney Damage
While chimney damage may be covered, prevention is ideal to avoid claims and risky conditions:
Have your chimney inspected annually before first use in fall through a Level 2 inspection. Address any maintenance needed.
Check the cap and crown for cracks that could allow water intrusion. Repair immediately.
Look for exterior cracks, deteriorating mortar, missing bricks, or separation from house that could weaken the structure.
Ensure the chimney has proper height and clearance from roof and branches, at least 3 feet.
Keep trees trimmed around chimney. Remove dead branches.
Install lightning protection such as a lightning rod.
Clean the chimney regularly and address creosote buildup before it becomes excessive.
Proactive chimney maintenance will help avoid damage and dangerous conditions like chimney fires. But even will proper care, unforeseen accidents can occur.
Consulting a Chimney Professional
If your chimney sustains significant damage, it’s wise to have an evaluation by a chimney professional. They can assess:
- Overall stability and structural integrity of the remaining chimney.
- Whether repairs will be sufficient or a full rebuild is needed.
- Damage to the liner and flue system.
- Additional hidden damage that may not be visible initially.
- Necessary repairs to bring it up to current building code.
A reputable chimney pro can help develop an accurate repair scope and quote for insurance. They can also properly execute repairs.
Be sure to:
Look for Certified Chimney Professionals credentialed by the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
Verify proper licensing for your state.
Choose someone well-versed in insurance claims and processes.
Ask for local references from satisfied prior customers.
With the right guidance from a chimney pro, you can get your chimney back into safe working order after an unfortunate mishap. Take steps to keep it properly maintained going forward.
The Bottom Line
Will homeowners insurance cover chimney repairs? Dwelling coverage will pay for sudden accidental damage from most causes. But gradual deterioration or improper maintenance are excluded.
Document damage from a covered cause like a storm and hire a reputable chimney pro to inspect and make repairs. Take preventative measures like annual inspections and prompt maintenance to avoid uncovered damage.
With a proactive maintenance approach, your chimney should stand strong for many years as a critical household safety structure.
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