Depending on the severity of the situation, the best idea is to immediately call an emergency plumber or restoration company.
The first few hours are essential. It seems obvious to treat a flooded basement as a priority.
Remember that the longer you wait to act, the greater the damage to your property. Mold can start to develop only two to three days after the flood happened.
A Flooded Basement is an Emergency
Floodwater is unsanitary and can rapidly turn into category three water damage, grossly contaminated with pollutants including fungi and bacteria.
It also causes structural damage like rotten wood, soften and break drywalls, and crack concrete.
If you have electronics and appliances in your flooded basement, they become particularly dangerous in contact with water and can result in consequential losses with bad injuries or even fatalities.
Therefore, it is essential to think about safety first.
Make sure that your family is safe, and contact a restoration company right away. Do not try to salvage your belongings if there is any potential danger. Think twice before putting yourself in the line of risk that could compromise your safety.
If minutes might seem long, wait for the restoration company to arrive onsite. Explain the situation, and leave professionals to take care of the problem.
Do not immediately call your insurance company. First, discuss the next steps with your restoration company.
Here is why.
Insurance Claims and Flooded Basements
It is the most tricky and sensitive part.
Engaging with the insurance company is sometimes as traumatic as the flooded basement itself.
Is the insurance company going to cover the entire repair?
That is the big question.
The simple answer is that it depends on insurance coverage and what caused the basement to flood.
This is why you need a restoration company by your side to help navigate the questions and determine the root cause of the problem.
Restoration companies deal with insurance claims all the time. They know the process and how to approach claims. So, it is essential to use this know-how to your advantage.
The Way to Deal With Flooded Basements
The objective is to extract the water and remove the objects.
Typically, the restoration technicians will remove any contents that can be salvaged from the flooded basement.
Typically, it is a triage of the homeowner’s furniture, equipment, and other personal objects.
Once the personal contents are removed from the affected area, technicians will remove the damaged flooring and drywall.
Then, the next step is to dry, clean, disinfect and deodorize the basement.
Ultimately, the restoration company will repair the damage.
Take Aways for Flooded Basements
Act fast. Every minute counts.
Contact a restoration company early enough and engage them in the process.
In the event of a flooded basement, the know-how and experience of qualified restoration technicians can help you:
As always, preparation is essential. So, do your due diligence and give us a call if you need help.
We all remember last year's tropical storm Isaias and the destruction left behind.
As Isaias was storming over Philadelphia, people in Manayunk were literally life-rafted out of their homes by black water.
Also called "category 3," black water soaks right into the building materials and fills surfaces with bacteria that will breed and feed on those materials.
Higher temperatures, higher humidity levels, and stagnant air create the best conditions for bacteria to thrive.
So, imagine what the people from Manayunk had to go through.
In 2021, we have had a few days of winter storms in the Greater Philadelphia area. Only in a few days have we received many emergency calls for restoration jobs involving:
If experiencing these events is stressful, frustration adds to the reality of the situation, especially when interacting with the insurance company.
Winter Storm Damage and Your Named Perils
Let’s be clear. This list is not universal.
It varies between insurance policies and insurance companies.
Named Perils cover the specific causes of damage or injury.
Your Named Perils clause may cover against some perils like fire, smoke, wind, and more, but they may not cover all perils or only cover perils in some instances.
Therefore, it is always a good idea to read your Named Perils clause carefully.
In the event of winter storm damage, check if your insurance policy includes coverage for:
The number of Named Perils varies between insurance policies. Depending on your insurance company and the insurance policy you bought, separate endorsements may be necessary to cover additional perils that may not appear in your Named Perils.
As always, make sure you understand exceptions clearly.
To avoid unnecessary frustration and stress with an insurance claim, determine what your policy covers ahead of time, in fact, well before discovering it the day of the loss:
Ultimately, winter storm damage will happen during a homeowner or renter’s lifetime. Therefore, know what to look for and expect.
The Most Common Winter Storm Damage
In terms of winter storm damage, the most common property damage types are roof damage or collapse. They are usually caused by the weight of snow, ice, or sleet.
Another typical winter storm damage is burst pipes caused by freezing temperatures. Damage caused by frozen pipes is 'sudden and accidental,” assuming that you maintained heat in your home and applied best practices of your home or building's water supply.
Finally, ice dams are the third category of winter storm damage. They can cause water damage to walls and ceilings. An ice dam that forms at the edge of a roof can prevent melting snow from draining off the roof. Typically, this would not be covered by a basic Named Perils policy.
There are Preventative Measures to Avoid Winter Storm Damage
Although you might have the right coverage, maintaining your property is the best way to anticipate winter storm damage and insurance claims.
Therefore, before and during winter, take the time to check your property periodically:
As always, preparation is essential. Therefore, know what your insurance policy covers and do your due diligence with the insurance company. Make sure you understand what is covered and not covered.
Always evaluate your property before and during the winter season. If your area faced an episode of snow or ice, check how your property is impacted and take precautionary steps to maintain a sound structure.
A flood, heavy rains, drainage problem, leaking or burst pipe if you see the water underneath the flooring; you need to understand what to do.
If you contact a restoration company, water extraction should be done quickly using the right professional-grade technologies and following a process. If water extraction is done right, you will avoid further damage and secondary problems, and here is why.
The Definition of Water Extraction
Know who to call. It is probably the best advice.
If you call an emergency plumber, cleaning company, handyman, or restoration company, the results will not be the same. Although minutes count, be clear about what the water extraction process entails.
Always try to question the process of the company you consider to perform the extraction. It is hard to remember that in a highly stressful situation because you just want the problem to be fixed. But in many cases, you may set yourself for more significant issues.
As soon as they are on-site, the team in charge of your problem needs to locate and stop the water damage source while ensuring that the area is safe for the homeowner and the restoration technicians.
Before moving to the water extraction step, the affected area must be safe. Electrical hazards are the most dangerous and need to be considered carefully.
Only if this step is done well will the restoration team move to the next step: Water extraction.
A water extraction removes excess water from the flooring and grounds of your home and property. Typically, emergency plumbers, handymen, or conventional cleaning companies are not equipped or trained to handle that type of job. It requires specific expertise, equipment, and know-how to tackle water extraction.
Think Beyond Water Extraction
The water extraction process’s objective is to decrease the risk of secondary and further consequential damage to your property. It is the first step of a complete process that aims to prevent mold growth, restore air quality, and condition your home or property.
The water extraction process done by a restoration company goes beyond the extraction per sq ft. Restoration companies will treat an area holistically by using:
Time to apply good practices is essential here too. If the response should be quick, the restoration company should not leave your home if surfaces are not completely dried, the entire affected area is cleaned and sanitized.
Water Restoration & Water Mitigation
Water extraction and water mitigation are two different things. For water damage, a professional restoration company will extract the water and prevent further damage and loss due to the existing threat to avoid other problems during the restoration process.
This step must be done with a thought process of taking apart what is necessary to reduce the overall interruption of the home or business.
A lot of preparation is necessary to ensure homeowners’ safety and the crew in charge of the mitigation step. The process also involves cleaning and drying of property and sanitizing it afterward.
This step is essential to avoid long term damage and maintain its structural integrity.
No matter the reason for water damage, your immediate reaction is essential. Contact a local restoration near you. If you are a victim of floods, storms, or plumbing issues relative to drain, bursting, or leaking pipe, careful attention must be paid to the entire process.
A restoration company has the equipment, training, and know-how to take care of the extraction, mitigation, and restoration of your property while helping you with your insurance claim.
Water Damage Insurance can be tricky and can happen at any time. There are great chances that water damage will happen to you during your homeowner’s lifetime. Water damage insurance claims are among the most common types of property claims and the primary source of frustration.
Hence, if you speak to your insurance representative based on what is visible to you at the moment of the call, you may have inadvertently created hardship for yourself.
So, if water damage happens to your home or business, there are a few things to know.
Water Damage Insurance 1:1
Check your insurance policy.
In a nutshell, there are many different water damage insurance coverages, and they all vary. Before calling your insurance to log a water damage insurance claim, always ask for a certified copy of your insurance contract.
Ask your insurance inside sales representative or agent to include all provisions, exclusions, and conditions.
An insurance policy is a complex document with sometimes conflicting and confusing provisions for homeowners that are not used to reading and interpreting them.
As an insurance policy uses a specific language, there is no shame in asking for a specialist’s second opinion. In some cases, public adjusters can help you clarify obscure sections of your insurance policy.
Even if most insurances cover for accidental or sudden damage, like in the case of a burst pipe in a basement, a toilet overflow, or sewer backup, other forms of water damage appear progressively and cause other issues to your building structure.
In the case of mold, for instance. Mold can develop progressively following water damage that was not identified or if the remediation was not appropriately handled.
Typically, most homeowners would call their insurance and file an insurance claim for water damage to cover the remediation work. Of course, most people expect their insurance to cover this type of water damage fully.
In reality, most of these claims are denied or do not cover all costs involved in the repairs because of a different interpretation of the insurance policy.
To avoid coming to that dead-end, there are a few things you can do.
What To Do Before Getting Your Water Damage Insurance Claim Denied.
Here is what you should consider when preparing or dealing with your water damage insurance claim:
What Causes Sewer Backup?
Sewer backups in your home or business are a terrible misfortune. They are disgusting, smelly, and dangerous for your health.
Unfun Facts About Sewer Backup
A sewer backup rarely happens instantly. In most cases, it usually occurs over time. Usually, it begins with a slow drain.
Hence, if you notice a slow drain, there are a few things you can do to remediate the problem immediately:
You may have a more severe problem if your bath or shower tub backs up when you flush your toilet. It is a visible clue that something terrible is about to happen.
What can be the potential root cause?
Here is what we observe:
What Can You Do to Avoid a Sewer Backup?
There are preventative measures you can implement to prevent a disaster from happening. If you are unsure about your DIY skills, contact a plumber for help:
These are simple measures that can help reduce the risk of a sewer backup. However, despite these measures, in the occurrence of a sewer backup, here is what you need to know.
In Case of a Sewer Backup
In the event of a sewer backup with an overflow of the toilet bowl or tub, if you can, try to safely shut off the electricity in that area.
At this point, leave the problem to professionals for your safety. Do not try to contain the water coming out.
The water coming out of your toilet or tub is contaminated by human waste.
Immediately contact an emergency plumber and a restoration company to take care of the repairs and cleaning. Restoration companies have the training, experience, and equipment to deal with overflows.
Do not let contaminated water settle. It would make things worse.
What Will Restoration Companies Do?
Restoration companies will think in terms of safety, containment, and remediation. These are the three most important aspects of their job.
The restoration technicians involved in your sewer backup will make sure your family is safe. They will wear their full gear composed of professional air masks, plastic boots, gloves, and overalls.
Once the personal protective equipment is on, getting the water out is essential.
While working on the triage of salvageable personal items, professional pumps and special vacuums are used to extract the water.
All pumps and vacuums send the contaminated water to a truck that collects water and solid waste.
Once the contaminated water is controlled and depending on the sewer backup’s nature, a snake or auger is inserted through the sewer cleanout to clear up and dislodge the clog.
Once this first phase is completed, the cleanup and remediation process can start:
More Food for Thoughts
As usual, being prepared is essential, and speed is critical. Therefore, “expect the unexpected” is the best piece of advice to homeowners.
To ensure you are prepared for a sewer backup, check out your insurance policy and understand if sewer backup is covered. If you are unsure of the coverage, call your insurance agent to ask for the coverage specifically, as it is additional coverage on the policy.
Finally, connect beforehand with a restoration company representative, and do your due diligence of the companies near you. In case of an emergency, you need to trust the company that will work with you and understand their process.
Duct cleaning divides people. Some think it is a good idea, whereas others believe it is a total waste of money.
Sadly, it leaves families in doubt. As it is right for many other things, homeowners have to come up with their conclusions.
Here are some perspectives on duct cleaning that you may consider.
What is Duct Cleaning?
Duct cleaning scopes different elements.
It is a full cleaning of your HVAC and air ducts. During the duct cleaning process, the company in charge of the cleaning will focus on:
These elements collect dust, mold, mildew, soot, pollen, and debris during their lifetime.
What Can You Do to Avoid Duct Cleaning?
Suppose you are interested in air quality and system efficiency. In that case, a good practice is frequently changing your system’s filters to prevent exterior contaminants from settling in your HVAC system and duct network.
Changing your filters will reduce these contaminants’ impact that you will ultimately breathe.
Of course, filters have different efficiencies, and different circumstances affect the filter’s performance.
Moisture or temperatures, size, and installation are factors impacting filtration too.
Even if you are very diligent about changing your filters, removing all airborne contaminants is simply not possible in most homes or facilities.
So, every time you turn on your HVAC to heat or cool your home, particles are pushed through your ducts and vents.
Some particles will stick to the inner surface of your ducts and vents. Some particles will be released in the air you breathe.
Depending on specific circumstances, these particles released in the air you breathe may trigger flare-ups with your allergies.
Here is why you will never get a straight answer because it depends on the circumstances. All homes and cases are different.
Consequently, you may consider having your air ducts cleaned because air ducts will get dirty over time, and it is a good idea to clean them.
So Why Use Duct Cleaning Services?
You must have a reason or a perceivable problem.
It seems obvious, right?
So, let’s clarify that with clear examples of clients we help in Chester County, PA.
Some people use duct cleaning services to remove any contaminant, allergens, or debris from their systems, just like you would remove dust from a piece of furniture.
The second category concerns people who have identified a more significant problem, and they want some remediation performed to mitigate an issue like:
Most of the issues we have seen over the years relate to:
What Have We Learned?
Beyond the confusing studies and potentially biased results, duct cleaning has value if you have a purpose or a real problem.
Do you incorporate duct cleaning as a component of your air quality improvement strategy? Or, do you have a real problem you need to remediate?
There is no right or wrong answer. It depends on your circumstances.
Since all conditions in every home are different, it is impossible to generalize. Therefore, perform an air duct cleaning if there is a need or perceived benefit.
Tips For Insurance Claims
Insurance claims following a disaster in your home or business are often emotionally involved.
Lack of clarity on the coverage, confusion about the insurance process, insufficient preparation about approaching, and documenting a claim offer many instances to set yourself up for a real disaster.
Here are a few tips to prepare for your future insurance claim.
How to Approach an Insurance Claim?
It’s a sad truth, but disasters will happen over a lifetime.
Therefore, it is essential to be well prepared for when they happen.
No matter their extent, disasters caused by water, floods, mold, or fire are always emotionally involved for the homeowner. Therefore, eliminate the guessing-game from the equation.
An insurance claim will always be evidence-based. It’s that simple.
Hence, how much your insurance company will cover is a factor of how well the claim was documented, and the insurance claim process understood.
This is where it becomes more complicated for homeowners.
Saying that an insurance policy will cover one hundred percent of the damage is not the same as reimbursing one hundred percent of the loss.
Because of “depreciation.”
This is where the nitty-gritty details of the negotiation with the insurance company begin.
In the past few months, floods have impacted the greater Philadelphia area, marking the victims affected by losses the start of a nightmare.
Based on these many stories, here’s a simple rule to remember for an insurance claim:
Even if you bring the evidence of how much your furniture, valuable electronics, or carpet cost, you are not reimbursed on how much they cost, but on how much they are worth.
This is what depreciation means.
In other terms, you may be covered one hundred percent for damage in your bathroom, but not get one hundred percent of the cabinet cost to replace them as part of your insurance claim.
This is why, try to consider the following steps.
Insurance Claims Are About Evidence
If collecting evidence before the disaster is important - Your old bills, pictures of the rooms of your house - the evidence collected after the disaster happened is critical.
The insurance company will want specific pictures to document the insurance claim.
It means that you will need to document four steps in total:
If you contact a restoration company, the team in charge of your case will take the pictures and document the insurance claim.
No matter the magnitude of a disaster, it is a destabilizing event. Therefore, before calling your insurance company, connect with a restoration company to get perspective and assistance.
Restoration companies handle thousands of insurance claims a year on behalf of their clients. So, they are used to the process and are able to gather effectively all evidence.
They also know insurance companies, identify the potential bottlenecks, have experience documenting cases, know what pictures to take, and the exhaustive list of what to include to build a strong insurance claim.
Ultimately, they will make sure you get the most out of your insurance claim, because they will have to deal with the reconstruction part.
Communication with the Insurance Company.
The insurance company will dedicate an Insurance Adjuster to your claim.
The Insurance Adjuster should not be mistaken with a Public Adjuster. They are not the same people and do not have the same interests in mind. The insurance adjuster works for the insurance company and will decide based on the evidence collected and inspection if the root cause is covered by the insurance policy.
They will determine the amount that the insurance company will cover. Therefore, it is essential to prepare thorough documentation.
The restoration company will produce estimates necessary to reconstruct your damaged property to its pre-disaster condition.
This step prepares for the discussion with the Insurance Adjuster and negotiation about the cost to reconstruct.
Indeed, there is in most cases a negotiation with the insurance company in order to fine-tune on the scope and cost of the reconstruction part based on the inspection report.
Hence, it is very important to carefully select your restoration company.
Time to Repair & Rebuild.
Once you receive your check for the insurance claim, you are ready to move to the reconstruction process.
Even with the best discussion and most helpful people working together, the check you will receive from the insurance company may not be what you may expect.
Remember that depreciation is factored in.
In other words, there will always be a discrepancy between what you paid initially and what you will get back from the insurance company in the case of a disaster.
As the insurance claim process is tricky, do your due diligence before any disaster strikes. Read your insurance policy, ask questions, create records, keep traces of receipts, pictures, and select your restoration company beforehand.
Do you feel more prepared for when disaster might strike?
This is why it is essential to surround yourself with people to help guide you through the process.
Equally important is how you approach the first few hours following the disaster.
Here’s what you should consider.
What to Do Now?
If your home is damaged by water, mold, fire, smoke, or sewer backup, you may not be prepared to deal with it. Hence, you may try to figure out what to do.
Insurance aside, the first thing to keep in mind is that you are not alone in this challenging process.
That said, who should you contact?
Restoration companies and public adjusters are part of the ecosystem of available resources.
Most people ignore these resources because they do not know that they exist in the first place.
Beyond being part of the first responders and handling the cleanup process, one of a restoration company’s primary role is to document the claim and work alongside the insurance and victims to make sure you get your money and are able to rebuild.
For those who have been through a disaster insurance claim, understand it is a process.
Like any process, there is a beginning, middle, end, and decisions to make. It is especially true in dealing with a disaster.
Here’s what to do.
When a disaster strikes, think safety first.
Always make sure you, your family members, or co-workers are safe. Depending on the nature of the disaster, stay away from anything that can cause further hazards.
Leave your home if it is unsafe to remain there while first responders arrive on-site. Avoid saving items yourself or assessing the damages if the cause of the damage is not under control.
It may sound obvious, but it is harder to think clearly under a state of shock or emotion. Hence, wait for professionals to help you.
Assess What Happened.
Once the cause of the disaster is under control, and you can safely access the site, try to assess the overall situation to get the big picture of what happened and what was damaged.
Again, do not take unnecessary risks. Keep your safety in mind first and foremost. Go back to your home only if it is entirely safe to do so. Always take a moment to think before entering any area of your home.
At this point, you do not need to get into the nitty-gritty details of the damage. Your insurance company and the restoration company will help you figure that out in more detail at a later point.
What you need to do is to make initial observations to explain what happened. For instance, try to understand:
If you have a smartphone, try to take photographs of the damage. These first pictures will help you with the disaster insurance claim.
In the event that you contact a restoration company early enough in the process, the restoration company will take pictures to help document your claim.
It is essential not to move anything if you are taking pictures. Leave the place the way you find it. Do not start the cleaning process or triage of your belongings.
Remember that you are not helping yourself over the long term, even if you have the best of all intentions. If your floor is soaking in water, leave the water.
If your belongings are floating in the water, leave them too. If you clean up around you instead of documenting what happened, you set yourself up for a complicated and painful disaster insurance claim.
Who Should You Call First?
Insurance companies will say to call the insurance first.
Public adjusters will tell you to call them first.
In most cases, people call their insurance first. Although it is critical to declare a disaster promptly, here’s the tricky part.
The insurance company always asks for more information and tries to understand what caused the disaster and extent of the disaster - that is not always directly visible or clear.
As homeowners are usually not experts in most cases and can be emotionally impacted during the call, they sometimes misinterpret what they see or misrepresent unintentionally what happened.
Remember a simple rule when talking to your insurance: Everything you say will be used as part of the claim process. So, should you call your insurance immediately?
The short answer is: Not necessarily. Calling a restoration company first can help you in your decision-making process.
Depending on your deductible, and the severity of the damage, you may simply avoid recording a claim with your insurance. A restoration company can help you decide if you should contact your insurance. Besides, you may avoid higher insurance rates along the way.
It’s that simple.
If the damage is significant, a restoration company can handle the entire process on your behalf.
A restoration company can:
Once all this information is collected, the only thing you will have to do is call the insurance and share the information gathered.
Remember that this is the core business of restoration companies. They are used to claims and process thousands of claims every year.
In other words, they know the system, how it works, what to do, how to do it, how to negotiate in your best interest, and how it can be tricky if not properly handled.
If you face a stressful situation, calling a restoration company first is your best bet and ally in the first few hours after the loss happened, and not only for securing, cleaning, and the reconstruction part.
You Are in a Different Spot Now
Knowledge comes from information, and power comes from knowledge.
The best way to approach a claim is to contact a restoration company early enough in the post-disaster process.
Although no one expects disasters to happen, it is good to do the due diligence and call the best restoration companies in case of an emergency. Try to make sure that the company offers:
National brands may not be the best choice for the special interests they may have with larger insurance companies. As it is right for many things, shop independent and local preferably.
As disasters can happen at any time, have you ever considered connecting and selecting restoration companies as part of your emergency preparedness plan?
Mold inspection is the best way to determine if there is a danger to your health and your building structure.
Why would you need a mold inspection?