How Dangerous Soot Can Hide in Wall Cavities

If you were within miles of the Tennessee wildfire, or especially if your home or business encountered smoke from it, you might have soot hidden within your walls right now.

However, it’s so tiny that you may not see any traces of it. The good news is that a trained eye can find soot and establish if it’s in your walls.

How tiny are we talking? Soot is smaller than dust and mold, and is about 1/30 the diameter of a human hair! This combined with its toxic composition is what makes soot so dangerous.


In studying this photo for a moment you will resolve as most do – there’s no visible soot here. In fact the insurance adjuster handling this claim would agree with you. After a casual stroll through the restaurant, he didn’t find any either. However, after specialized testing, offered by one of our favorite tennessee public adjusters, Cornerstone Adjusters, soot was found in wall cavities throughout the entire 5000 sqft building.

Here are a few more facts about this true story:

The owner of this building filed a claim based on a single room fire that was contained to that room. Upon meeting the insurance company’s adjuster he was told the entire damage would be covered for around $40,000 or less. The owner and public adjuster asked the insurance adjuster for his opinion on soot and if it might be an issue worth considering. The adjuster replied, “I highly doubt there would be soot inside the building because I can’t see any evidence anywhere”.

Cornerstone knew this is what the insurance adjuster would say but wanted the owner to hear for himself. Following a simple but specialized test, administered by Cornerstone Adjusters, it was quickly found that soot was in fact all over the place – you just couldn’t see it.

Had the building owner accepted the first opinion by the insurance adjuster he would have missed the opportunity to turn his $40k into a $520k payout!


We agree with you but remarkably this is a very normal situation for many unsuspecting home and business owners serviced by often well-intending insurance adjusters who don’t understand the nature of soot. Thankfully, we do understand soot, and are very good at making insurance companies pay for its removal.

Find out if your walls have soot in them by first requesting your free onsite soot inspection

Toxic Soot May Surprise Tennesseans in the Wake of Wildfires


Smoke from burning homes, vehicles and other items, combined with strong winds is a very dangerous combination. Wind enables soot to travel for several miles away from the site of heavy flames. The force of these winds can even push soot directly into your wall cavities, never to be seen, but a health hazard nevertheless, similar to asbestos and mold. Your next step should be to have a professional consult you and see if you qualify for a free on-site soot inspection.


There’s a common saying among the restoration industry as it relates to structure fires,

Fire often causes less damage than the combination of the smoke it created and the water and chemicals used for extinguishing it.

What’s most alarming about this statement is that nowhere does it mention soot. Why? Well for the same reason nobody used to mentioned asbestos. It wasn’t known to be hazardous until all of a sudden people were becoming deathly ill and even dying because of it. Now asbestos is widely discussed by restoration companies and if found is assumed to be a covered loss by insurance companies. Just like asbestos, soot is also being covered by insurance companies for miles surrounding wildfires.

Soot is known to cause cancer and ruin a lot of property but what exactly is it and how do you know if soot has contaminated your home?


Soot as an airborne contaminant in the environment has many different sources, all of which are results of some form of pyrolysis (i.e. fire). Soot is a close friend to smoke and caused when three things come together: the item that is actually burning, oxygen and heat. In essence soot are tiny particles of matter left behind by smoke but are so small you don’t often see them.

A Health Hazard

Cancer is the leading cause of firefighter line-of-duty deaths in the United States, and according to the International Association of Firefighters, about 60 percent of career firefighters will die this way. This is in large part due to soot which travels with smoke and infiltrates everything.

According to the National Cancer Institute, “The fine black or brown powder that makes up soot may contain a number of carcinogens, including arsenic…”

Based on an article written by The Atlantic, “The problem is our stuff. Possessions make our lives cozy and convenient, but when they catch fire, they become noxious fuel. The cancer rates are being driven up, researchers believe, by chemicals that lace the smoke and soot inside burning buildings. Consumer goods are increasingly manufactured using synthetic materials, and fires are more toxic as a result.”

It Ruins Property

All surfaces can sustain damage within just hours of smoke contamination and the soot it leaves behind. Because of how tiny soot is there are many things which are affected by it. If not properly restored the items or structure will likely continue to deteriorate over time.

Items immediately affected:

  • All porous surfaces
  • Wooden floors
  • Interior walls
  • Paint
  • Clothing

Now that you know soot is a cancer causing health hazard and can ruin almost anything it touches, your next step should be figuring out if your home or business was contaminated by first contacting a professional to see if you qualify for an on-site soot inspection.

Remember, if left alone soot becomes a health hazard similar to asbestos and continues to ruin property. Insurance companies are being forced to repair these issues but won’t just pay without proof or pressure.

Here’s a story about one business who didn’t know they had hidden soot contamination and what they did about it.

Benefits of Hiring a Public Adjuster

Why Hire a Public Adjuster to Manage Your Insurance Claim?

Shock, anxiety, depression, fear–property damage or loss evokes a world of emotions that can be difficult to overcome. That’s not to mention the utter disruption to your livelihood. 

Your insurance provider is there to help you, but they are not in the business of handing out money. They know that most property owners don’t have the time, patience or knowledge to scrutinize a settlement. That’s where a public adjuster comes in to handle the legwork for you and ensure that you receive adequate funds to recover from your loss.

The benefits of hiring a public adjuster are:

  • ExpertiseInsurance comes with a lot of paperwork and fine print. A public adjuster can help you understand how your policy works, and can also guide you through the necessary steps to complete your claim.
  • Time: Managing your claim can easily become a full-time job. Your public adjuster will spare you from hours of correspondence, documentation and review, so you can focus on regaining any sense of normalcy possible.
  • PaceThe combination of expertise and availability makes a public adjuster more equipped to expedite the claim filing process. Insurance companies speak their own language, and if you don’t understand it, you might find yourself needing two or more attempts to complete each of their requests.
  • Representation: Without an expert by your side, your insurer will have no reason to believe that you could and would challenge an unjust settlement. Hire a public adjuster to show that you are serious about your claim, and to assist with next steps if your claim is denied.
  • Value: Lastly and most importantly, a public adjuster can recover a sum that truly helps you move forward. A study by the Office of Program and Policy Analysis & Government Accountability in the State of Florida showed that business and homeowner insurance settlements are 747% larger when a public adjuster is involved.

The benefits of hiring a public adjuster really strengthens during a catastrophic event when the insurance companies are handling a high volume of insurance claims within a short time span.  

With such a high volume of claims many details are missed and oversights happen with nobody there to catch them. Often, insurance companies aren’t even using their own adjusters to handle the workload. Instead they hire 3rd party companies who then also hire 1099 Cat Adjusters to do the work. A public adjuster ensures you don’t get caught in this trap.

If your property has been damaged or destroyed by a fire, other peril, or catastrophic event, then you may want to consult a public adjuster. You can then assess some of the benefits of hiring a public adjuster first hand.

Here are 3 real examples for why you should consider hiring a public adjuster to handle your loss.

4 Notable Resources for Those Affected by the Tennessee Wildfire

Fires can strike fierce and fast as is the case with the wildfire overtaking Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. With many only escaping with their lives and the clothes on their backs many people are left wondering where to turn to for help. Displaced residents, business owners and first responders are among those in most need of support.

After some digging we found these 4 notable resources:

  1. WBIR-TV: An article listing shelters and restaurants providing food to first responders and displaced residents can be found here. These shelters offer a variety of resources ranging from clothing to food and water and other necessitates.
  2. WBIR-TV: Another great article focused around a “how to help” section as well as listings of resources being deployed. You can find a lot of different ways people are helping and then follow those links if you want to be on receiving end.
  3. Rocky Top Sports World: These guys have now become home to some 1000+ evacuees and The American Red Cross who is operating out of the complex as well. Visit their Facebook page for more information.
  4. Helping Pets & Animals: There are several organizations offering free support for livestock and family pets. Here are a few: Douglas Lakeview Stables (contact Kristi 864-671-8439), The Barker Lounge, Pets Without Parents Shelter, Wildwood Farm (call 865-256-9589), Smoky Mountain K-9 Cottages (contact Marni 865-428-7311).

As the damage continues to be reevaluated it will become more clear what resources are needed. In addition to the groups and sites mentioned above we will be adding more blogs and top resources to this webpage.

Of special note, being consumer advocates we will also be providing free consultations on topics surrounding how to best navigate the insurance claim settlement process so don’t hesitate to contact us for a free consultation or check out the free onsite soot inspections we are providing to qualified home and business owners.

7 Tips To Keep Your Home or Business Safer from Fire This Winter

With Thanksgiving now over, we have the remaining holidays to look forward to. For the northerners reading this blog, you have a lot of SNOW and freezing weather ahead. Are you prepared?

As public adjusters, we know the colder months also cause a spike in tragic house fires, because people are staying indoors for activities like cooking and smoking, not to mention the increased usage of electrical items. However, a destructive or fatal fire can usually be prevented by taking a few precautionary measures.

According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), there were 501,500 structure fires causing 2,685 civilian deaths in 2015. Most of these occurred during the coldest months from October to March.

There are several things you can do to prevent this from happening to you. Some are free, and those that aren’t free are affordable. The biggest hurdle is simply doing them! As per the NFPA, here are 7 different areas that need to be addressed, with an accompanying tip for each:

  1. Smoke Alarms: There should be one smoke alarm on every level of the home, and one both inside and outside each sleeping area.
  2. Cooking Safety: Keep the cooking area free from items that can catch fire.
  3. Electrical & Appliance Safety: Do not run electrical cords under rugs.
  4. Candle Safety: Candles should be in sturdy, fire-proof containers that can’t easily be tipped over.
  5. Carbon Monoxide Alarms: Carbon monoxide alarms must be located on each level of the home.
  6. Smoking Safety: Ask family members who smoke to buy fire-safe cigarettes and smoke outside.
  7. Heating Safety: Be sure the chimney and furnace are cleaned and inspected yearly.

These tips will certainly get you started on the road to having peace of mind but if you want full confidence then check out this downloadable house fire prevention checklist. Included within the checklist are 20 more tips and a quick reference list for developing a home escape plan.

Thanksgiving is the #1 Day for House Fires: Here’s Why

Why do more house fires occur and more people die from October through April?

Simple. It’s the holidays.

There is no other season where more people turn on their heat, cook meals indoors and invite friends and family into their homes. During the holidays these three things together cause more happiness and misery than any other time throughout the year. The biggest culprit among them all is Thanksgiving.

In fact, “Cooking fires in residential buildings occurred more often on Thanksgiving Day than any other day of the year.” – NFPA

Thousands of cooking fires are reported on Thanksgiving every year causing tragic and even fatal events with property damage soaring into the millions. According to G.I. Joe, “Knowing is half the battle”, so here are tips to help you avoid one of the greatest reasons for cooking fires across America on Thanksgiving Day.

4 Turkey Fryer Safety Tips:

  1. Turkey fryers often tip over.
  2. Too much oil will cause splashing onto the burner.
  3. Overly hot oil will ignite.
  4. A hot fryer can burn hands and cause accidental reactions.

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Hands Are Tied? Why Contractors Love Public Adjusters

I don’t go a week without hearing how frustrating it is when a contractor reviews an estimate provided by the insurance company doesn’t come close to paying for full replacement of what a customer lost.

More often than not, the insurance estimate doesn’t include any overhead or profit, either. These inadequacies impair a contractor’s ability to provide what is needed to get the customer back to enjoying life again.

Worse yet, the contractor and customer can’t do much about it. Their hands are essentially tied and the insurance company gets away with inferior assistance.


Just the other day, I had a contractor named John call me, facing this same challenge with his customer. John has been a professional builder for over 20 years and knows his business inside and out. He was referred to a customer looking for a good contractor to work with in repairing their home after an attic fire.

The customer received an insurance estimate for $14,000 to repair the home. Immediately upon review, John knew this wouldn’t be enough to sufficiently complete the job. After having this estimate professionally corrected, it had a $7,000 increase! This sounds great, right? Sadly, it will more than likely be denied or settled at a much lesser payout because neither the contractor nor the customer can hold the insurance company accountable.

John could easily school the insurance adjuster on why their estimation was inferior to his own estimate. But in reality, he can’t do this because he isn’t allowed to represent the customer during an insurance claim settlement. It’s illegal for him to do so. The customer could legally argue for the increase, but unless they can professionally dispute the situation, they will likely be unable to successfully contend for the monetary increase.

Contractors love public adjusters because we can legally represent the customer, effectively contend for the superior estimate and quickly bring accountability to the insurance company.

If you are a contractor and have faced challenges such as that in the example above, the best move you can make is to refer your customer to a trusted public adjuster as quickly as possible. The benefits of hiring a public adjuster will benefit both the contractor and customer. The sooner we gain control of the situation, the more likely we will obtain an optimal and successful outcome. 

5 Post-Hurricane Matthew Resources for Cumberland County Residents

The surrounding Fayetteville, N.C. area is still seeing the aftermath unfold. Flooding, water damage, and lingering effects of the storm are an ever-present reality in the wake of recovery. Roadways are still closed, boiling alerts are just now being lifted, and many places are still under water waiting for the floods to recede. With rebuilding and recovery in mind, here are the top five post hurricane resources for the greater Cumberland County area.

  1. Navigating road hazards and city maintenance

Fayetteville infrastructure has been devastated by washouts, flash flooding, standing water, downed trees and debris in roadways. The old saying “turn around, don’t drown” is still in full effect. The city of Fayetteville has to be given credit for taking questions and concerns head on in online forums, Facebook groups, and online at the city’s website. Rebuilding is neither a quick nor an easy task. Meanwhile you can stay up-to-date on current road closures on the city’s web page.

  1. Short term property rentals

For many of those who were displaced for the storm, the reality of moving “home” isn’t quite a reality at this point. Shelters are full, with some closing as the state of emergency is lifted around the area. So where can people turn for the simplistic necessity like a roof over their head? The Cumberland County Housing Resource list is a great start for those looking to rent while they clean or rebuild. Also, the Department of Development website offers plenty of useful information regarding community rebuilding. The Department of Development committee can be contacted by phone, email, or social media all found on the website.

  1. Food and alleviation

420 Dunn Rd. is most likely an address you’ve seen on the Internet, seen on local TV or heard on the radio. Covenant Love Church assembles volunteers 6 days a week, Monday-Saturday starting at 8:00 a.m., and closes with a hot meal at 5:00 p.m. Teamed up with Operation Blessing out of Virginia Beach, the Church has done massive cleanup over the past several weeks. If you’re in need of assistance, stop by 9:30am-4:30pm to request help. If you’d like to help, show up at 8:00 a.m. to fill out the volunteer form. For more information, check their Facebook page.

Another organization offering help is Manna Church Cliffdale. The Cliffdale site of the mega church is branching out with “adopt a block” to serve the community. Based out of two locations, 5117 Cliffdale Road, Fayetteville and 3744 Legion Road, Hope Mills, the church is offering a noticeable helping hand in Cumberland County.

  1. Counseling services

In times of crisis, people often find a way to get through the immediate situation only to put off and repress their true feelings as time marches on and they begin to fully process the trauma. A couple of places offering help are Grays Creek Christian Center in Hope Mills and Mt Olive Missionary Baptist in Fayetteville.

  1. Insurance claim assistance

Dealing with insurance companies can be the biggest pain during recovery. The process can even be daunting when it comes to estimating the damage. Not only can a Public Adjuster help someone recover between 30-70% more money, they can also make the process less of a headache. We are regularly answering questions and offering advice to help people get the most from their claim. Chat with us live through our website or Facebook page throughout the week. Or visit our Hurricane Matthew Insurance Claim Help page for more information.  You can always call or email if this is better!

3 Home Insurance Claims That Show Why You Need a Public Adjuster

I have never seen such an amount of proof of the corruption many insurance companies participate in while they “help” their customer through the claim’s process.

I know it might seem hardly believable if you are a good citizen who has been paying premiums on time and to a highly-rated insurance company. However, I guarantee nearly all people felt the same way prior to seeing it with their own eyes. I’ve seen it with my own eyes and feel compelled to openly share my experience in hopes of encouraging you to have your claim reviewed by an experienced public adjuster early on in the process.

As the operating COO of Claim Management Adjusters, one of my main duties has been to craft and launch the estimating service we provide contractors, other public adjusters and nearly anyone busy with insurance claim settlements. To date, I have never been exposed to the inner-workings of more estimates any other time in my professional career.

Here are a few before & after examples:

These examples are taken from homeowner insurance claims I’ve personally witnessed where the insurance adjuster gives the customer an estimate based on their scope of loss, and then upon CMA’s review, a new estimate outlining what the customer is actually owed is presented.

Ex 1: Louisiana Residential Flood Insurance Claim

Original estimate completed by the insurance company: $99,200
Estimate completed by us: $135,200
A difference of $36,000

Ex 2: Indiana Residential Fire Insurance Claim

Estimate completed by the insurance company: $44,000
Estimate completed by us: $89,000
A 200%+ increase the insured can now use for making repairs

Ex 3: Indiana Roof & Exterior Insurance Claim

Estimate completed by the insurance company: $13,800
Estimate completed by us: $22,000
$8,200 missed by the insurance company

I hope this shows you a little of what I see each day. There is no doubt in my mind that every home and business owner who suffers an insurable loss should at least have their insurance claim reviewed by an experienced public adjuster as early in the insurance claim settlement process as possible.

Read more about the benefits of hiring a public adjuster.

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