Smoke Damage – Discover 5 Valuable Tips Save Collectibles

I’m visiting Utah Valley and it is covered in ash and smoke damage – Here are 5 proven tips for getting help with your artwork, collectibles, memorabilia, antiques and heirlooms with valuable info on dealing with insurance claims. I am a fine art conservator which is basically someone who specializes in painting restoration. At present I am in Utah doing some work for the LDS Church on some very important murals, helping the International Pioneer Museum which belongs to the Daughters of Utah Pioneers with some follow up from the moth before and meeting private art collectors. I’m also consulted and considered an expert on saving collections and treasured memorabilia from disasters because of my book, How To Save Your Stuff From A Disaster. I’ve been in the middle of 9 major disasters myself! While I am here, several deadly fires have broken out burning down homes and destroying valleys along the Wasatch Front. I feel extremely sad for the afflicted victims of this calamity.

Alpine Utah on fire! Other fires took place in Carbon County which burned an entire development of homes and also in the area of Park City but I am not sure where exactly.

As an art conservator I often deal with smoke damage in our lab where we take care of the smoke deposits and smell on artwork. (for a quick video tour Click Here). Because of this specialization, I often consult for insurance companies who handle contents claims and fine art insurance claims which include memorabilia, heirlooms, keepsakes, antiques and collectibles of value.

Here are two such examples of claims which will definitely help you learn something. I hope it teaches you how to be well prepared, particularly if you own nice collectibles, furnishings, artwork and antiques which you have kept protected with a fine arts policy. However, this piece of information is specially and perhaps more important for heirlooms, family history etc. that are irreplaceable but not insurable (little financial value but HUGE emotional or historical value).

Is Smoke Damage Possible from a Distance of 40 Miles?

I was asked to evaluate a claim by Chubb Insurance Company (now known as Chartis). They hired me to scrutinize a property in Los Angeles city to find out smoke damage to sculptures, fine art, frames, murals, decorated and gilt surfaces which were a result of brush fires that took place 2 years back, 40 miles away!

 Smoke damage Vaulted Ceiling

In the entrance there were five arched ceilings same as this one, with the exception of the crown moldings which were gold.

Clearly, more than the deposits from smoke there is dust from the past 2 years. It may have been possible to examine the “dust” with complicated analytical means to establish the difference between smoke and dust but that option was rejected as it would have cost us $1,000′s.

This gave rise to these two questions:

1. Are there any smoke deposits?

2. Do they cause any kind of damage?

As the option of analysis was rejected, it was not possible for me to detect the presence of smoke deposits with naked eyes. Therefore the first question is unanswerable. So in short, my visit was about confirming and rejecting the claims of damage due to smoke deposits.

I cautiously read the 10 pages of detailed objects which were embodied in the claim worth $500,000.00 for repairs. I was accompanied by the client throughout the property. He explained to me what he saw as concerns and damages. He even showed me some gilt finishes that according to him had changed in color due to exposure to smoke.

In my opinion the “alterations” the client was pointing at are actually different colors of actual finishes which perhaps he has forgotten or was unaware of but has come into his notice now that he is taking a closer look. And this is where many home owners make a mistake while making claims: the situation wasn’t documented properly (video, photos etc.), the damage took place sometime ago, and there is no past historical record of value (appraisals or receipts) or conditions so it comes down to the belief of the insured versus the insurance company.

After my vigilant examination of all individual objects or items (frames, paintings etc.) and finishes, I observed that there were no changes therefore this owner did not get any support from me. In this particular case, Chubb benefited from my visit as it them saved them from paying $500,000.00 worth of fine arts claim. In another case, I inspected a painting for Chubb once which was claimed for $1/2 million and let me tell you they did pay this amount as they wanted to sustain the client who had insured an enormous collection, boats, houses and other toys etc. with them. So ultimately what induces the business decision and in what way an insurance company settles claim? Well the answer is simple – “Business”.

Well, I am not concerned with any of those things. I am just an advocate for artwork and regardless of whosoever is paying for my bill, I tell it straightaway. This is what makes me a trustworthy and genuine expert witness on art related matters as well as legal testimony.

Here comes another Example… Allstate Insurance Company

As seen with all fires, they take one house here and leave the other one next door through the neighborhood. One such case was that of a Mediterranean style home. The fire damaged the house; the heat caused the cracking of patio cement but “only” filled the house with ash and smoke.

Smoke damage House Fire

Allstate Insurance which was client’s insurance company was excellent in managing the major damage. But the client’s emotional issues kept them from dealing with the items which belonged to the family history, keepsakes and collectibles right away. For this very reason, claim was kept open. In fact, they even postponed working with the company for the claim of these objects for an entire year, though the presence of smell was still there!

FACL, Inc. helped the insured and the insurance company to:

  1. Motivate the client to complete their contents claim.
  2. Provide a complete inventory list of collectibles and keepsakes, along with photos.
  3. Propose treatments which are suitable for delicate items that must not be handled by harsh industrial cleaners (rare books, artwork, drawings, photo albums, sculpture etc.)
  4. On behalf of the insurance company it provided customer service to keep the client satisfied and happy and helped in concluding the claim process (which was being dragged before we came aboard).

There were around 550 items in total ranging from different types of paper items, books, paintings, photos, statues, antiques, assorted dishes and furniture. All these objects were ingrained with residue and strong smoke smell.

FACL, Inc. supplied the reports and evaluations to help move the claim and then provided conservation work to remove the smoke deposits and odor once the agreements were settled between the insured and the insurance company. (

FACL Appraisals offered the contents/valuations and fine art appraisals when it was needed by the insurance company. (

From our experience and knowledge in lots of smoke damage claims, here are 5 important tips for you:

  1. Make sure to keep an extra copy of your family records such as owner slips, receipts, documents, certificates, appraisals, historical info etc. in a different location preferably another state. Another good idea is to store it online but be certain about the safety of personal information.
  2. Try to take action as soon as you can. Smoke and Ash decay metals (sculpture, furniture parts, frames)
  3. Speak to your insurance agent in a timely manner.
  4. Avoid commercial cleaners to handle your valuables, collectibles, artwork, antiques etc. Instead make sure to get a professional help.
  5. Never assume that you “know” it if something is damaged or destroyed. Let an expert guide you with the right info. I often see people make BIG, sad and costly mistakes all the time.

Here is a short video of a woman who was a victim of house fire:

For more examples of insurance claims, go to:

Have question? Call our Scott Haskins for free chat: 805 564 3438

For Art appraisal questions, Call Richard Holgate: 805 895 5121

Smoke damage cleaning of heirloom The owner this heirloom painting was overjoyed when he saw how cleaning brought it back to its original state after it had been damaged because of smoke.

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For more information about my book, How To Save Your Stuff From A Disaster, CLICK HERE


Scott Haskins, Your Preservation Coach, Featured in Major Newspaper Article

The News-Press published a feature article on me and our art conservation lab last week. I was appreciative for the major coverage, photos and placement they gave! Here is the article entitled, “Art Conservator Restores Paintings in Santa Barbara and Around the World” – Art Restorer/Conservator, Scott M. Haskins, Featured in Life Section of Newspaper CLICK HERE:
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Scott M. Haskins

Marilyn McMahan, staffwriter of the Life Section of the Santa Barbara News-Press


Library of Congress holds Preservation Week Activities

Preservation Week April 22-28, 2012 at the Library of Congress is a big deal! And they are going to have  couple of interesting events about saving your stuff at home…

The Library of Congress in Washington DC

Preserving our history and sharing knowledge are what our profession does best. You can play an important role in helping your patrons save their own family history and personal treasures.

In celebration of Preservation Week 2012, the Library of Congress is sponsoring public events to share preservation strategies and basic instructions that help people care for their personal materials and thereby pass them on.

The full list of Preservation Week programs and activities plus a description can be found at and in the Library’s official press release

Here are two events that might interest you more than others cause you can attend them on your computer!:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 - 3-4 pm EST - Webinar

“Saving Cherished Memorabilia: Preservation Tips for Family Historians” Staff members from the Library’s Preservation Directorate and the Local History and Genealogy Reading will host a free webinar with tips and recommendations for preserving family memorabilia. To participate in this webinar, send an email at least three days prior to the event to Mark Wilson mwilson@loc__gov. Webinar “seats” are limited and will be filled in the order in which the requests are received.

Thursday, April 26 2-3 pm EST - Webinar

“Preserving Your Personal Digital Photographs” The National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program will present information about learning to care for digital photos.  Hosted by the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services. Its Free but registration is required at

Scott M. Haskins 805 564 3438

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How To Be Organized – How To Get Organized – Collectibles, Old Photos, Family History

Organizing collectibles, old photos, boxes of old letters and documents, old books from loved ones past on can be a daunting and mind spinning experience. Where do you start? What is your goal? Well, those aren’t really the right questions to ask.

One of my great pleasures since 1978 has been to work on the enormously popular and historical items within the collection of the Historical Department of the LDS Church. One of the oral history researchers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The Mormons) was in my lab this week interviewing me about the art conservation and restoration work I’ve done for the history department of the Church History Museum over the decades. We discussed my book, How To Save Your Stuff and Ann Marie thought you would be interested, as she was, in this quick tip about how to avoid confusion when getting organized. The video is less than 2 minutes.

Questions? Call Scott Haskins 805 564 4348
Art appraisal questions? Call Richard Holgate at 805 895 5121

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How To Hang A Painting and Do It Right.

I was featured as an expert speaker this last week at the Laguna Arts Festival Lecture series ( I spoke about general things to think about when protecting and saving collectibles, artwork etc. We talked about protecting and saving items from

Well, yesterday, someone’s disaster walked through my front door. A valuable vintage painting’s wire broke and the oil painting on canvas hit the edge of a table and here’s what you get… a 6 inch x 18 inch “L” shapped rip and flaking paint.

Damage caused when hanging wire broke

Damaged caused when the oil painting's hanging wire broke

Look at the back of the painting's rip

The reverse side of the painting with the rip, caused by the hanging wire breaking

Remember, the weakest link in the chain is the one that breaks and causes the damage. The parts that ALL NEED TO BE REMEMBERED for hanging an oil painting on the wall are:

  • Quality and large eye hangers that hold the wire.
  • Thick wire, preferable plastic coated
  • Nail in wall hits a stud. If not, use a multi nail hanger made for drywall.
  • Use the largest hanger possible
  • Use Museum Wax in the lower two corners to anchor the painting against the wall and so it won’t “jump” off the hook when things start to shake.

“Overkill” is the operative word here. Remember, you are designing this to withstand an earthquake… or your grandkids! You do the math; be a good curator of your collection or mishaps like the one in the photo above are $4,300.00 to fix perfect.

Questions” Call Scott at 805 564 3438

Art appraisal questions? Call Richard at 805 895 5121

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UV Blacklight info, I need your help…

Hey y’all. I’m planning to promote an UV Blacklight package for collectors and I have a phone script I need to test. Can I talk to you on the phone? It’ll take a few minutes. Call me at 805 570 4140 or email me your phone number at I don’t need to be your “real life” friend. I’ll talk to anyone who wants to chat. It should be a very interesting chat if you like art and collecting. Thanks. TTYS


House Grime and Yellowed Varnish on Oil Paintings- What Are Your Options?

This oil  painting’s varnish is covered with grime and discolored- yellowed leaving the original colors dim and darker than the artist had originally intended. If you are thinking about whether you should have a painting cleaned, remember this: cleaning artwork is usually an aesthetic issue/question… not a preservation question. If all you are concerned about is preserving the painting, then don’t have it cleaned. If you want to have it look its best, then cleaning may be required.

Also on this painting; towards the lower left side there is a small 2″ tear in the canvas. This is a preservation problem to be corrected. But here also you will be asked to make a decision: to patch or to “line” the painting. Actually, there is third choice. We don’t patch paintings because they set into motion other problems in the future (cracking patterns, puckering/bulges). But a local “reweaving” of the rip may be possible and the rip may be repaired without a patch and without lining. Your local conservator/restorer can explain this to you. Each choice has a long term preservation consequence.

The lost paint at the rip will then need to be filled and inpainted to match perfectly. If you decide to have the painting cleaned and treat the rip so it is not visible, after restoration the painting will have brighter colors, enhanced depth of field, the tear will disappear and the varnish will look even and clear. Then, you’ll need to think about lighting at home or the office… but that’s another blog post.

Here’s a quick video that may be of interest:

Questions about conservation/restoration? Call us toll free at 888-704-7757

Questions about preparing your stuff for an earthquake or hurricane? Click on “Products” at the top of the page.

Questions about art and antique appraisals? Call Richard at (805) 895-5121

Questions about working with an insurance claim? Call us toll free at 888-704-7757

Also see:

What can you do at home or at the office to protect and save your artwork and collectibles from damage in an earthquake or hurricane?

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Here’s another 30 second video


A Major Earthquake in California Imminent In The Next Two Weeks!

Immanent Earthquake in CA?

Immanent Earthquake in CA?

Neil Cavuto thinks that an expert can predict an earthquake, for the first time, and in the article link at the end of this article, he lays out the reasons.

Washington and Oregon is being warned of a 9.0… but all of California is part of the “Ring of Fire.”

What can you do to prepare?! Well, here’s a hint: More people are damaged in an earthquake by stuff that’s flying around in the air rather than a building falling on them.

What could become a projectile in your home or office? Collectibles, glassware, figurines and ceramics, artwork, heirlooms, memorabilia?

Anchor these items down! See this quick video…

We’ll send you out your purchase immediately!

Here’s Cavuto’s comments:


Sad Family History Story From Japan’s Earthquake/Tsunami- But A Lesson Can Be Learned

Irreplaceable originals

Ancestors, children growing up, weddings... some are more important than others

From the news… With each passing day after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, more and more poignant stories of survivors and victims are emerging.
Immediately after the quake, Katsutaro Hamada, 79, fled to safety with his wife. But then he went back home to retrieve a photo album of his granddaughter, 14-year-old Saori, and grandson, 10-year-old Hikaru.
Just then the tsunami came and swept away his home. Rescuers found Hamada’s body, crushed by the first floor bathroom walls. He was holding the album to his chest, Kyodo news agency reported.
“He really loved the grandchildren. But it is stupid,” said his son, Hironobu Hamada. “He loved the grandchildren so dearly. He has no pictures of me!”
Grab n’ Go… planning ahead is really a good idea… whether its because of fire, water, earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, tsunami… plan ahead. Here are some people’s opinions about the book How To Save Your Stuff From A Disaster can help you get ready:

Discover Unknown Secrets To Survive An Earthquake Like The One In Japan- 5 Tips

Japanese earthquake

The house didn't fall... but did the flying vase hit anyone?

Everyone thinks, when they imagine an earthquake, that some building is going to fall on them. But this isn’t usually the case! The Japanese Earthquake today makes our blood run cold for the devastation… but what does this earthquake news teach us about our potential for a “situation” where we live? This article addresses a niche expertise that you will NOT FIND ANYWHERE ELSE and is of extreme importance. We do not write about health and safety issues, building structural problems, economic matters etc.

But we do talk about something that is IMPERATIVE for your personal safety! When people imagine an earthquake, they think that some building is going to fall on them, but it is far more likely that the cremation urn on the mantle will fly off and hit someone!

What do you cherish and fear losing in the next earthquake? Heirlooms, crystal, collectibles, family history, intellectual property? What items of value would impact your business continuity and how would these items, flying around in an earthquake, affect personal safety?!

Here is an earthquake fact: Notice in the photos of the earthquake damage that you see on the news and/or the Internet that not all homes, building etc are completely destroyed. Yes, there is an epicenter that gets hit hard. But not even all the  buildings in the critical area get hit hard… and there are millions of people in the surrounding areas that are “just” rattled. Not only could something flying around the room be dangerous, losing treasure family/personal items and be heartbreaking. IT ALWAYS PAYS TO PREPARE in order to:

  1. Keep things from flying around in the air during the earthquake for personal safety
  2. Protect important historical items
  3. Save financially valuable items
  4. Protect and save emotionally valuable items
  5. Know ahead of time what will impact your home of business if you lose it.

Surprisingly, an easy, fast, do-it-yourself anchoring technique can save you in all of these five needs of being protected mentioned above… in all of these problem areas… this will help you BIG TIME!

Japanese vase makes a flying projectile

Japanese vase makes a flying projectile during an earthquake

A recent news video on earthquakes stated that seismologist experts record over 27,000 earthquakes in the US each year! (most barely detectable but an indication of potential).

Even if you are safe after an earthquake, broken items like glassware, crystal, collectibles, ceramics can make it hazardous to move around and get things done. Not only will these broken items of value would impact your business continuity and personal safety… you will be anxious to talk to insurance adjuster later. So,

  • Prepare ahead of time with an inventory of emotional, historical and financially valuable items
  • Take photos
  • Make copies of documents of ownership, authentication, appraisals etc.. and…
  • Keep your copies in another city!

Scott M. Haskins has worked in both Europe and the U.S. as a professional conservator since 1975. He has years of experience planning for and responding after earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, mold, fire and everyday home accidents and is the author of “How to Save Your Stuff from a Disaster,” ( a non-technical book with instructions on how to protect and save important documents, photos and other items not covered by insurance He wrote a booklet on “How To Respond After an Earthquake” of which the Bank of America Corporation distributed over 500,000 through their Human Resource Depts after the Northridge Earthquake.

Call for interview at 805 564 3438 or

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