Few things can be more wrenching and make you feel more vulnerable than when your home suffers major damage from a flood or a fire. You realize how suddenly life can take a shocking turn. You also want to get your life back to normal quickly. How do you find trusted professional help?
When a flood invades your home, or when a plumbing leak causes major water damage, your house and possessions can be ruined immediately. Water-soaked sheetrock, wood floors that buckle, and unsalvageable furniture add up to a personal catastrophe.
Besides the immediate damage of water, in as quickly as 24 hours, mold can begin to appear, especially in a warm, humid environment.
Hiring a certified professional water damage and mold remediation contractor can be a lifesaver. These professionals know how to evaluate the extent of the damage, rip out soaked flooring and sheetrock, remove remaining water, and prep the home for reconstruction. Thorough cleaning, especially removal of mold, is essential to restoring a healthy environment post-disaster.
Most home insurance policies do not cover damage from a flood. But if you live in an area where floods are a possibility, flood insurance is purchased separately from private insurers working with the National Flood Insurance Program of the federal government. If flooding is caused by a leaking pipe, the leak must be a sudden burst for insurance to cover it. Damage from a slow undetected leak most likely will be the homeowner’s responsibility. Water damage from sudden disasters, such as a storm ripping a roof off, will be covered by homeowner insurance.
When your home and possessions have been damaged by fire and smoke, a professional remediation team is a must. While many parts of a home might not be damaged by fire, they must be evaluated for smoke and water damage.
The combination of heat and gases embed smoke particles within materials throughout your home. Mitigation professionals know how to get them out to fully restore your environment. Amateur efforts can actually do more damage. Homeowners insurance likely pays for professional services.
Finding a quality restoration specialist requires doing your homework — just as it does when you’re hiring any contractor to work in your home. Seek out personal referrals from friends, family, neighbors and coworkers, and then use the internet to vet the companies. Use sites like Home Advisor, Yelp, Trusted Pros and Angie’s List. Although it may be tempting to skip this step during such a stressful time in your life, don’t do it. Restoration of your home is too important.
The Better Business Bureau is also a stalwart source of information, which you can find at www.bbb.org. Look for contractors who are part of the bureau’s “accredited” program, meaning they have agreed to the group’s standards for handling customers with integrity. You will also be able to see how long companies have been in business, their complaint histories and how they’ve handled them.
Longevity in business is a good sign, because poorly run businesses don’t last. A contractor in business for decades is doing something right.
Most restoration experts must be licensed in every state in which they operate. Using the link provided by the Better Business Bureau, go to the state licensing agency’s website to search for potential restoration experts. Also, check to make sure potential contractors carry liability insurance and worker’s compensation if employees will be on your job site.
Several online sites provide consumer reviews, but exercise caution when reading these. Comments, both pro and con, are often not verified for accuracy.
Obtain three written bids from contractors. The cheapest and most expensive bids are not necessarily indicators of which to choose. Be sure to get an estimate on how long the job should take. Ask yourself if you’ll be happy working closely with one of the contractors.
If your damage is covered by insurance, work closely with the claims department to follow its requirements for choosing a contractor and having the work done to the insurance company’s satisfaction.
Above all, be patient. Keep perspective. Possessions can be replaced.