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Protecting Your Historical Property

You can never be too prepared when it comes to protecting your historic property. A careful and preemptive plan can greatly reduce or prevent problems for you historical property. Focus on these three areas to help reduce losses:

• Documentation

• Effective building maintenance

• Proper risk transfer

Complete the following after the historic property is obtained and after any major changes occur to the property:


• Document—Keeping physical property and personal property documents will help provide quick and precise replacement or repair after a loss. These documents may also be required to prove the validity of the historical property to the National Historic Society or Register. Keep these files up to date and in an orderly manner. Site plans, property layouts and diagrams will be very instrumental in completing an accurate replacement after a loss.

• Photograph—Keeping photographs can be extremely important in providing accurate portrayals of the property and its layout. Often, a photograph may be the only original “diagram” left of the property. Photography can also help to document and recover missing items after a burglary or theft. A digital recording of the property can help police identify items faster.

• Obtain copies of valuations and receipts—Keep current valuation of the property and personal property receipts of work completed.

• Check current replacement costs on historical items—With changing real estate markets and other economic factors, reviews of the property and items should be completed at least annually for an accurate and up-to-date replacement value of the property and its contents.

• Keep information on disc or hard copy—All the above information should be kept as a hard copy in a fire-resistant enclosure and a backup copy in electronic form.

Hard copy items should be scanned into a computer or transferred to some form of electronic media, such as a smart phone. An additional copy should be maintained off premises. This will help ensure that a current copy of the documents exists in the event of a major loss.

Building Maintenance

• Electrical systems—These are subject to damage and fire because of the age and possible lack of proper maintenance. Detecting and correcting electrical problems early can assist in preventing a fire loss or damage to the property or its contents.

• Plumbing systems—These systems are also subject to damage and deterioration because of age and possible improper maintenance. As pipes age, an increasing number of cracks and other severe deterioration can occur. These can cause major water damage and possible mold infestation.

• Roof Systems—In historical properties there are a number of roofing systems that can cause serious damage to the structure and building contents if not properly maintained. Roofing systems can range from wooden thatch and ceramic tile to metal roofing materials. Each roofing system has a specific maintenance requirement with wooden roofing requiring more attention than metal. Keeping all roofing systems properly maintained can reduce or prevent major water, wind and mold damage. Proper roof maintenance can also help control power as well as heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) costs.

• HVAC—In the event that a historical building has HVAC, the maintenance and upkeep is critical to provide visitors a pleasant environment as well as keep HVAC costs to a minimum. Most historical buildings with HVAC systems have been modified or had the systems added.

• Infrared thermography can be extremely useful in determining problems with roofs in addition to electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems. Infrared can be used to detect hot spots in electrical wiring and transformers, water leaks in the plumbing systems, roof leaks, water damage in roof systems and areas where heating and air conditioning are escaping the building because of structure damage.

Preventative maintenance should be completed by a qualified contractor at least annually on the following:

By determining these problems early on, most damage can be drastically mitigated if not completely avoided.

Risk Transfer

• Obtain Certificates of Insurance—Certificates should document that the policy has been amended to include the property owner has been added as an insured on the contractors’, vendors’ or tenants’ policies.

• At least $1 million Combined Single Limits should be required for general liability. Consult with your insurance representative to be sure of the correct amount. • General liability insurance should have a listed policy number. Do not accept contractors with TBA, binder or other unlisted policy numbers.

• Have an attorney review all contracts prior to signing.

• Watch out for contracts with contractor-favorable “indemnity” or “hold-harmless” agreement wording such as “The Building Owner will hold ABC contractor harmless for any unfavorable actions completed by ABC contractor while completing work for The Building Owner.” Be sure to discuss such provisions with your attorney before signing such agreements.

• Use reputable contractors and subcontractors who have experience in historical property reconstruction or renovation.

• Check references of contractors or vendors prior to hiring.

• Following these steps will assist in protecting your historical property. This will also help you make an informed decision about the level of coverage required for your property or if current insurance coverage is adequate.

• Be sure that all contractors, vendors or tenants in the historical property are properly insured. Following these steps will ensure that property and contents are protected from others.

This information was provided through one of our insurance carriers. We are able to provide solutions for various unique properties by utilizing a multi-carrier platform. If you have any questions regarding properly protecting your historic building, contact us today at or 866-269-0944.