Things You Need to Know Before Choosing a Water Damage Restoration Company
According to figures compiled by the Insurance Information Institute, during 2010 to 2014, water damage was the fourth most common reason behind homeowners insurance claims, with an average of $7,958 accounted for per claim. That accounts for numerous damages around the country, whether caused by flooding or internal leaks. While certain communities have historically been more prone to calamities such as flooding, changing weather patterns have brought such disasters to unlikely places in recent years. Moreover, internal leaks and pipe bursts can happen anywhere at any time. Therefore, it's crucial for homeowners and building owners to know about local water damage cleanup services.
What does a Water Damage Restoration Company do?
In the aftermath of water disasters, owners call upon restoration services to rebuild property. A water damage restoration company will perform whatever it takes to undo damages caused by flooding, leaks and pipe bursts. In urgent situations, a restoration service is dispatched immediately to extract floodwater from a property. From there, the team will make preparations to replace and rebuild certain portions of said property. The likeliest parts of a home to bear water damage are pipes, floors, walls and dark spaces.
Cracked/Busted Pipes — One of the foremost causes of water damage to a home or building is a cracked pipe, which can leak water in abundance. According to figures compiled by Water Damage Defense, residential leaks account for more than 1 trillion gallons of water per year. Since pipes are either obscured from view or located in spaces that are seldom checked, the water that leaks can turn into mold and saturate floors and walls long before homeowners catch on to the problem. The following conditions serve as indicators of potential pipe trouble:
- Condensation — Moisture generally appears in places where stray water is present. Even if the pipe doesn't burst, condensation can do plenty of damage to floors, walls and nearby furnishings.
- Rust — The enemy of metal is rust, which eats through pipes and spreads like cancer. When rust gets out of hand on pipes, it's time for re–piping.
Swollen Walls — When water leakage occurs inside a home, the evidence can slowing build inside of walls. Whether the water leaks down from above or soaks upward from below, it can take a long time to show its ill effects. Indicators of water saturation and rot within walls include:
- Bubbled Paint — Water in effect frees itself from wood and drywall by pushing away paint.
- Stained Wallpaper — Decolorized blotches along wallpaper is a key indicator that water leaks have trickled down or soaked upward.
- Musty Odors — When rooms start to smell, the walls are one of several things to check for evidence of water rot.
Stained Tiles — When tiles and hardwood floors show signs of warping or discoloration, it's not necessarily a sign of old age taking hold, especially if the house or building dates to the past few decades. Chances are, the marks and unevenness are the gradual result of water leakage. Check your floors for the following if you suspect leaking has occurred:
- Warped, Loose or Separated Wood — As water penetrates wood, the moisture causes the grains to swell. Once its dries, the wood contracts, changing the shape of the board and causing inconsistency along hardwood surfaces.
- Loose Tiles — When infiltrated with water, tiles can get loosed from grout for an overall inconsistent floor quality.
- Stained Floors — If areas of discoloration form along floors without any major spills or puddles in said areas, it's most likely due to the slow and gradual saturation of a leaky water system.
- Odorous Carpets — When stains and matt–downs ruin carpets with no apparent cause, it's often the result of water soaking up from below the carpet. Since carpets consist of fabrics, they're more vulnerable to odors, which typically stem from areas permeated with water rot.
Wet Dark Spaces — Water damage most often originates in the areas of a home or building that are rarely inspected, such as basements, crawl spaces and kitchen/bathroom under–sink cabinets. Another vulnerable space is any closet adjacent to a kitchen, bathroom or laundry room. Therefore, you should inspect these spaces seasonally for signs of moisture, rusting, puddle formation, water stains and odors.
Do They Work With Your Insurance?
One major difference between good and bad water restoration insurance contractors is that the former are skilled at working out all details of a given claim with a property owner's insurance company. That way, you get all the coverage you need if water damage occurs on your property. Moreover, if they reveal further damage during the course of restoration work, the extra labor can be appended to the claim with no additional out–of–pocket costs.
Depending on the extent of water damage to your property, you might need to take up temporary housing with a friend or relative, or at a nearby hotel. Regardless, you should immediately take the following steps in the aftermath of a neighborhood flood or household water disaster.
Contact Your Insurance Provider — Speak to an agent from your insurance company and provide them with a full rundown of everything that occurred on your property. The nuts and bolts of your claim will ultimately be negotiated between the insurance company and your personally chosen contractor, but in the meantime you'll need to initiate both contacts. The details to cover during this first communication include:
- The nature of what occurred on your property, be it a flood, pipe burst or water damage from another cause
- The number of rooms and estimated square footage affected by the damage in question
Request a Contractor You can Trust — In order to get the most from your claim, it's important to be represented by one of the best contractors in your area. A skilled contractor will negotiate with your insurance provider to ensure that every inch of damage to your property is covered in the claim. In the Chicago area, ServiceMaster of Lincoln Park is one of the most trusted names in water damage restoration work for homes and businesses.
Provide a List — To ensure that as many valuables as possible are covered in your insurance claim, you'll need to have a list of every item lost or damaged during the incident in question. Granted, if your house is flooded and you're temporarily displaced, or if the damage occurred in a storage portion of your home, you might have difficulty remembering all the affected items. Therefore, it's best to have a list on hand of all your household possessions and the estimated value of each item. That way, you can present this list at anytime if the need for a claim arises. The list should include the following info:
- Furnishings and Fixtures — The description, location and estimated value of each chair, table, lamp, carpet, shelf, sofa, drawer, nightstand, etc.
- Art, Antiques and Collectibles — If you have any paintings, porcelain or vintage stamps, magazines, out–of–print books or comics, list them all here.
- Clothing and Jewelry — A list of all valuable clothing items, accessories and footwear, along with their estimated value.
- Computers and Electronics — All pertinent data and current price estimates of your PC, peripherals, mobile units, and home entertainment system, including your stereo and television.
- Appliances, Tools and Utensils — List all of your kitchen appliances, cookware, dishes and eating utensils, bathroom electromechanical devices and garage tools.
For utmost safety and security, this list should be made in Microsoft Excel or Word, and stored on a cloud server for instant access from anywhere on a PC, laptop or smartphone.
Utilize the Benefits of Your Policy — Depending on the extent of damage and your post–disaster situation, you might experience a temporary hike in living expenses to cover spare clothing, toiletries, meals out and — if staying at a hotel — lodging. Your homeowner’s insurance policy likely covers the extra amount that you spend on your day–to–day needs during the restoration process. Therefore, if your living expenses have temporarily jumped from $3,000 to $4,000 per month, you policy should cover that additional $1,000. This is known as the loss of use clause, which you can include as part of your claim during negotiations.
Do They Have Proper Certification?
Technically, water damage cleanup companies are not federally regulated. Consequently, licensing requirements vary from state to state. That said, you should only hire a licensed and certified contractor, as most unlicensed and uncertified entities tend to deliver unsatisfactory work by comparison. The following credentials and features are important for any reputable restoration service company.
License — In order for a water damage restoration company to be licensed, it's management must pass criminal background checks and meet a certain level of experience requirements. Therefore, any licensed contractor with whom you deal will have met sufficient standardization credentials. Furthermore, a licensed contractor must be free of unresolved customer complaints.
Insurance — Anyone who goes to work on your property should be covered with General Liability insurance, which serves the twofold benefit of protecting workers as well as property owners if the following situations arise:
- Injury to a worker on the property of a homeowner or building owner in the midst of restoration work
- Damage to a home or building by the restoration crew
In either case, the policy would cover damages, and thus homeowners and workers would not be held liable. Additionally, a damage restoration company should also be covered with Contractor's Pollution Liability — which coverers mold remediation — and Worker's Compensation insurance.
Certification — As added proof of a company's commitment to quality, a restoration contractor should be certified with one or more elite industry associations. A certificate from the Clean Trust or the Restoration Industry Association would demonstrate that a company has in fact paid for the highest level of training in the field.
Availability — Water damage cleanup services should offer live phone support, 24/7, for any questions that might arise during the restoration process.
It goes without saying that any water restoration service worth its weight in certificates, licensing, insurance and bonds should have the best workers possible for the whole range of tasks that the service entails, from water extraction to reconstruction.
Do They Have References?
A reputable water damage restoration company will have references that vouch for the company's quality of service. Most company websites post customer testimonials, but more insight can usually be gained on third–party websites where people can leave reviews and star–ratings about a given restoration service. People you know, however, will often provide some of the best references.
Friends, Family and Colleagues — If anyone you know has had an experience with flooding, pipe bursts or water damage in their home, ask who they used as a water damage restoration contractor. If you live in an area that's notorious for strong seasonal weather or seismic activity, there's likely someone on your grapevine who's had to seek such services, and who can therefore give you more of an idea about who or who not to contact in such an event. Run the following questions by as many people as you know:
- Was the restoration work complete and reasonably priced?
- Did the contractor work out all the relevant details of the damage in question with your insurance provider?
- Does your restoration company offer immediate attention in emergency situations?
Neighbors and Townsfolk — When you're relatively new to an area, neighborhood elders can often be some of the most reliable people to turn to for information on local restoration services. Whether or not your area is prone to flooding or natural disasters, ask your neighbors and townsfolk if any such incidents have occurred during their time in the community. Questions to ask your neighbors could include:
- Has there ever been a sewage or river flood in the neighborhood and, if so, where did you turn for water damage restoration service?
- Have you ever had a water disaster occur inside your home and, if so, how much did you have to pay to have the damage rectified?
- Were you satisfied with the service of your water damage restoration company and would you recommend that I use them too, should the need arise?
Facebook — Social networks have made it possible to connect with locals that you'd otherwise never meet. When it comes to info on local water damage restoration companies, assorted Facebook users in your zip code can help you with recommendations as well as warnings about services in your area. Questions to ask on Facebook include:
- What is the best water damage restoration company in my area?
- Which water damage services perform the most thorough restoration work?
- How much should I expect to pay in (insert zip code) for water restoration work?
Crowd–sourced Review Sites — The Internet has made it easier than ever to learn where to turn for water damage cleanup services. On websites such as Yelp, Merchant Circle and Angie's List, you can find reviews and ratings of companies that offer such services in your area. You can also learn about which companies are best avoided due to unreasonable terms and/or poor service.
What is the Water Restoration Process?
The process of restoring water–damaged homes and buildings usually occurs in several stages. If necessary, they’ll perform emergency work immediately. From there, they’ll calculate estimates are develop a proposal. Once approved, arrangements are made and the actual restoration begins. With many contractors, the process can generally be divided into the following steps:
Mitigation — Depending on the nature of damage in your home, you might need immediate work done to the affected areas to prevent structures from collapse or harmful exposure to external elements. While this doesn't constitute the actual rebuilding stage, this does serve as an urgent stopgap measure to keep a home or building intact and salvageable. Examples of mitigations services include:
- Boarding up torn out walls, windows or ceiling portions
- Extraction of water from flooded areas
Contractor Estimates — Once the immediate needs of the situation have been addressed, the contractor and insurance provider estimate the terms of the claim. Basically, the two parties work out an agreement on the extent to which your property needs to be rebuilt and the amount of money it will take for the supplies and labor.
Approval of Work — After the parties that represent your restoration and coverage have agreed on the scope of work required, the contractor will submit a proposal for your approval. You could accept this proposal by giving it your signature, or send it back to the contractor with revision requests, at which point the proposal will be modified and resubmitted to you. Once you sign the proposal, it becomes a contract.
Preparation — With the wheels officially in motion, the contractor orders the needed supplies and lines up workers for the job at hand. This can take a few weeks, depending on shipment speeds and worker availability.
Restoration — With supplies and manpower on hand, the rebuilding stage commences. This work could entail a range of services, such as:
- Extracting water from walls and floors
- Replacing saturated drywall and insulation
- Eradicating mold
- Tearing out and rebuilding walls, floors and ceilings
During the process of restoration, workers might reveal further damage not accounted for in the original estimates. Insurance should cover this additional work, though it would generally require a retrace of the estimates/approval/preparation steps.
Water Damage Cleanup from ServiceMaster of Lincoln Park
In many parts of the Midwest, communities are vulnerable to the ravages of floodwater. As such, preparedness for water damage is essential. In the Chicago area, residents have long relied on ServiceMaster of Lincoln Park for all of their water damage restoration needs. If you have a water emergency on your hands, call ServiceMaster of Lincoln Park today at (773) 346-6767 and have us restore your property.