Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Smoke Damage?

What Is Smoke Damage?

A house fire can cause an immense amount of property damage. Fire can consume and completely destroy household items in a matter of seconds. In addition, the soot, ash and smoke from a house fire can also cause damage. Items affected by smoke may or may not be repairable depending on the extent of the damage. In an insurance claim, smoke damage can refer to:

  • Physical damage caused by smoke
  • Items coated in soot
  • Furniture or curtains that look dirty or grimy
  • Paint or wallpaper damage
  • Items that absorbed the smell of smoke
  • Remnants of fuel that fed the fire

Smoke from a fire is extremely pervasive in a household. Smoke can rise in the air and spread quickly throughout a residence during a fire. Furthermore, your heating and air vents may pick up smoke particles from one room and carry them through the rest of the house. This can lead to the smell of smoke and sight of soot throughout the house, even if the fire was contained to one room.

Homeowners Insurance Coverage for Smoke Damage

In most cases, a homeowners insurance policy provides coverage for smoke damage in addition to other types of fire-related damage, including water damage from a sprinkler system. The average homeowner’s policy covers all types of damage related to a house fire, including problems connected to smoke or soot. Your policy could cover the costs of:

  • Hiring a professional to examine your home for smoke and fire damage, including underlying or structural damage.
  • Repairing or replacing all possessions damaged by smoke or fire. This may include furniture, housewares, décor or personal possessions.
  • Damage outside of the home. Your insurance should not only cover your household but also outdoor structures, sheds and garages.
  • Medical bills if you or someone on your property suffered physical injuries from the fire, such as smoke inhalation.
  • A hotel or rental while you stay someplace else if your home is inhabitable during repairs for smoke damage.

If your insurance company accepts your claim, it will help you recover from a fire by paying to repair or replace damaged items, including those ruined by smoke. Your insurance company may also pay for a thorough cleansing of your home, as well as decontamination to rid it of any lingering smoke or odors.

When Might an Insurance Company Deny a Smoke Damage Claim?

There are situations, however, when your insurance company might deny a smoke damage claim. It is important to review your homeowners insurance plan after a fire to see what is and is not covered. Your contract may explicitly withhold coverage for smoke damage, for instance, taking away your right to seek benefits for this type of loss. Your policy may also specifically exclude coverage for fire or smoke damage resulting from:

  • Neglect
  • Poor maintenance
  • Arson
  • Drug manufacturing
  • Fireworks
  • Commercial/industrial operations