Pictures Are Worth Thousand of Dollars When it Comes to Homeowner Damage Claims


Whether it is a hurricane, tornado, fire, theft or some other disaster that causes you to have to turn to your insurance company for help you need to do your part to insure you are treated fairly and get what you have paid for in premiums.


If a tornado, fire, hurricane or other disaster struck would you be able to sit down and list all the items you have accumulated over the years? And certainly you would not have the values, model numbers and other identifying details memorized. Keeping an up-to-date home inventory will help you get your insurance claim settled accurately and quickly.

Start by making a list of your possessions, describing each item and not where you bought it and its make and model. Clip to your list any sales receipts, purchase contracts, and appraisals you have. For clothing, count the items you own by category – pants, coats, shoes, for example-making notes about those that are especially valuable. For major appliance and electronic equipment, record their serial numbers usually found on the back or bottom.

It's a big job – but you will be sorry if you do not do it.

As daunting as the task may be if you have had your household set up for some years, an incomplete inventory is better than none at all. If you are just starting out it is easier to get in the habit of updating your inventory with every major purchase or at least annually.

Take care of big ticket items

Items of value such as artwork, antiques, jewelry and collectibles may increase in value over time. Make sure you have itemized coverage on these items (antiques are just old furniture if not itemized). Check with your agent to insure you have up to date coverage.

Digitize Documentation

Use still pictures for important individual items. Make a note either on the back of a printed picture or in your computerized copy of the details of the item such as when and where you got it, the value and any identifying numbers or marks. Also take pictures of whole rooms and closets. Do not forget your kitchen cabinets. You may have thousands of dollars tied up in dishes, cutlery, pots, small appliances, etc.


Walk through your house or apartment videotaping and describing the contents.

Keep it on the Computer

There are several options for using your computer to keep track of your inventory. There are websites that have inventory programs as well as downloadable software to make your lists. Remember you do not want to have the only copy on your hard drive in the event of disaster. E-mail it to your work computer or to a family member or friend. You could also start a personal website – there are plenty of free ones – and keep all your pictures and inventory list there where they are easily retrievable from wherever you are. Scan in the front page of your policy with the policy number and limits as well as any other important documents and upload it to either you personal website or an e-mail. If all is lost then at least copies of everything are available online where ever you are.

Keeping the list, photos and tapes

Regardless of how you do it (written list, floppy disk, photos, videotape or audio tape), keep your inventory along with receipts in your safe deposit box or at a friend's or relative's home. It is best to keep a couple of copies in different locations in the event the disaster is wide spread. And again, uploading it to somewhere on the internet provides the best access of all. That way you'll be sure to have something to give your insurance representative if your home is damaged. When you make a significant purchase, add the information to your inventory while the details are fresh in your mind.


Protection of life is first and foremost before, during and immediately following a disaster. When re-entry has been cleared by authorities, BE CAREFUL to look for hazards such as downed power lines, broken glass, gas leaks, holes, etc.


Using digital cameras is best or if using a disposable have the pictures both printed on paper and onto a CD. This will be beneficial later as future adjusters can put this into the programs used to write their reports. Date stamp the pictures if possible. Give a copy of the pictures digitally on a CD or by e-mail to any future adjusters or investigators. Always keep your originals.

Roof Pictures – First take overall pictures of not only your roof but also of your neighbors' roof if it was also affected by wind or hail damage. Documenting widespread damage to multiple properties could have been important if you have to go to litigation in the future. Wind will often drive debris under shingles – get close up pictures of this as well as any broken shinglees, exposed melt (paper under shingles), exposed flashing (metal around vents and pipes), obvious breaks in the integrity of the roof by trees, branches or other objects and broken or damaged vents, pipes, chimneys, etc.

Attic Pictures – Get up into the attic and take pictures of any damages from the inside, especially if there are visible breaks in the sheathing (the wood that holds the roof up), wet marks on any surface, compacted insulation, damaged ductwork. Also take pictures of any items like air handlers or water heaters that are in the attic.

Inside Pictures – Go systematically through the house either counter clockwise or clockwise starting at the front door. Ideally use a piece paper with the rooms name printed boldly, take a picture of that first and then all the damage in the room. Repeat with each room.

Ceiling, Wall and Flooring Pictures – It is important to note any areas that are damaged or have water stains. Also take pictures of ceiling fans and light and wall fixtures to show the kind and quality. Get the best pictures you can to show the types of material used – paint, wallpaper, paneling, floor carpeting, tile, vinyl, etc.

Kitchens and Bathrooms – Get detailed pictures of damages as well as pictures showing the kind and quality of fixtures, appliances, cabinets, countertops and materials used.

Contents – We have already discussed the need for an inventory prior to any damage occurring. Again detailed pictures of damages are important.

Exterior Pictures – Take a picture of the house from all sides including a wide shot from across the street or at a distance to see most of the property. Take more detailed pictures on each side of any damages to siding, windows, gutters, fascia, antennas, etc. Also if you have a detached garage, carports or sheds get outside and inside pictures as well. Any other outside damages such as to fines should be photographed as well.


Write a brief diary of the events of the disaster, the steps you took to protect the property from further damage and then an inventory of the damage you saw and photographed. As time passes your memory may become fuzzy and this diary could prove valuable to your claim.