If you're wondering whether your home insurance policy will cover the cost to repair damage to your home's chimney, the answer largely depends on exactly how the chimney gets damaged. While you need to know what's included in the policy you buy, it helps to understand the basics of home insurance policies and how they work.
For your home insurance to cover chimney damage, the damage must be caused by a covered peril. Perils are events that your policy specifically lists as being covered. For example, damage to a chimney caused by a fire or lightning striking the chimney generally is covered. When a fire occurs in your chimney, the direct cause usually is easy to prove, but other situations may not be as simple to explain.
Sudden and Unexpected Events
Since home insurance covers damage caused by sudden and unexpected events, damage to your chimney caused by recent windy weather may not be covered even if your policy names wind as a covered peril. But if the wind knocks a tree onto your chimney, the damage should be covered. That's because the insurance company sees the tree, not the wind, as the culprit.
Coverage for Water Damage
If your policy includes coverage for water damage, it likely won't cover if it was a snowy winter and water draining off the roof caused the damage. But a major plumbing episode that floods part of your house is another story. In this case, your policy may cover direct damage water causes to the chimney. Usually, a break in a water line is construed as a sudden and unexpected event.
Also, if you have flood insurance and the chimney needs repairs as a direct result of rising floodwater from rivers, streams, and oceans, the damage should be covered. Flood insurance does not cover damage to your home's structure caused by water and seepage from a sewer line or drain that backs up and overflows even though water seeping through the masonry can cause damage to your chimney. However, optional sewer backup coverage you purchase as an add-on to your standard home insurance policy may cover the damage.
Coverage for Normal Wear and Tear Excluded
Normal wear and tear is not covered. If your chimney is getting old, or it's time for some routine maintenance, you can't file a claim to cover the cost. But if your neglect to properly maintain the chimney causes a fire, your insurance still may pay for the damage. There is a good chance, though, that the insurer may drop your policy after paying the claim.
Generally, your home insurance will not pay for problems with the chimney that occur over time. For example, the insurance won't pay for damage caused by a clogged flue, deteriorating brick, or structural problems with your home that eventually cause cracks in the chimney or cause it to lean. Insurers consider these to be maintenance problems rather than sudden occurrences.
Filing a Claim
If there is a problem with your chimney and you plan to file a claim with your insurance company (like Olympic Northwest Insurance), providing supporting documentation can help get the claim paid. Begin by describing in writing the event that caused damage to the chimney. Also note:
When the damage occurred
The name of the professional who assessed the chimney damage
The date the damage was inspected
Any other pertinent details relating to the type of damage and how it occurred