Flood Recovery Tips for Home Owners

Recovering from extensive flooding — caused by a hurricane or other natural disaster – can be a stressful situation for everyone, especially home owners. Once the waters recede, a home owner will need to take several steps to begin the water remediation and reconstruction process.

The 2017 NAHB Remodelers Chair Dan Bawden, president of Legal Eagle Contractors in Houston, has some answers to home owners’ frequently asked questions.

What things are important to document with pictures for insurance purposes?
Document all damaged surfaces and contents before you do any remediation. Specifically, take pictures of the water level at is highest (or the high-water line) inside all of the rooms and around outside of the home. Take photos of damaged furniture, where the water line got to on all appliances, including the washer, dryer and water heater. Document what floor material you have in each room. Take photos of all lower cabinets and document the type(s) of countertops. Take pictures of your vehicles and any flooded outdoor structures.

Who should remove the wet stuff from inside my home?
If you can cut the carpet into small pieces and lug it out to the curb yourself, do so. Do the same with soggy furniture pieces, clothing and items you can manage. Do not remove the sheetrock and insulation yourself, as you might remove more than is necessary, which would add to the costs of the rebuild.

Handling these materials also puts your skin in contact with potentially toxic floodwater. This water wicks up into the insulation in your outside walls. If the mold has started to appear inside or outside the walls, use of a respirator mask — a real one, not the paper ones — and gloves are a must.

If you cannot manage to do this removal work on your own and have no church or other volunteer group to help you, keep the air conditioning running as cold as possible and wait for the remediation company.

How do I find a water remediation company?
Ask your homeowners insurance agent for a list of names. If you search online, always check to see if they are members of the Better Business Bureau and read their customer reviews before signing a contract. Also, ask to have the company’s general liability insurance company email you a copy of the insurance certificate with your name placed as the loss payee at the bottom left. If it can’t do this, do not use the company.

Is my homeowners insurance going to pay for any of this?
Homeowners insurance will only for non-flood related damage such as structural or roof damage. If water actively flowed through your home, there may be structural damage to the framing. You will have to hire an engineer to prove the cause of the damage.

People keep knocking on my door offering to remove the carpet and sheetrock. How do I know if they are professionals?
Professional remediators should not be coming to your home unsolicited. Hiring them puts you at very high risk that the work will not be done properly, or worse. Before you hire a contractor, do some research. Find out firms that have a permanent business address and a good reputation. Insist on a complete and clearly written contract. Ask for references and do not pay cash up front.