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What Happens if Lightning Strikes Your House?

Written by, Marija Petkova

Updated June, 16, 2022

What happens if lightning strikes your house?

Lightning can start fires inside your home, damage both electrical and non-electrical devices, structural damage, and even injury.

In this article, we’ll look at how lighting works, the signs your house was struck by lightning, and what you can do to protect yourself.

How Does Lightning Work?

Lightning is an electrical discharge that happens when there’s an imbalance between the ground and the clouds.

During a storm, particles of ice, rain, and even snow negatively charge the middle and lower parts of the storm clouds. Objects on the ground, like trees, steeples, and the Earth itself become positively charged, causing the negative charges in the cloud to move toward the positive charges on the ground. 

When the two connect, an electrical current flows down and we see a visible flash of lightning striking whatever positively charged object the negative charges connected to on the ground.

Lighting is dangerous, but a fairly common occurrence. Each year, lightning causes billions of pounds in property damage and injures and kills thousands of people.

Can lightning strike a house?

The main goal of a lightning bolt is to find the least path of resistance and most houses have many potential routes that would allow the lighting to connect to the ground.

A house is generally considered a safe place to be in a thunderstorm, but there’s always a chance that a bolt of lightning can not only damage the house but cause injury.

How do you know if lightning strikes your house?

A power outage, the presence of sparks, and the smell of smoke are among the main signs your house was struck by lightning.

What Happens When Lightning Strikes a House?

When lightning strikes a house, it sends an electrical current travelling through conductive objects in the house. These could be phone lines, cable TV/internet lines, water and gas pipes, electric lines, and even metal window frames. 

Once it’s there, it will often ‘branch out’ to find more than one path to the ground. It can even jump through the air to get from one conductive path to another. 

This current can reach up to 100 million volts and heats up to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. As such,it can cause:

  • Fire danger: A lighting bolt can easily ignite wood or any flammable building materials. Lightning usually starts a fire in the attic or the roof of the house as it first passes through the structural material in the roof to reach a more conductive path inside the house.
     
  • Power surge damage: If lightning opts for the electrical wiring in the home as its primary or secondary path, the surge will likely damage not only electronic appliances but also non-electronic devices that are connected.
     
  • Shock wave damage: The shock waves that lighting creates can damage chimneys, plaster walls, and shatter glass. They can cause cracks in stone, cinderblock, brick, and concrete and create shrapnel or flying debris that can sometimes be found embedded in walls. 

What can you do to stay safe indoors? 

To minimise the risk of getting struck by lightning indoors:

  • Avoid using electronic devices.
  • Unplug all electronic equipment.
  • Stay away from the windows.
  • Don’t take baths or showers or use running water.
  • Always wear shoes when walking in the garage, basement, or patio.

What Should You Do if Lightning Strikes Your House?

One of the first things to check after a lightning strike is to see if everyone is okay. If you smell or see smoke, call 999 and evacuate the home. 

You could also call 999 even if you don’t believe there’s a fire hazard – there are instances where it’s not always possible to detect the fire right away. The fire department will inspect your home thoroughly and use thermal imaging cameras to search inside walls for heat and determine whether it can start a fire (or already has).

You can then call an electrician to check the wiring.

If the house sustained any damage, you should call your insurance company and explain that lightning strikes caused house damage.

Filling a claim after lightning struck the house

When you file a claim for lightning damage, your insurance company will send an adjuster to visit your home and inspect it. You might need to provide any pictures or videos you took of the damage. 

Your insurer will then offer a settlement to cover the cost to repair the lighting damage to your house.

They often pay in two instalments – the first to start the repairs and the second to cover the remaining cost of the repairs. 

Worth noting: Most insurers impose a time limit on claims regarding lightning strike house damage. You’ll likely have around 30-60 days to report the incident.

Lightning Hitting House: Make Sure You’re Protected 

The best way to reduce the risk of lightning hitting a house is to install a lightning protection system.

The lightning protection system is designed to prevent lightning from striking a building. It involves installing a metal rod at the top of the house and connecting it to the ground. In case of lighting, the rod will be hit first, which would pass the current through the wire and send it into the ground. 

Bottom Line

So, what happens if lightning strikes your house? Lighting can cause serious damage to your house. While there’s no way to completely protect your home from a lightning strike, you can install a lighting protection system to minimise the risk. To make sure you get protected indoors, stay away from water, electronic devices, and windows. 

My name is Marija, and I'm a financial writer at DontDisappointMe. Although finance might not be everyone's cup of tea, my 10+ years of working in one of the biggest banks in my country, and my interest in extensive research on everything finance/investment-related, have made me somewhat of an expert in the field (if I do say so myself). No longer having the passion to work in a corporate setting, I decided that I couldn't let all of this knowledge go to waste so I started writing. And, here I am! Today I try to share my knowledge with my audience in the hopes of making this topic as simple and interesting as possible. In my leisure time, I like spending time with my family and travelling to new locations.