Homeowner’s policies don’t normally cover damages due to a flood (unless a separate policy is purchased), but there are policies that cover many different forms of water damage.
For example, let us imagine that the insured has water dripping through his ceiling, There is a type of policy called “Open Perils” or “All Risk” that would pay for rain getting in through a damaged roof or window that was broken due to a fallen tree or wind driven debris.
However, it might not pay for a floor and ceiling weakened by leakage from an upstairs shower or bath tub - or mold from the same slow drip or trickle.
Contents restoration teams have found closets full of furs, damaged by seepage from a broken pipe; mold growing in cupboards from a burst frozen water line while a family is away on vacation, And even ceiling lights filled with water and ceiling tiles sagging and flaking from being saturated.
A well trained contents manager will create an assessment, present it to the adjuster, discover what is covered by the policy and what is not, then will speak with the homeowner to discuss the rest. But under conventional circumstances, he (she) won’t begin the job until all parties are satisfied as to the best course of action. In that manner, neither the insurance carrier nor the insured will be disappointed or unduly surprised by the results.
Part of the early assessment will include a description of the source of the water involved. Rainwater is different from contaminated river water or raw sewage. Water from broken pipes can be another matter as well. Saturated beds and couches are often discarded - not because they can’t be restored, but because the cost of doing so would drain the available funds (replacement cost in these situations is sometimes much less). You can read more about water damaged furniture in this issue of Contents Solutions.
Still the contents pros’ slogan is “Restore not replace” and you may be sure that they will be looking for opportunities to save as many of the homeowner’s valuables as is practicable.
Adjusters, agents and property managers have long since learned to rely on the eyes and expertise of contents specialists, because the professionals have saved them massive sums on virtually every job.
Contents pros would like to restore every item that they can, but when it is a lost cause, they will be the first to acknowledge the fact. And before any items are discarded, it is common for them to consult with both the adjuster and the insured so that the job is completed quickly, competently and to everyone’s satisfaction.
CONTENTS CLEANING INNOVATIONS
We just found an amazing company that tells us they provide, “…cost-effective wastewater and other contaminated effluent-related services at operating and inactive landfills, industrial facilities, abandoned hazardous waste sites, and commercial facilities.” They have products that decontaminate waste water, can be used in hospitals to neutralize toxic waste materials like blood, chemotherapy wastes, contaminated needles and more. Many of their products are in powder form and can even deal with caustic spills, acid spills, VOCs like formaldehyde - they even have a “Mercury Magnet.”
No less a personage that Cory Chalmers of A & E’s “Hoarders” show says he has used their products, “…in a number of diverse settings including hardwood floors, asphalt on roads, and sidewalks in crime scene clean up. In all my years in Crime Scene Cleanup I have not found a more effective product for bio-hazard remediation.” We will be counting on these folks for crime scene and hospital decontamination products of course, but we’re thinking that they bear watching for sewage back-up and other water decontamination compounds as well. Be sure to check back with us - it looks like we may have found the solutions to some very tricky contents cleanup scenarios!
BEST "TOOL" ON THE JOB
We managed to catch up with Barb Jackson CR, one of the foremost authorities in the world for contents restoration (and one of the busiest). We asked, “What is the most valuable tool on any given contents job?”
She didn’t even take a breath. “The contents manager,” she answered. “With a good contents manager in place, the entire team can anchor themselves to them.
Well trained contents managers can create a powerful pre-estimate with computer software and photo inventory onsite. They can make a presentation to the adjuster that is short, concise and usually all-inclusive.
”The adjuster can make an informed decision and the contents manager can convey that decision to the frontline workers and the insured as well. The manager can make it easy for the team to move forward and for the adjuster to make a cogent presentation to his or her boss."
"The job is done on time, on budget with a customer who felt the contents manager was a valued ally, That way the adjuster gets another job off his (her) desk, his boss is satisfied, the insured is happy and the contractor is paid in a timely manner."
"Without a knowledgeable contents manager, no amount of liquid or powdered solutions, trucks or even personnel will be able to satisfy the insurer to the insured. Too many glitches. Too much lost time and wasted revenue.”
Wet Furniture Solutions
Obviously, the contents pros must take into account the cost to replace an item of furniture versus its restoration. If a fully saturated mattress, frame and box spring would cost hundreds of dollars to pack out, dry, clean and sanitize - and the replacement cost of those items was around the same price, it is likely that everyone would opt for replacement.
But if a tiny end table had been hand carved by great-grandpa durning World War I, and is now a family heirloom, there simply won’t be an acceptable replacement and restoration is the only option - water soaked or not.
Contents pros pay attention to these details and that is why they form a strong collaboration with the adjuster and the insured before they proceed. But it is rare that a contents restoration team will sit idle while such plans are being made if furniture is sitting in water or on a wet carpet, they will at the very least put it up on foam blocks to prevent further damage.
For a couch, if the damage was only minimal (less than 20% wet), the pros will remove the pillows and cushions to prevent colors from “bleeding” and to give the fabric a further chance to dry. It is likely such items would be taken to the contents restoration facility for thorough drying and decontamination. Especially if the couch has been sitting for some time or may have absorbed any form of contamination.
Water can Destry the glue in the joints of wood furniture, it can detach veneers and even create a strange “white mold” - but the contents pros are well trained in dealing with such damage (often to a level at which it is better than preloads condition). But for antiques or fragile furniture, they will often refer to their “million dollar database” in order to locate a specialist who then becomes another valued member of their restoration team.
Contents Pros - More Insider Secrets
With the extraordinary heat and mugginess in many parts of North America, contents pros are looking for ways to ensure packed contents stay dry and odor-free. As always, they found simple, effective answers.
You know those little desiccant packets you sometimes find in aspirin and vitamin bottles to help keep the contents fresh and dry? Well, the contents specialists have found much larger ones (some can handle as much as 1000 cubic feet for 3 months even at up to 60% humidity)!
And there are much smaller ones that can be slipped into almost any sized contents box (especially useful for electronics and “hygroscopic” fabrics).
This reduces liability - especially in humid areas where mold and mildew are of concern.
And perhaps best of all, they are non-toxic and biodegradable.