When it comes to property claims as a result of a fire, most property owners are primarily concerned about the damage caused by the fire itself, but flames are not the only threat you should be concerned about because smoke damage can be just as detrimental to your property. Whether you are a homeowner or a business owner, the experienced public adjusters at Adjusters International/MBC (AI/MBC) know that any commercial or residential structure can be negatively affected by smoke damage.

What is Smoke Damage?

Smoke damage is mainly identified by the presence of ash, soot, and char. Although the evidence is not always extensive throughout the entire building, it often enters through mechanical systems, such as air conditioning units, as well as vents in the roof, gables, and attic. In older homes, it can also enter through the windows.

When smoke enters and builds up, it can, directly and indirectly, impact many parts of a building, including its framing, interior, and exterior finishes, insulation, and windows and seals. If smoke pressurizes the structure, firefighters’ attempts to prevent it from exploding can cause additional damage. Firefighters will often need to break doors and windows to prevent pressurization, and damage to the rest of the structure can also occur due to the water used during firefighting efforts.

In cases where a neighboring building catches fire or there is a wildfire nearby, your property can still incur damage. This type of evidence can be easily overlooked and present itself even in small ways, such as burns from embers on your roof or damaged landscaping in addition to extensive smoke damage. It is important to remain vigilant to ensure that all damage is documented, even if the fire occurred off-premises.

How a Public Adjuster Evaluates Smoke Damage

While fire damage can be obvious to the naked eye, it often takes a trained expert to evaluate the extent of damage caused by smoke – which also makes smoke damage claims challenging to navigate successfully. A public adjuster, who works for you – not the insurance company – can evaluate the property thoroughly and identify any damage that may be present, which is essential to receiving the insurance settlement you deserve.  

In order to best evaluate the presence of smoke damage, a public adjuster will conduct a walkthrough of the home or business in question, looking for signs of damage to the property. The expert will pay particular attention to colder and horizontal surfaces where smoke deposits are more likely to be present, wiping them down with a sponge to check for the presence of soot, which will present as black material, whereas regular dust will be white or gray. Photo and video documentation may also be taken to utilize as additional evidence. 

In some wildfire cases, the experts on-site will have to go as far as proving that the smoke was from an outside source and was not due to smoking inside the building. A public adjuster knows to identify this by examining areas, such as the insides of windowsills, electrical outlets, or mechanical systems to see if pressurized soot, ash, and char might have entered the house through a failed seal. 

After collecting physical evidence, the public adjuster may bring in a non-partial third-party certified industrial hygienist to examine the structure for physical data and samples, which can be evaluated in a lab. The industrial hygienist will work with physical data collected – not air samples from the area to prove the presence of smoke damage. They will also prepare industry protocols that can be utilized by the restoration company or general contractor to properly remediate the damage. In the rare case, a claim needs to be litigated, having an accredited industrial hygienist on the team, in addition to an expert public adjuster is essential to making a solid case.

Assemble Your Recovery Team 

At AI/MBC, we know smoke claims are some of the most challenging to navigate, so it is especially important to have a team of experts on your side. With more than 30 years of experience handling the intricacies of smoke damage claims, AI/MBC public adjusters understand the impacts of a smoke loss and how to value the claim but also the importance of bringing in fellow experts like industrial hygienists to prove the damages that we identified. With a knowledgeable team on your side to document, value, and support your claim in order to obtain the best possible settlement, you can focus on your family or business and leave the rest to us.