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Step 3: Damage Assessment
By Jonathan Meyer
After taking steps to protect and secure your property and personal belongings, the next important step is damage assessment.
Understanding the extent of the damage caused to the structure and personal belongings will help your insurance adjuster efficiently process the damage claim.
It is recommended to hire a professional restoration contractor for a fast and accurate assessment. This will help with speeding up the restoration process, allowing you and your family to get back to normal life as quickly as possible.
Structural Damage Assessment
Exterior Signs of Damage
Start with a closer inspection of the property. Only if determined safe, walk around the building and lot to observe and gather information.
It is recommended to prepare a visual record of the damage using annotated photos or video. Make sure your visual record shows the scope of the disaster.
Start outside. Record the exteriors and include the following:
- Collapsed portions of the roof
- Missing or burnt roof shingles
- Damaged gutters
- Cracks or damaged chimney
- Stained exterior surfaces
Exterior walls and windows
- Collapsed walls
- Broken or cracked windows
- Burnt bricks or exterior walls
Front lawn and back yard
- Damaged areas
- Burnt trees and landscaping
Interior Signs of Damage
Now enter the structure. Taking extreme precautions, start from the top and document the following:
- Damaged ceiling, walls and floor
- Burnt insulation
- Burnt vents and ducts
- Stained ceiling, walls, and floor
- Warped or damaged wood
- Broken windows and doors
- Damaged bathtubs or showers
- Stained sinks and countertops
- Damaged foundation, walls, and flooring
- Stained or damaged duct work
Personal Belongings Damage Assessment
Once you are done with structural assessments, move on and evaluate the damage done to your belongings. Prepare a list of damaged or lost items for your adjuster and, if available, give the adjuster receipts for those items.
A visual documentation is recommended here as well. It will help to support your insurance claim.
Create a room by room list of damage. Be as thorough as possible and use the following guidelines to help you make observations and notes:
- Appliances: Do not switch appliances on if they were exposed to water. Simply mark every appliance that you suspect is damaged. These appliances will require an electrician to test later.
- Furniture: List every damaged piece of furniture. Inspect wood furniture closely. Open all cabinets and dressers and inspect inside. Carefully touch all sides and panels and list if smoke damaged or burnt. Make sure to list all damaged contents as well.
- Carpets and upholstery: List all damaged carpets, rugs, fabric curtains, and upholstery.
- Paper products: List all burnt books, documents, photographs and paintings.
- Digital media: List all burnt digital media such as tapes, CDs, DVDs, computers and hard drives.
Be prepared to make difficult decisions about what to keep and what to discard.
Convey Your Assessments
When you are done collecting the information required for damage assessment, convey a copy to your insurance agent / adjuster for further processing of your claim.
Another copy should be given to your restoration contractor to develop a prioritized plan of stabilization, repair, and restoration.
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