You're Not Patching My Imported Cherry Wood With That!

Sometimes disaster destroys everything in sight, but often misfortune causes damage here and there.

A pipe bursts and water ruins a corner of your Brazilian cherry wood floor. A windstorm tears off half of the vinyl shingles on one side of the house. Or a fire burns a couple of kitchen cupboards. Home insurance generally covers partial losses such as these. But the extent to which the insurer must go to make everything look just the way you'd like is a thorny issue.

What happens, for instance, when the new siding contrasts with the older, weathered siding? Or you can't find replacement kitchen cupboards that precisely match the others?

"Most commonly we see the question come up with roofs," says Ronald Reitz, president of Quality Claims Management Corp. in San Diego and president of the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA).

Sometimes insurers propose replacing only the broken shingles. That's a problem if the end result is a roof that looks like a patchwork quilt, Reitz says.

"If your claim is settled properly it should put you back to pre-loss condition," says Art Jansen Jr., CEO of Jansen International LLC in Houston and first vice president of NAPIA.

In other words, Reitz says, the new part shouldn't stick out like a sore thumb; the appearance should be uniform within the line of sight. Inside, that could mean replacing the entire floor of a room even if only a portion needs repair, or repainting all the walls even if only one was damaged.

Matching laws and making a case for full replacement

In some states you have case law or state statutes on your side. In Florida, for example, if replaced items don't match in quality, color or size, the insurance company must make "reasonable repairs or replacement of items in adjoining areas."