top of page

Chubb Provides Safety Tips for Home Renovations


Construction and Maintenance Projects Are Responsible for Many Major House Fires


WARREN, NJ, March 19, 2015—With spring upon us, many homeowners are planning to catch up on maintenance and renovation projects that add to the beauty and value of their home. But in far too many cases each year, these projects unnecessarily end in disaster, warn loss prevention specialists at the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies.    


“Alarmingly, many major house fires we have seen are caused by contractors and others working in a home,” said James King, assistant vice president and technical field manager for Chubb Personal Insurance. “Many of these incidents could have been prevented simply by following some common-sense rules such as properly disposing of oily rags at the end of the workday. Within minutes, those rags could spontaneously combust, igniting an oil-soaked deck or other surface, and then spreading to the rest of your home.”  


Based on recent reports of increased spending on home renovations, more properties are likely to be exposed to such risks this spring. To help prevent some of these homes from going up in flames, Chubb advises homeowners to make sure that they and their contractors:


  • Do not ball up, pile, stack or fold wiping cloths, rags, drop cloths, steel wool or work clothes that come into contact with solvents such as wood stain, Linseed oil, alkyd enamel resins, motor fuel, and oil-based paint and other products. Do not toss these items into a trashcan or plastic bucket. Instead, immerse them in water in a metal container with an airtight lid. After they are saturated, fully air dry the items by laying them flat on a non-combustible surface and then contact the local solid waste authority regarding safe disposal.

  • Store paints, solvents and other flammable liquids that are not in use in a cabinet that complies with “NFPA 30: Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code.”

  • Mount portable fire extinguishers, preferably multi-purpose (ABC) models of at least 10 pounds, in accessible areas throughout the worksite and on each level of the home.

  • Remove scrap lumber, sawdust, cardboard containers and other highly combustible debris from the construction site every day.

  • Do not allow smoking on the property, or restrict smoking to safe areas and ensure proper cigarette disposal. After workers leave for the day, watch for fires that can be ignited by smoldering materials left in wall cavities after torch use.


In advance of any major construction or renovation project, King suggested that homeowners install a centrally monitored fire and burglar alarm system. He also warned against the common practice of disconnecting these systems during construction to prevent false alarms from dust when workers sand or plaster. Instead, cover sensors with plastic bags or manufacturer-provided covers that should be removed after workers leave for the day, which is when fires often occur.


King also recommended installing motion-activated lighting, perimeter fencing, gates or chains across driveways and hiring security guards to protect a vacant home from unwanted visitors. “Vacant construction sites tend to attract unwanted attention and increase the chance of theft, vandalism and injury,” he said.

Homeowners also should ask contractors or subcontractors they are considering hiring to furnish a copy of their certificate of liability to confirm they carry adequate insurance. In addition, homeowners should talk to their agent or broker about purchasing builder’s risk insurance to cover their insurable interest in areas that are under construction and in any materials or equipment on the site.


“It’s also a good idea to keep your insurance agent or broker informed about the status of the project, so your homeowner’s policy limits can be increased as new rooms or other major additions or alterations are completed,” added King. King is the head of the technical specialist team in Chubb’s Home Appraisal and Loss Prevention Department. Consisting of Chubb’s most senior loss prevention experts from around the country, the team helps more than 150 Chubb residential appraisers evaluate emerging and complex risks they encounter at customers’ homes. Each team member has extensive knowledge of risks prevalent in his or her region and holds specialist designations obtained through a rigorous program of internal and external coursework and on-the-job training. Their specialties include catastrophe management; infrared thermography; fire protection; security systems; and historic homes. Team members also have expertise in water intrusion, collector vehicle storage and green building techniques.


Established some 35 years ago, Chubb’s Home Appraisal and Loss Prevention Department is the largest unit of its kind among personal insurance companies. Chubb’s appraisers visit more than 65,000 homes worldwide each year and are highly trained in all aspects of fine residential construction, building codes, replacement cost valuation and loss prevention. As part of a complimentary appraisal, the service estimates the cost to rebuild the homes should a loss occur. The appraisers also offer security and fire prevention advice and identify safety measures in a home that could qualify for reduced premiums. In addition, Chubb offers a variety of other services to help personal insurance customers prevent losses related to wildfires, identity theft, and art and other collections.


About Chubb


Since 1882, members of the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies have provided property and casualty insurance products to customers around the globe. These products are offered through a worldwide network of independent agents and brokers. The Chubb Group of Insurance Companies is known for financial strength, underwriting and loss-control expertise, tailoring products for the needs of high-net-worth individuals and commercial customers in niche markets and select industry segments, and outstanding claim service.


The Chubb Group of Insurance Companies is the marketing term used to describe several separately incorporated insurance companies under the common ownership of The Chubb Corporation. The Chubb Corporation is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: CB) and, together with its subsidiaries, employs approximately 10,000 people throughout North America, Europe, Latin America, Asia and Australia.


This article was reprinted with the permission of The Chubb Corporation.


bottom of page