Water Damage Restoration FAQ.
Finding answers to typical concerns.
Quite often the precise costs for emergency services such as water mitigation are unknown until work begins and progresses to conclusion. For this reason Flagship uses a software estimating system called Xactimate that is widely accepted by all major insurance companies, with industry accepted pricing for all billable items, and a monthly updated pricing schedule. In all likelihood, your insurance carrier will use the same system and pricing schedule in reviewing and approving our bill. Xactimate also makes it unnecessary to obtain multiple estimates, as they will all be very much the same if using the same pricing system. Bottom line: it is our job to justify the bill to your insurance company, and we have strong relationships with all national and regional insurance carriers so this is rarely if ever an issue. When an adjuster is assigned to your claim, we will explain to them what we have done up to that point and seek authorization before further steps are taken. Before any repairs are made we will have an agreed estimate with your insurance company. When we turn in all of the documents for review to your adjuster, we will reconcile any adjustments or changes with them and it will not affect your out-of-pocket costs (typically limited to your deductible unless your policy has a limit or you choose to upgrade).
Each insurance carrier is different, and each policy can also have specific language regarding coverage for certain types of water damage. Insurance coverage usually has to do with the CAUSE of the loss, not how bad it is or how long you’ve paid premiums with the company with no claims. Keep in mind that ONLY your insurance company can tell you that a particular loss may be covered or not, so until an adjuster is assigned, we may not be able to get you all the answers you need immediately. BUT, it is certainly a key factor for most people to make the decision about how to proceed with the damage and repairs. Flagship service technicians and managers in the office are very well versed in the coverage tendencies for a variety of carriers and causes, and many times with your permission we can make some calls on your behalf to find out if your loss is likely to be covered to help you make the decision before your adjuster is assigned. The phrase “sudden and unexpected” is typically used to determine what types of water losses are covered. Broken pipes, leaky ice-maker line, overflowing toilet, malfunctioning washing machine or dishwasher, ice dams in the winter, water damage from trees falling on the house during a storm, etc. all have a high likelihood of being covered. If you have a broken window or leaky roof and have chosen not to fix it for years, that may not be covered. Groundwater coming into your house from rain is typically not covered UNLESS you have a sump pump system that failed in the process. Sewer backups are covered if you have a sewer drain endorsement on your policy, otherwise it may be considered a maintenance item. The best thing you can do is ask us to help, we can call your agent or adjuster and see what we can find out.
Mold contamination is a big concern with unplanned water intrusions, and is one of the reasons that your insurance policy contains language that points out that it is the responsibility of you, the property owner, to take immediate action to prevent further damage once the water intrusion is noticed. Hiring Flagship Restoration is a great first step. We have spent significant resources on continuing education and certifications for our team on mold and other microbial contaminants. Typically, mold requires 48-72 hours after a clean water loss to start to grow in the right environment . . . but once our drying process has started we make it very difficult for microbial growth to thrive. Ultimately, it is our responsibility to make sure your property is safe from mold and bacteria related to the water loss you have hired us to remedy. There may be times that we notice mold contamination before we start work (called a pre-existing condition), which we will point out to you and discuss options for proper remediation.
The equipment we use is capable of running for days without being turned off (it will not overheat), and unless we advise you otherwise, it is best to leave it on and running at all times until the job is completed. Our service technician will check on the equipment and job progress each day, moving and adjusting equipment as needed. If you hear or smell anything which seems to not be abnormal, please unplug the equipment in question and call us immediately at (616) 842-9800. If equipment is running in a room that you need to use (to have dinner, watch a movie, or even to sleep), let us know and we can make accommodations, but also keep in mind the more the equipment is turned off, the more days it may need to be in place.
We use sophisticated digital moisture meters designed to specifically check for proper moisture content in various types of building materials. Some materials will take on more water than others, and some materials can be more challenging to dry. Feel free to ask our service technicians daily to show you the progress we are making in the drying process. We are accustomed to teaching interested customers about our process if it helps reduce anxiety about tricky areas or how long the process will take.
Once standing water is removed, the goal or our drying equipment is to a) increase the rate of evaporation in areas where water has absorbed (this will temporarily increase the humidity in the affected rooms) and b) remove the moisture in the air with powerful dehumidifiers. There may be times when the rate of evaporation is slightly out of balance with the rate of dehumidification, or vice versa. Part of our monitoring process includes checking ambient conditions both indoors and out, and if we can take advantage of low humidity outdoors, we may elect to open a window or door to temporarily “purge” the wet air. BUT the rate of evaporation is heavily dependent on temperature as well, so cooling a room down with outdoor air can also set a drying project back days. If you have questions on this, we ask that you please inquire with our service technicians before you make any adjustments.
The most critical part of water damage is a swift and effective drying process. After the dry-out has been completed by our trained and certified technicians, we will discuss repair options with you. As the property owner, you get to call the shots. Some people are handy and want to do some of the repairs themselves, or have a close friend or family member who is a qualified contractor that they trust, and that is just fine with us. We can bill your insurance company for the emergency mitigation separately and help prepare the necessary documents for you to be “cashed out” from your insurance carrier. If you are unsure how to proceed or simply don’t have the time, have confidence that Flagship Restoration will complete the repairs to your property. We use only the most qualified (all licensed and insured) local subcontractors and tradesmen that can restore your home at your direction. These guys are used to emergency service work and we can get them on-site in a timely manner to complete the work. If there are any issues or questions, you simply make one call to Flagship and we will get you the answers you need, and we proudly stand behind our work. We also take responsibility to get all repairs approved by your insurance carrier ahead of time (unless you make upgrades or your policy is subject to limits or restrictions).
Insurance claims are sort of like points on a driver’s license. If you make claims frequently it can be an indication that you may be “accident prone” or don’t take care of your house, so insurance companies may increase your premiums down the road, or possibly cancel your policy. HOWEVER, accidents happen and that is what insurance is for . . . so the idea is everybody will eventually have a claim here, a claim there. What you’d like to try to avoid is making 2-3-4 claims over a few years. One claim every 2-3 years should not raise much suspicion, but the financial impact can go both ways. For example, you may choose not to make a claim if you’ve had recent claims and we estimate that you have a $1500 problem with a $1000 deductible. But, what if you have a $20,000 problem with a $500 deductible? Obviously that scenario may warrant making a claim whether or not your premiums increase, because an increase in premiums over the next few years is probably going to result in a few hundred dollars a year, not $20,000. These are good discussions to have, and we recommend you discuss it with us and your insurance agent, let us work together to get you the right information. Your agent may be able to move you to a different carrier when your renewal comes up. Even if you don’t make a claim, you will want to mitigate further damage, and we will be happy to provide a firm estimate for your consideration.
We will do our best to restore your contents to a pre-loss condition. Some items, when exposed to water for a period of time, become permanently damaged (i.e. they will never be the same). Other items may simply need to be disinfected and moved to high ground. Soft goods like clothing, bedspreads, drapes can be sent to a laundry service that we can arrange for you. Another point is, there are different levels of contamination with water (see Categories of Water), and that will factor into the equation of what can be saved and what should be replaced. We will work with you throughout the loss, setting aside items that we feel cannot be effectively restored so you can make a list to turn into your insurance adjuster. Your Adjuster will then determine a reimbursement for your items according to the terms of your policy.
Typical drying times for residential water losses range from 3 to 5 days. If materials have been exposed to water over a long period of time it may take longer. Re-construction activities will follow but are usually deemed “less urgent” so we typically seek approvals from you and your insurance company before proceeding.
If you make a claim with your carrier, it is your responsibility to pay the deductible. It is customary for restoration contractors to collect the deductible up front when work is to begin, and we will inform your insurance company in such instances. Other times, your deductible may be “deducted” from the final insurance check, in which case you would pay the deductible amount at the end of the project. Another possibility is that your insurance carrier take the deductible amount off of the amount they owe you for your personal contents. In all these cases, you eventually pay your deductible, either to Flagship or in another manner.
The cost of electrical usage for our equipment is usually less than people think. Just the same, it is often a cost that is picked up by your insurance carrier, if your policy allows for it. We have a calculator that computes the additional electrical cost from our equipment, based on the maximum amp draw of each piece of equipment multiplied by the number of days we had it running. We can submit that to your insurance company upon request, or your insurance adjuster might ask you for a copy of your electrical bill to review. Usually it is between $25-$75.
This is a judgment call that only you can make. Obviously it will depend on which rooms are affected, how often they are used, do you feel safe there, can you use kitchens/bathrooms, etc. If a rec room and bathroom are affected in the basement but you have full used of the kitchen, bathrooms, and bedrooms on upper floors, you can probably stay at home during our work. If an entire main floor is affected and appliances will be disconnected and your only bathroom is out of commission, you probably will want to stay off-site. Most often, your insurance company will reimburse you for reasonable hotel and meal costs (usually on a per-diem basis) during the project, but only your insurance carrier can provide those details. Ask your Flagship service technician and we can normally make the request on your behalf.
It is not uncommon for insurance adjusters to have dozens of open claims on their desk at any given time. During a storm or catastrophic weather event, it can be hundreds. When you call to make a claim, it is setup in the claims system and typically within 24 hours it will be assigned to an adjuster. That adjuster will then make contact with you and make arrangements to see the loss in the coming days, as his/her schedule and your schedule may allow (if you are out of town and can’t make it, let us know, we are more than happy to meet with the adjuster on your behalf). The bottom line is, this process can take 2-4+ days, and again it is usually their expectation that you have already started protecting your property from further loss. It is quite common for adjusters to visit a water loss when the dryout is completed or near completion, at which point re-construction activities can be approved and all of your questions answered. If you have “burning questions” that can’t wait for his or her arrival, you should feel comfortable calling them and asking over the phone OR let us know what you are concerned about, as we can often reach out to the carrier to find out which adjuster has been assigned and call them for you.
For sewage losses or other contaminated water losses, the odor may be severe at the start of the project. Even for “clean” water losses, if the water has been allowed to sit for hours before we begin mitigation, there can be an odor (this is usually not mold but bacteria, similar to the kitchen towel you may leave out too long . . . ) We have numerous techniques for odor control, including chemical applications and specialty ozone and hydroxyl equipment that processes and cleanses air of contaminants. Each of these techniques take time, and by the end of the project there should be little/no trace of unpleasant odors.
What to do until we arrive?
Some tips of what to do and what not to do after a flooding / water leak occurs.