ICS Magazine

The Cleaning and Restoration of High-Value Items

May 13, 2002

Last month we discussed the market and approach for cleaning electronics. As you are aware, there are many other items found in the typical home-not to mention businesses-that present opportunities for the cleaning and restoration technician.

Let's turn our attention to high-value items. Keep in mind this is a brief overview of a complicated and complex subject. Restoration technicians must make a number of decisions when approaching this challenging classification.

Inspection Considerations

The proper time to thoroughly inspect high-value items-a task usually performed by management personnel in conjunction with the insureds-is while conducting the damage survey (job scope). When the technician becomes involved in any restoration effort, most of the processing details have already been decided. Nevertheless, make a careful inspection of all aspects of the item, preferably with the person who conducted the original inspection. If possible, try to determine the original, pre-fire condition of the object before making your determination as to damage caused by smoke or heat. Confirm your findings with those previously documented and written on the work order. Photographs are an excellent way to record the object's condition before restoration begins.

An agreement on the value of an object should be resolved as well because value helps determine the effort to be put forth. It also helps to establish the company's liability if something unexpected occurs. Ultimately, value determines whether an object is processed by your technicians or by highly trained specialists.

Before beginning any questionable restoration effort, obtain a written agreement with insureds or the insurance company. For the most part, this is a management function. However, technicians should be aware of the perils of high-value object restoration so as to identify-and avoid-potential company liability.

Options for Restoration

Basically, there are three options available where high-value items are concerned:
Clean the Items Yourself. Following your inspection, you may decide to accomplish the task yourself. Many homes have a variety of relatively high-value objects that are simple to process. For example, a collection of crystal is easy to restore regardless of value. It just takes a conscientious, careful tech and lots of padded surfaces to do the job properly! On the other hand, a durable glazed finish on a vase may be easy to clean, but technicians might remove the natural patina and, in the process, decrease its value substantially. Bottom line: consult with management where high-value items are concerned and proceed cautiously.
Local Subcontractor. A second option involves subcontracting an item's restoration to a person (art teacher, jeweler, antique retailer, specialized collector, fine furniture refinisher, museum curator) who has specialized knowledge of that item's composition.
Specialized Subcontractor or Institution. Ultimately, a specialized expert dealing in the restoration of a particular category of high-value items may be used. Simply put, the higher the value, the greater the need for a higher degree of specialization.

  • When high-value items are involved, preservation (to contain damage and to reserve future options) is as important as successful restoration. Technicians should make every effort to preserve the item's artistic value.
  • Evaluate and document the exact condition and value of the item before accepting it for restoration.
  • If high-value items are loaded for transport to your facility, inform management so that customer bailee (care, custody and control) insurance coverage is evaluated in light of the value of the item(s) for which the company is accepting responsibility. A temporary policy rider may be required.
  • Be sure that high-value items are properly packed, identified and secured while in your facility.
  • Remind management of the need for proper authorization before accepting responsibility for high-value items. Be particularly concerned about those that are "dropped in your lap" as the claim progresses and becomes more complicated.
  • Be sure your company has a specific, insured-agreed-upon inventory for all high-value items before they are removed from the structure.

    "Good grief," you say, "I think I'll leave this category to someone else!" Sorry, you're it! Insureds and adjusters expect professional technicians to solve their problems, not compound them. But if you observe the procedures and conditions above, there is no reason why you should not be successful in high-value item restoration.