Smoke Damage on collectibles, artwork, antiques, memorabilia and heirlooms
Smoke Damage – Protect and Save Collectibles - Discover 5 Valuable TipsI am a fine art conservator which is basically someone whospecializes in painting restoration. At present I am in Utah doingsome work for the LDS Church on some very important murals,helping the International Pioneer Museum which belongs to theDaughters of Utah Pioneers with some follow up from the monthbefore and meeting private art collectors.On this visit, the air is thick in ash and smoke damage – Furtherdown in this article are 5 proven tips for getting help with yourartwork, collectibles, memorabilia, antiques and heirloomswith valuable info on dealing with your insurance claims.I’m also consulted and considered an expert on saving collectionsand treasured memorabilia from disasters because of my book,How To Save Your Stuff From A Disaster. I’ve been in themiddle of 9 major disasters myself! While I am here, severaldeadly fires have broken out burning down homes and destroyingvalleys along the Wasatch Front. Alpine Utah on fire! Other fires took place in Carbon County which burned an entire development of homes and also in the area of Park City but I am not sure where exactly.
As an art conservator I often deal with smoke damage in ourlab where we take care of the smoke deposits and smell onartwork. (for a quick video tour Click Here). Because of thisspecialization, I often consult for insurance companies whohandle contents claims and fine art insurance claims whichinclude memorabilia, heirlooms, keepsakes, antiques andcollectibles of value.Here are two such examples of claims which will definitely helpyou learn something. I hope it teaches you how to be wellprepared, particularly if you own nice collectibles, furnishings,artwork and antiques which you have kept protected with a finearts policy. However, this piece of information is specially andperhaps more important for heirlooms, family history etc. thatare irreplaceable but not insurable (little financial value but HUGEemotional or historical value). Is Smoke Damage Possible from a Distance of 40 Miles?I was asked to evaluate a claim by Chubb Insurance Company(now known as Chartis). They hired me to scrutinize a property inLos Angeles city to find out smoke damage to sculptures, fineart, frames, murals, decorated and gilt surfaces which were aresult of brush fires that took place 2 years back, 40 miles away!
In the entrance there were five arched ceilings same as this one, with the exception of the crown moldings which were gold.Clearly, more than the deposits from smoke there is dust from thepast 2 years. It may have been possible to examine the “dust”with complicated analytical means to establish the differencebetween smoke and dust but that option was rejected as it wouldhave cost us $1,000′s.This gave rise to these two questions:1. Are there any smoke deposits?2. Do they cause any kind of damage?As the option of analysis was rejected, it was not possible for meto detect the presence of smoke deposits with naked eyes.Therefore the first question is unanswerable. So in short, my visitwas about confirming and rejecting the claims of damage due tosmoke deposits.I cautiously read the 10 pages of detailed objects which wereembodied in the claim worth $500,000.00 for repairs. I wasaccompanied by the client throughout the property. He explainedto me what he saw as concerns and damages. He even showedme some gilt finishes that according to him had changed in colordue to exposure to smoke.In my opinion the “alterations” the client was pointing at areactually different colors of actual finishes which perhaps he hasforgotten or was unaware of but has come into his notice now thathe is taking a closer look. And this is where many home ownersmake a mistake while making claims: the situation wasn’tdocumented properly (video, photos etc.), the damage took placesometime ago, and there is no past historical record of value
(appraisals or receipts) or conditions so it comes down to thebelief of the insured versus the insurance company.After my vigilant examination of all individual objects or items(frames, paintings etc.) and finishes, I observed that there wereno changes therefore this owner did not get any support from me.In this particular case, Chubb benefited from my visit as it themsaved them from paying $500,000.00 worth of fine arts claim. Inanother case, I inspected a painting for Chubb once which wasclaimed for $1/2 million and let me tell you they did pay thisamount as they wanted to sustain the client who had insured anenormous collection, boats, houses and other toys etc. with them.So ultimately what induces the business decision and in what wayan insurance company settles claim? Well the answer is simple -“Business”.Well, I am not concerned with any of those things. I am just anadvocate for artwork and regardless of whosoever is paying formy bill, I tell it straightaway. This is what makes me a trustworthyand genuine expert witness on art related matters as well aslegal testimony.Here comes another Example… Allstate Insurance CompanyAs seen with all fires, they take one house hereand leave the other one next door through theneighborhood. One such case was that of aMediterranean style home. The fire damaged thehouse; the heat caused the cracking of patiocement but “only” filled the house with ash andsmoke. Allstate Insurance which was client’s insurance company wasexcellent in managing the major damage. But the client’s
emotional issues kept them from dealing with the items whichbelonged to the family history, keepsakes and collectiblesright away. For this very reason, claim was kept open. In fact,they even postponed working with the company for the claim ofthese objects for an entire year, though the presence of smellwas still there!FACL, Inc. helped the insured and the insurance company to: 1. Motivate the client to complete their contents claim. 2. Provide a complete inventory list of collectibles and keepsakes, along with photos. 3. Propose treatments which are suitable for delicate items that must not be handled by harsh industrial cleaners (rare books, artwork, drawings, photo albums, sculpture etc.) 4. On behalf of the insurance company it provided customer service to keep the client satisfied and happy and helped in concluding the claim process (which was being dragged before we came aboard).
There were around 550 items in total ranging from different typesof paper items, books, paintings, photos, statues, antiques,assorted dishes and furniture. All these objects were ingrainedwith residue and strong smoke smell.FACL, Inc. supplied the reports and evaluations to help movethe claim and then provided conservation work to remove thesmoke deposits and odor once the agreements were settledbetween the insured and the insurance company.(http://www.fineartconservationlab.com)FACL Appraisals offered the contents/valuations and fine artappraisals when it was needed by the insurance company.(http://www.personalpropertyappraisal.com)From our experience and knowledge in lots of smoke damageclaims, here are 5 important tips for you: 1. Make sure to keep an extra copy of your family records such as owner slips, receipts, documents, certificates, appraisals, historical info etc. in a different location preferably another state. Another good idea is to store it online but be certain about the safety of personal information. 2. Try to take action as soon as you can. Smoke and Ash decay metals (sculpture, furniture parts, frames) 3. Speak to your insurance agent in a timely manner. 4. Avoid commercial cleaners to handle your valuables, collectibles, artwork, antiques etc. Instead make sure to get
a professional help. 5. Never assume that you “know” it if something is damaged or destroyed. Let an expert guide you with the right info. I often see people make BIG, sad and costly mistakes all the time.Here is a short video of a woman who was a victim of house fire: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lCx-xg4BMY For more examples of insurance claims, go to: http://www.insurancepersonalpropertyassessments.com/ Have question? Call our Scott Haskins for free chat: 805 564 3438 For Art appraisal questions, Call Richard Holgate: 805 895 5121 The owner this heirloom painting was overjoyed when he sawhow cleaning brought it back to its original state after it had been damaged because of smoke.
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