Frost damage is one of the risks of property ownership that many people overlook. Of course, if your property is well constructed and you live in a temperate climate, you probably don’t have anything to worry about. But even so, the last few winters in Ireland have been especially harsh with more and more incidences of frost damage occurring. So what should you do if your property suffers from frost damage?
The most detrimental side effect of frost damage is burst water pipes, especially underground pipes. Not only can this lead to further problems such as high water bills, but there is no way of telling where the burst is or how bad it is without the help of some expert professionals, so it pays to be prepared. As a preventative measure, you should ensure that your property is adequately insulated, especially the roof. You should also consider insulating the walls.
In the event of frost damage, it is vital that you turn off all taps completely, as drips can freeze and block the pipe, adding further hold-ups and possibly damage. Also ensure that all stop taps and valves have been switched off or closed. Next, you should thaw any exposed pipes by placing a cloth soaked in hot water over them, or alternatively, a filled hot water bottle. Do your best to keep the property warm; use electric heaters if you have reason to believe your heating pipes may be damaged from the frost also (although this is unlikely if the heating been used recently).
The next step is to contact an underground leak detection professional who can search for any inaccessible pipe damage. At this point, you should also contact a loss assessor who will visit the property, gather records and make an inventory of damage, estimating the amount of losses as a result. Once the loss assessor’s survey is complete, you can submit an insurance claim and commence repair works; however, be sure to keep records of what repairs are carried out and all details about them, as this will aid your claim.
Once any damage has been repaired and your insurance claim has been processed, it is worth investing in pipe insulation to avoid a repeat occurrence. This is best done after the adverse weather has improved so it can be completed without delay and will not have any further impact on your property.
Here in Ireland, there is often a tendency to overlook such possibilities as storm damage due to our usually temperate climate.
However, with the stormiest winter on record occurring just last year in 2013, many people are now realising that coping with extreme weather conditions is becoming more and more of a necessity. This is particularly true of businesses and properties along the coastline, but those inland are not exempt either. If your property suffers from storm damage, here are a few key points to remember.
Luckily, these days we have at least 24 hours warning if a significant storm is imminent, which gives property owners an opportunity to prepare for any potential damage. Remove any important documents, electrical devices like computers and hard drives, or other valuable items from your property and keep them somewhere safe, preferably away from the area the storm will hit. Stack sandbags at the entrances to the building and turn off any electrical, heating or water supplies. Consider reinforcing windows with wooden boards if necessary.
Once the storm has hit, briefly assess the building for any immediate damage but only if it is safe to enter. Check for damage to the roof – particularly the roof tiles with can lead to leaks if removed – windows, floors, cables and electrical components, and look carefully for any cracks, leaks and structural damage. Remember the most important element, however, is that the building must be safe to occupy before anyone enters it.
Once the building has been deemed safe to enter by the relevant authorities (the fire brigade, for example), carefully document the damage with photos, videos, and written notes before beginning to clear away debris. At this point in the process, you should make contact with your insurance providers to begin your claim. The services of Clearys Loss Assessors will be invaluable at this stage, so it is of utmost importance to contact an assessor. The assessor will survey the property and create an extensive inventory of all damage and resulting losses which will help in your claim.
If the damage to the property is truly devastating, there are often disaster recovery services and government aid available. If the job of cleaning up the property is too big for a small number of people, contact Emergency Services and they will be able to send help.
A lightning strike can be a very powerful noisy and frightening event.
The wipe out of power to the property may affect all electrical items connected to the house, all copper pipe work and even structural issues. It is therefore impossible to know the extent of damage until power is back, everything is made safe and all electrical items are re-powered one by one.
Our client’s house lost power completely and all local supply was cut off for two days. The house was heated both electrically (under floor) and with an electric air to air heat pump system with heat exchanger.
All the contents of the freezer were thawed out and had to be used immediately or dumped. The house had no heat or other services for the following week. The alarm system was destroyed along with the telephone land-lines and computers which were plugged in at the time.
The violence of the strike broke the joints of the concrete ridged tiles on the roof and dislodged a number if the concrete roof tiles. Water found its way into the house in a number of places following the heavy rainfall during storms in the following days.
This required replacement of plaster board ceilings and redecoration in the areas affected. Before this work could be done the roof had to be stripped and repaired in a number of areas. It took time to source the 20 year old roof tiles and colour and match them.
The weather was too bad to get on the roof for nearly eight weeks after the strike and then the builder was busy on other work.
When the builder was on the roof we discovered that the solar panels were also destroyed and leaking into the roof and down into the insulation in the external timber frame walls.
The Loss Adjusters had made offers to settle the claim which were completely inadequate not only for the cost of work but also because the extent of damage was very difficult to establish and prove without detailed investigations.
The electricians carried out resistance testing on all systems in the house. It was then discovered that 3 circuits in the under floor heating system were shorting and therefore destroyed.
To repair these circuits would mean stripping out the rooms affected, taking up the 150mm screed, replacing the system and putting it all back again. This was extensive work and very costly.
Over time we also discovered that the storm had caused the failure of external LED lightning it had destroyed circuitry in an electrical Robot Lawnmower. The pumps and power supply to two water pumps on the site were also destroyed. Specialist technicians had to replace control panels in the heating system and the alarm system.
The whole event is a major disruption. The insurers were not in a position to assist with any of the repairs. In all our client had nine different Trades and Specialists involved for Quotations and Repairs. Insurers also sought their own competitive quotations. The whole process took six months to complete.
The final hurdle came when the bank would not cash the insurance company’s cheque because the bank account was in the name of husband and wife but the Insurance Policy is in the name of one person and this ridiculous position took another three weeks to sort out.
The total cost of repair was in excess of €30,000.
A few lessons from this case:
No matter how prepared you may be or how many precautions you take, the risk of a fire in your commercial property is always present. Thankfully, most fires result in only minor damage to equipment or paint work. A serious fire, however, can have a devastating effect on a business and incur massive financial losses, both through temporary ceasing of trade and the cost of repair works. The services of a loss assessor are key in this instance and will ensure both you and your insurance broker are getting the fairest assessment of damage and compensation.
To help make the process run as smoothly as possible, here are some steps you should take in the event of a commercial property fire:
The insurance company will then determine the exact details of the claim, which will vary depending on the cause of the fire, damage incurred by it and any financial losses as a result. You will be notified as soon as a conclusion is reached, and then the claim can be processed.