Interior Paint Estimating: What Insurance Companies Pay For

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What surfaces will the insurance carrier pay you to paint? “Paint Tray” by garycycles is licensed under CC BY

If you’re planning on any painting any amount of interior on an insurance claim project, be sure to read this information before finalizing your repair estimate. You may (surprisingly) end up with an estimate totaling more than it would have—and a much happier customer to boot! Of course, you could also find the opposite if your customer is insured by an overly conservative insurance carrier (more on this below).

Though dependent on policy language and various governing laws from state to state, most insurance carriers are required to pay for restoring a damaged property to a reasonably uniform appearance. To meet this criteria on on interior paint estimating, most insurance carriers will utilize the ‘line-of-sight’ rule. This rule asserts that any undamaged area visible from a direct line of sight of a damaged area must be made so that its appearance is reasonably uniform with the repairs made in the damaged area. In other words, undamaged areas visible by a line of sight from the damaged areas must end up matching.

Painting of Repaired Walls

For interior walls, most insurance carriers will pay to prime the entire wall being repaired, and then paint all of the walls in the room to match. Primer is usually only needed for proper paint adhesion on newly repaired surfaces (i.e., areas with new drywall or plaster). Surfaces previously painted will usually already allow new paint to adhere properly.

Though relatively rare (and seemingly contrary to the ‘line-of-sight’ rule), there are a few overly conservative insurance carriers that will pay only to spot-prime the immediate area of a repaired wall, and then to paint that one wall from corner to corner only. This method is not desirable as 1) spot-priming nearly always shows through paint, and 2) a freshly painted wall next to a previously painted wall will nearly always result in a mismatch, even when computerized matching is used (the mismatch is usually due to normal wear and/or sun fading). These particular insurance carriers may argue that they have provided a ‘reasonably uniform appearance’ under the line-of-sight rule, with ‘reasonable’ having been interpreted by them. This can often lead to contractors and/or property owners giving up the fight and paying out of pocket for the additional painting, though some contractors and property owners will fight it all the way to mediation.

Painting of Repaired Ceilings

For interior paint estimating on ceilings, most insurance carriers will pay to prime the entire ceiling being repaired, and then to paint the entire ceiling to match. If the ceiling is continuous with the ceiling of an adjoined room (or multiple rooms) and there is no break between them, then these insurance carriers will usually pay to prime and paint the ceiling of the adjoined room(s) also. Sometimes only one small area of ceiling may be damaged, but an insurance carrier will pay to prime and paint not only it but also the ceilings of multiple other adjoined rooms so that they match.

As with priming and painting of walls, there are some overly conservative insurance carriers that will pay only to spot-prime the immediate area of a repaired ceiling, and then to paint only that immediate ceiling regardless of whether or not there are adjoined ceilings that are continuous. This method is not desirable as 1) spot-priming nearly always shows through paint, and 2) a freshly painted ceiling next to a previously painted ceiling will nearly always result in a mismatch, even when computerized matching is used (this is usually due to normal wear and/or sun fading). Again, these particular insurance carriers may argue that they have provided a ‘reasonably uniform appearance’ under the line-of-sight rule, with ‘reasonable’ having been interpreted by them. This can often lead to contractors and/or property owners giving up the fight and paying out of pocket for the additional painting, though some contractors and property owners will fight it all the way to mediation.

Painting of Acoustic ‘Popcorn’ Textured Ceilings

Some insurance carriers will pay to prime and/or paint ‘popcorn textured’ ceilings due to stains or smoke odor. It is not desirable to paint these types of ceilings as 1) the texture often times becomes weakened, crumbles, or falls off when wetted by primer or paint, and 2) the texture becomes nearly impossible to scrape off at a later date once it has been ‘sealed-in’ by primer or paint. The best approach to repairing a damaged popcorn textured ceiling is to scrape it off completely (including in adjoined rooms with continuous ceilings), prime the entire ceiling for proper adhesion of new texture, and then apply the new popcorn texture.

Painting of Trim Work

When it comes to trim work, most insurance carriers will pay to prime any new pieces of trim (i.e., crown molding, door or window casings, baseboards, quarter round, shoe molding, etc.), and then paint all of the other adjoined trim in that room to match. For example, if the baseboard on one wall is removed and replaced, but the baseboard on the other three walls is unaffected, the insurance carrier will pay to prime and paint the new piece of baseboard, and then to paint the remainder of baseboards in the room to match (with no primer needed since those baseboards have already been painted).

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