Whether you’ve inherited your grandfather’s grandfather clock or scored an antique end table at an estate sale, consider these tips to protect your new piece and make sure it’ll be covered by your home insurance in an emergency. 

Tips for preventing damage to antiques and heirlooms

Here are a few tips for keeping your antiques and heirlooms in tip-top shape for years to come:

  1. Store your antiques above ground. Sewer backups, sump pump failures, and other water-related events tend to start in the basement — meaning anything you store down there is at risk of being damaged if water gets where it doesn’t belong. Basements also tend to be more humid than the rest of the house, which can be harmful. Avoid keeping valuable antiques and sentimental items like heirlooms in the basement.
  2. Control the environment. As items get older, they’re more susceptible to damage from fluctuations in temperature and humidity. When there's not enough humidity, items made from materials like wood and paper can shrink, crack, or become brittle — and when there’s too much moisture, mould can start to develop and wooden items can swell. Antiques can also be damaged when exposed to extreme temperature fluctuations (which might occur if you store them in the attic or garage, for example). Antiques should be kept in a controlled environment whenever possible — not too cold, not too hot, and with a balanced humidity level.
  3. Be careful with cleaning products. While it might be tempting to go to town on your antique dining room chairs with a disinfectant wipe after an especially sticky visit from the grandkids, think twice before using harsh chemicals on your antiques. Always use a mild cleaning solution, like dish soap mixed with water, or none at all — depending on the item, you may be able to opt for just a buffing cloth instead. You should also do some research to find out if you should clean a specific item at all, as certain antique items (especially made from silver or bronze) can actually decrease in value when you remove some of the natural patina.

Different types of antiques require different types of TLC. To make sure you’re giving an item the care it needs, try to get some advice from a professional antiques dealer.

Insurance for your antiques and heirlooms

Most home, tenant, and condo insurance policies have a maximum limit of coverage for certain types of specialty belongings, including antiques, which is outlined in your policy documents. When the value of your belongings in these specialty categories is higher than the limits in your policy, you’ll need to make a change to your policy.

Have your antiques appraised and scheduled on your policy

The best way to make sure a specific item will be covered under your home insurance is to get it appraised by a professional and have it scheduledopens a pop-up with definition of scheduled in your policy. To find out the true value of a specific item, you’ll need to take it to a professional appraiser in Canada. You should keep the appraiser’s report on hand even after you’ve scheduled the item in your policy. Before you take your antiques to an appraiser:

  • Ask for recommendations from people you trust
  • Research the appraiser’s credentials and make sure they’re certified
  • Remember, you get what you pay for — if an appraiser offers their services for free, their work might not be of the same quality that you’d get from one who charges a reasonable rate for a job well done

Once you’ve found out the value of the item, ask your broker about scheduling it in your policy for its appraised value.

Ask about ‘actual cash value’ coverage

Many home insurance policies are set up to pay claims on a replacement cost basis, meaning the amount you’ll be paid is equal to the cost you’d need to replace that item with a new, similar product of like kind and quality. While this will make sense for the majority of items in your home, it would be awfully disappointing if the amount you were offered for your hundred-year-old grandfather clock was equivalent to the cost of a new clock. Learn the difference between actual cash value and replacement cost and make sure you ask about actual cash value coverage for your antiques.

Find out what’s not covered when insuring your antiques

Most home insurance policies exclude damage caused by pests, wear and tear, accidental breakage, sudden change in humidity or temperature, repeated leakage or seepage of water, intentional acts, or lack of maintenance. When you’re having your antiques scheduled in your policy, it’s a good idea to review your policy’s exclusions so you know what won’t be covered.

Want to make a change to your insurance coverage or schedule a new antique item on your policy? Reach out to your licensed insurance broker today.


Share these tips on Facebook or Twitter to help others protect their antiques, too.