How much pop culture home disasters would really cost (Infographic)

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Susan Meyer

Senior Editorial Manager

  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

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Renata Balasco

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Renata joined The Zebra in 2020 as a Customer Experience Agent. Since 2021, she has worked as licensed insurance professional and content strategist.…

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The real-life costs of iconic property catastrophes

Television shows and movies love large-scale destruction. The Golden Gate Bridge, for instance, has been terrorized by blockbuster films ten times this millennium.[1] New York City has been the site of huge battles in numerous superhero movies. Sometimes the entire planet is at risk in movies like Armageddon and Independence Day.

Just as often, though, television shows and movies capture disasters in a more familiar place: the home. Sometimes these are everyday outbursts of anger, like Richard kicking through a door in his Palo Alto home on HBO’s Silicon Valley. Other slightly less common occurrences include a mansion becoming a jungle teeming with rhinoceroses in the classic film Jumanji. 

But how much would all this damage really cost? And would insurance help foot the bill?

After doing some research, we figured out that more of these memorable debacles would be covered by homeowners insurance than you’d imagine. 

Below, we’ve collected ten of the most iconic pop culture home disasters, figured out how much they would cost to repair and determined if homeowners insurance would cover the costs.

Jump to our infographic to see an overview of all ten pop culture home catastrophes.

1. New Girl: Rooftop tub flood

In New Girl, Jess frequently has to deal with disagreements with her three roommates, Nick, Winston and Schmidt. One of the most memorable comes when she tries to convince the boys to get a bathtub, which Schmidt refers to as a “medieval filth cauldron.” Eventually, Winston sides with Jess, who installs the tub — on the roof of their loft. Not long after filling the tub up, its legs collapse into the roof, flooding the apartment below and ruining Schmidt’s collection of custom suits. The building’s super is quick to fix the hole in the roof, but the suits are left in limbo. 

Bottom line: Putting a tub on the roof truly is the dream, but you’ll want to make sure you have enough personal property coverage if you’re sporting as many “dope suits” as Schmidt. Homeowners insurance does cover water damage from plumbing issues, but not if the damage comes from neglect. Either way, please don’t fake a robbery like Jess and Winston did to file a claim. 


2. The Office: Dinner party chaos

The Office perfected the art of “cringe” before the term was widely used, and no episode better captures secondhand discomfort than “The Dinner Party,” hosted by Michael and Jan. With memorable moments like Jan’s candles, awkward games of charades and the near absence of food (which we realize is a lot to ask from a dinner party), this might be the most pleasantly uncomfortable 22 minutes in television history. The episode also features its share of home damage, including Jan’s famous destruction of Michael’s prized plasma television, which she shatters with a Dundie of immeasurable value. It’s likely that Jan will have a very hard time paying Michael back for the television with her salary of “zero dollars a year plus benefits.”

Bottom line: Michael loved that plasma screen, so he’ll be keen to get it replaced. When guests damage your property, your home insurance may offer coverage, but usually only for accidents. It’s best to always keep your Dundies locked up safely so they can’t be thrown at your television. Also, in the case of inexpensive items (like a tiny plasma screen television) it may make more sense to replace it on your own than use insurance.

  • Estimated cost to fix: $200 to purchase a new ridiculously small plasma television
  • Coverage: Maybe. Damaged property is often covered, but usually only when the damage is accidental.

3. Brady Bunch: Bobby’s washing machine catastrophe

The beloved Brady Bunch characters are known for life lessons and household antics. In one classic episode, young Bobby decides to hide the evidence of his messy misadventure rescuing a cat from an abandoned house by washing his clothes before his family comes home. The only problem is that he accidentally uses the entire box of detergent. Soon after, soap bubbles flood the entire laundry room, and Bobby is found swimming in a sea of suds, leading to Alice’s classic line: “You’re supposed to take your clothes off before you wash them.”

Bottom line: While we don’t recommend using an entire container of laundry soap (even if it’s ironically named “Safe laundry detergent”), your machine will survive a Bobby Brady mishap every now and then. The Bradys’ poor linoleum floor, though, will need to be replaced after taking an accidental bubble bath. Fortunately, home insurance protects accidental appliance overflows — and we won’t blame you if you blame Bobby.

  • Estimated cost to fix: $400 to install new linoleum flooring
  • Coverage: Yes. Accidental appliance overflows are covered by homeowners insurance.

4. Ant-Man: Giant Thomas the Train Engine incident

In Ant-Man, Scott Lang must harness the power of a shrinking suit in order to defeat Darren Cross, who has created a shrinking suit of his own. Along the way, Lang learns to control ants and generally become a master of the microscopic. In a memorable battle with Cross, Lang is engaged in a miniature melee on a toy Thomas the Train Engine, which is careening along its tracks. As Lang attempts to enlarge Cross, he instead increases the size of the toy train, which becomes huge and crashes through the side of the house, smashing a police car in the process. 

Bottom line: While Paul Rudd is ageless and shows no signs of wear, that house is definitely going to need repairs. Although “small toy becoming life-sized train and causing massive damage to your home” isn’t cited specifically in any policies, it seems likely to be covered under “damage caused by vehicles,” which almost every standard policy includes.

  • Estimated cost to fix: $50,000 for a major home repair and $9.99 for a new Thomas the Tank Engine toy
  • Coverage: Yes, as long as this falls under “damage caused by vehicles.”

5. Full House: Stephanie’s disastrous joy ride

On Full House, it’s impossible to finish an episode without sweeping music and a wholesome moral lesson. One lesson that Danny Tanner doesn’t expect to have to teach his daughter Stephanie is, “It’s best not to drive your uncle’s car into our house.” Unfortunately, Stephanie’s plan to listen to the radio in Uncle Joey’s car goes sideways (actually backwards) when she assumes the “R” on the gearshift stands for “radio.” The classic automobile becomes a temporary dining room fixture, prompting DJ’s quip: “Dad, I’m going to set the car for dinner.”

Bottom line: Even though San Francisco has some of the best weather on the West Coast, the Tanners are still going to want to replace the completely demolished wall and window that Stephanie crashed into. Surprisingly, home insurance has your back if you drive your own car into your house. (The vehicle would be covered too under most car insurance policies.)

  • Estimated cost to fix: $5,000 to rebuild a new wall and windows.
  • Coverage: Yes. Homeowners insurance covers vehicle damage.

6. The Wizard of Oz: Farmhouse carried off by a tornado

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy experiences a magical adventure in the Land of Oz with a band of misfits, which all starts when a tornado strikes her aunt and uncle’s house. Unable to get into the storm cellar for safety, Dorothy is trapped in the bedroom when she is struck by a dislodged window. Soon after, Dorothy and the family farmhouse are seen flying away and spinning in the sky. The tornado carries her all the way to the Land of Oz, eventually landing on top of the Wicked Witch of the East and finding a new resting place very far away from Kansas. 

Bottom line: Many policies include damage from tornadoes and other windstorms, but you’ll want to make sure you have enough coverage if you’re in a particularly tornado-prone area. (If your house getting blown away was actually a dream, though, it probably isn’t covered.) Also, The Wicked Witch may not be so wicked after all, if you watch Wicked. 

  • Estimated cost to fix: $150,000 to purchase a new house in Kansas
  • Coverage: Yes. Homeowners insurance covers damage from windstorms.

7. I Love Lucy: Ricky’s chicken and rice fiasco

The hilarious husband-and-wife feuds on I Love Lucy have led to some of the most iconic moments in television history. In one classic episode, Ricky and Fred switch roles with Lucy and Ethel, convinced that managing a home is no big deal. After a series of ironing and cleaning failures, Ricky and Fred’s disastrous day reaches its peak when two poultry carcasses end up on the ceiling and a huge pot of rice boils over. Ricky tries to collect the rice with a broom and dustpan while Fred helplessly scoops up one spoonful at a time. When Lucy comes home, she sets foot in the kitchen for a single second before running out screaming, shocked by the damage.

Bottom line: The only thing that takes more of a beating than Ricky’s ego in this episode is the poor electric range, which is practically devoured by the rice bubbling out of the stock pot. While rice explosions aren’t named specifically in home insurance policies, appliances are generally covered as personal property in cases of damage from overflow.

  • Estimated cost to fix: $800 for a new electric range
  • Coverage: Many home insurance policies cover personal property, like appliances, in cases of damage from overflow.

8. Stranger Things: Demogorgon’s destruction

In Stranger Things, Dungeons and Dragons-loving pals Will, Mike, Lucas and Dustin face constant threats from the alternate realm known as the Upside Down. When Will goes missing in the show’s first season, the boys need all the help they can get from telekinetically inclined Eleven, who somehow made nosebleeds cool with her psychic powers. Meanwhile, Will’s mom Joyce finds herself in a battle to get people to take her seriously as she senses the threat of the evil Demogorgon in her living room. Hacking away at the walls and painting an alphabet on the walls, Joyce attempts to communicate with Will and save him from the dark underworld of her sleepy town.

Bottom line: There are lots of reasons to repaint and tear down walls in your house, but “my son is being chased by a monster in an alternate dimension that’s just on the other side of my walls, which are somehow alive” is not high on the list. Look, homeowners insurance probably isn’t going to help if your town is overrun by evil monsters straight out of the D&D Monster Manual — but you’ve got other things to worry about anyway. 

  • Estimated cost to fix: $7,500 for home repair (axe damage, fire damage, new paint, dead Demogorgon removal). Cost uncertain for cleansing evil spirits. (It might just be easier to move.)
  • Coverage: We couldn’t find any policies that covered damages sustained in the course of battling monsters from the Upside Down, but stigmatized properties are much harder to sell.

9. Fresh Prince: Will’s cooking mishap

In The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will Smith frequently finds himself discovering aspects of life that were definitely not a part of his West Philadelphia upbringing. In the classic sixth-season premiere, Will aims to impress his uncle Philip by cooking with alcohol and fire, also known as flambé. The attempt starts off innocently enough with a quick burst of flames. Emboldened, Will pours half the bottle of rum into the pot and sets it on fire with a match, and the entire concoction bursts into an uncontrollable fireball. While Will temporarily slows down the flames with a towel, he’s eventually left with a kitchen completely charred by the flames.

Bottom line: Since cooking causes 51% of residential fires, we’d recommend more basic cooking techniques — like microwaving Hot Pockets — before moving on to flambé. If you do set your kitchen on fire, home insurance will probably help you repair the damage, so you don’t need your butler Geoffrey to help hide the damage.

  • Estimated cost to fix: $50,000 or more for a new kitchen
  • Coverage: Yes, homeowners insurance typically covers damage from accidental fires, including those started in the kitchen.

10. Up: Flying a house to Paradise Falls

In Up, Carl Fredricksen vows to keep a promise to his wife, Ellie, who passes away before they can both travel to South America’s Paradise Falls, their dream destination. When Carl is forced out of his neighborhood by an aggressive development company, he uses his background as a balloon salesman to turn his house into a makeshift aircraft with hundreds of helium balloons. Carl sails his house across the sky and all the way to South America. After many adventures, Carl eventually watches as his house drifts away through the clouds and lands beside Paradise Falls, fulfilling the promise he made to his wife. 

Bottom line: To bring his house back home, Carl will need to physically transport it across continents. Unfortunately, homeowners insurance does not cover you if you use helium balloons to transport your house to far off destinations. Still, if you flew it once, you can probably do it again! Also, that house is in the perfect place now, so let’s just leave it there.

  • Estimated cost to fix: Upward of $25,000,000 to move a house across continents
  • Coverage: No. Although it’s moveable, a house tied to helium balloons likely wouldn’t qualify for mobile home insurance.

Learn more about these memorable pop culture home disasters in our infographic below, including how much they’d cost to fix and whether homeowners insurance would help with the cost. 

  1. Golden Gate Bridge in popular culture. Wikipedia

  2. How much does it cost to build an interior wall? Thumbtack

  3. How much does fire damage restoration cost? Thumbtack

  4. How Much Does Roof Replacement Cost? Angi

  5. What Does It Cost to Physically Move Your House from Point A to Point B? Homelight

  6. Here's the typical home price in every state — and what you can actually get for that money. Business Insider