Congratulations, you have coverage.
Let’s get drying. A quality restoration company will moisture map your home to determine what is wet and what is savable. This helps in developing a drying plan to start getting you back to preloss condition “Like it never even happened." Pictures will be taken (with your permission) to document the damage for the insurance company. Over the past 17 years SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac has developed relationships with nearly all insurance companies and their adjusters in western Michigan. They know and trust us and we know them and what they need.
We have national contracts with many of the insurance companies and know exactly what they require to quickly settle a loss. We use their estimating software and price lists so there is never a problem with the price we invoice to the insurance company. Because some insurance companies have specific forms, we have I-pads with the forms pre-loaded if we meet you on site. In west Michigan losses often occur in seasonal homes (or you may be a snowbird soaking up the sun down south). We can mail, fax, or email the forms for you or your representative to sign and return.
Determining the “type” of water damage is critical to before any work is started. The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration (IICRC) has written a standard of care (S-500) which is recognized nationally as the drying standard. You should ask your restoration company if they are IICRC certified and follow the S-500. The S-500 lists 3 types of water damage, Category 1, 2, and 3 depending on the source of water. Category 1 water originates from a clean water source which is usually a broken pipe, water supply line, toilet bowl breakage, washing machine supply line, sink overflows, etc. This water is not considered to pose a substantial risk to human health. If materials affected by Category 1 water are dryable, they can be saved.
Category 2 water contains significant contamination and has the potential to cause discomfort or sickness if contacted or consumed by humans. This water can come from discharge from dishwasher or washing machine, toilet bowl overflows (without solids), broken aquariums, leaking water beds, fire suppression systems, or ground water coming through walls or floor. Items wet with Category 2 water that cannot be cleaned should be discarded. This would include carpet pad, drywall, and some contents.
Category 3 water is grossly contaminated and contains harmful agents that can cause serious illness if consumed by humans. This water category includes sewage and toilet overflows from beyond the trap (with or without solids). All forms of surface flooding from outside the structure are considered Category 3 due to the possibility of contamination from silt, organic matter, pesticides, heavy metals, regulated materials or toxic organic substances (you never know what your neighbor has stored behind his garage).
Many insurance companies have limits on if and how much Category 3 losses are covered depending on where the loss originated. If it came from a septic or city sewer back up losses may be limited. If it originated from inside the structure from an overflow or broken pipe you should be fine. Once they determine the category of water, the restoration company will know what can be cleaned and dried and what must be discarded. Any item discarded must be documented and photographed. The insurance company is going to want to know what they are paying to replace.
So now that we know what type of water damage it is what happens next?
See our next blog for the answer to that question.
What is subrogation
Subrogation comes from the Latin word subrogoree which means “to substitute”. In the insurance world it is used to substitute one insurance company for another. Assume you hire a plumbing company to change your bathroom sink and they forget to tighten a fitting. If this fitting later springs a leak and floods your home, the plumbing company may be liable for all damages. This substitution would involve sending the claim to the plumber’s insurance company. Often your insurance company will pay the claim and then send the bill to the plumbers company to get their money back. Or sometimes the other insurance company will just handle the claim directly.
SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac employees are certified in subrogation and can help document subrogation claims so they do not cost you any money or affect your future rates. Subrogation claims can also originate from failed equipment or installation. If an appliance, water heater, or furnace fails or causes damage, the loss can sometimes be transferred to the manufacturer or installer. It is important that all details of subrogation claims be properly documented and all evidence protected.
Make sure all contractors that you hire to work on your home are licensed and insured or you may be liable for damages they cause. For example, if you hire someone to shovel your roof and they or one of their employees falls off the roof and gets hurt, you may be liable if they are uninsured. Or if they damage the roof, your insurance company may deny the claim. As you can see, the simple question of who is paying the claim can be quite complicated to answer. Always make sure you have an experienced agent to help get you into the right policy for your circumstances. If you have questions you can always call your agent or the professionals at SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac.
Once coverage is determined what is the next step?
See our next blog for the answer that that question.
So you had a “Water Loss”?
So you had a “Water Loss”?
The first question we get from customers who have had a claim is what is the process?
The first steps are obvious, prevent further damage by removing the source of water.
- Turn off the water supply at the street or well
- If there is a broken pipe, call a plumber to cap a line or repair a leak
- Clean the sewer line or get the septic tank pumped if it is a sewage backup
- Clear the snow and ice to relieve an ice dam.
- Verify that the sump pump is working if ground water is entering the structure
- Remove ice or snow buildup outside the building to divert water away from the structure
- Clean or repair the roof gutters to divert water away from the building
- Call a roofer to patch a leaking roof or skylight
The most important question from every homeowner is do I have coverage? The only person who is qualified to answer that question is the adjuster assigned to the loss by the insurance company. SERVPRO cannot make that determination, the agent cannot, your nosey neighbor or mother-in-law cannot, and the internet darn sure cannot. The adjuster will either inspect the loss or interview you to find out what caused the loss. He will then read the policy to see if it covers that specific event. Most policies cover broken pipes or ice dams but many do not cover sewage backup or groundwater intrusion. Where the water originated is important and the adjuster will need to document the cause.
Your policy is a contract between you and your insurance company that spells out specifically what coverage you are paying for and under what conditions they will pay. For example, your policy usually will cover a frozen pipe but specifically states that you are covered only if you “maintain heat”. If you don’t pay your gas bill or let the propane tank go empty, the coverage is voided. The adjuster (insurance company) will often require that you send them copies of your heating invoices for the last 2 months to prove that you maintained heat if the loss occurs in the winter.
Some policies also require that you occupy the home and refuse to cover the loss if you left for several months to stay at a seasonal home or sometimes even if you were hospitalized or in a nursing home. Other coverage problems can arise if you use the home as a rental property but do not buy that type of policy. You must read your policy and talk to your agent to make sure the coverage you purchased is exactly what you need or want. Your agent is an expert on the various policies and should steer you into the coverage you need after asking you questions on how you use the home. And remember to update your policy as circumstances change.
Check out our next blog to understand how you can sometimes get coverage without your insurance company paying.
Baby It's Cold Outside
With the below zero temperatures and wind chills these past weekends, SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac has received multiple calls for frozen and burst water pipes. As you know, it is easier to prevent these things than to fix them so here are a few tips from your friends at SERVPRO.
Pay attention to the wind direction. A cold north wind will drive the cold through the north facing walls of your home much faster than the same temperatures with no wind. If you have pipes in the walls facing the wind direction pay close attention to them. Consider opening the base cabinet’s doors to allow warmer room air to reach your pipes. Inspect the insulation or heat wraps carefully for openings or damage in areas prone to freezing.
Running a small stream of water can also help prevent freezing particularly if you are on city sewer lines. You must be very careful running water if you have a septic tank however. You cannot run more water into a septic tank than can drain away through the drain field without it backing up and causing major problems. Add no snow cover, which means frozen ground, and the potential for backups becomes much greater. Running water for a few hours a day or a small stream will probably not cause any issues, but a large stream for a long time can cause problems.
Do you have a well pit outside? Many older homes still do and with the lack of snow cover to insulate the pits, they can freeze. Consider some dry straw covered with a tarp (wet stray has no insulation properties). A simple light bulb will often provide enough heat to solve the freezing problems. Hint: check the light regularly to insure it is still functioning. Remember to remove the hose from the frost free hose bib on your home to allow it to drain and prevent it from freezing and flooding your basement.
Some of the old school energy hints are very effective on helping keep your home warm and saving money. Clear plastic on the windows will prevent drafts and keep the room much warmer. If you have curtains and window dressing, keep them closed when it is really cold outside and the sun is not shining. (Think Michigan in winter) Close off unused rooms especially if there are no water lines in the room. Seal drafts with caulk, rugs, or weather stripping.
If you do have a frozen pipe, thaw it with a hair drier or some non-combustible heat source. Many fires are started every year with homeowners trying to thaw pipes with space heaters, torches, or other improper heat sources. If you must leave the home with frozen pipes remember to shut off the water supply in case the line thaws or bursts flooding the home. These really can be “do it yourself” fixes but be careful that you don’t cause larger problems.
Do you need your air ducts cleaned?
That is a good question. A better questions isn’t do you need them cleaned, but should you get them cleaned? The National Air Duct Cleaning Association (NADCA) says probably not, and that is what they do for a living. SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac does air duct cleaning. And we do it well. But a lot of duct cleaners don’t do it well, which is the main reason NADCA does not recommend annual duct cleaning. If not done properly, cleaning the ducts can cause more problems than it solves.
Without proper training and equipment, cleaning the ducts can damage the lining of the ductwork, and actually reduce the air quality in your home. There are definite advantages to having the HVAC system cleaned including increased air conditioner and furnace efficiency due to increased air flow. Cleaning the ductwork can decrease offensive odors from smoking or cooking, reduce mold growth if you had a moisture problem, and improve respiratory health by removing contaminates. It can also spread all of these contaminates and odors to your home if not done properly.
According to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association, the following are the seven most common reasons to have your ducts cleaned:
- Someone in your family suffers from asthma or allergies
- You have evidence of rodents and animal infestation
- Following new construction or remodeling
- After damage due to fire or flooding
- You have someone who smokes indoors
- You have a high volume of pets that shed frequently
- You just bought the home and don’t know if any of the above are true
A strong argument could be made that most of these reasons could be prevented by regularly changing your filters. It is the filters job to keep this stuff out of your ducts. A good quality ($15) big box store filter will keep most allergens, dust, pet dander, and debris out of your HVAC system. Be careful to match the MERV rating on your furnace. Going to a higher MERV filter can burn out the blower motor and require costly repairs. You can find the MERV rating on your furnace information sheet or ask your furnace repairman when he does the annual inspection.
Vacuum your home regularly. The carpet in your home is a giant filter that does a great job of collecting and holding dirt, dust, dander, and lots of things you don’t want to be breathing. You need to remove that stuff before it gets back up in the air with regular vacuuming. A good quality vacuum with an agitator (beater bar) will do the best job. Swifting and damp mopping the hard surfaces will also capture a large amount of debris and keep them out of the ducts.
If you did a good job of staying on top of maintaining your furnace filters, kept your home clean by vacuuming and dusting often, and don’t have any of the seven “triggers”, you probably don’t need your ducts cleaned. But if you do, please give the cleaning experts at SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac a call and schedule an inspection.
Tis the Season
Halloween is over: Thanksgiving is over: heck, even deer season is over, and Christmas is fast approaching. SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac had our first call of a flooded home due to frozen pipes this weekend. "Tis the season".
People of Michigan (Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac), you know it can get cold this time of year.
- Have you taken the time to walk around your home looking for possible issues?
- Just a quick walk could save you a lot of money and a lot of hassle.
- Have you removed the hose from the frost free hydrant?
- If you didn't, it cannot drain, and it will freeze and possibly break, flooding your basement.
- Are your gutters clean and working properly?
- If not, they can cause issues even in the winter
- Is the snow melting off your roof in strange places?
- You may have missing or damaged insulation that can cause ice dams or expensive heat loss raising your heating bills.
- Are the icicles huge?
- You know that is a problem and indicates ventilation problems that can cause ice dams. They could also be caused by missing or damaged insulation. Squirrels and rodents can make a mess if they get in the attic.
- Did you check the propane tank level?
- Do you know the propane company "keep full" agreement is void if the road isn't plowed or a fallen tree blocks it and they can't deliver gas?
- Have you changed the battery in your furnace thermostat?
- If it is not hardwired to the home wiring, the furnace will shut off if the 9 volt battery dies and your home will get very cold.
- Have you marked your driveway for the snowplow driver?
- He needs to know where your drain field, sprinkler heads, outdoor hydrants, or other potential issues are located.
- Consider turning the water off (well or street valve) if you are going to be away from home for an extended period.
- Remember to turn the power off the water heater off if you drain the tank to prevent burning out the coils or heating elements.
- If you burn wood, did you clean the chimney?
- Thousands of fires are caused every year by dirty chimneys or stove pipes.
- Try to only burn seasoned and dry wood
- Be careful about burning paper and highly combustible materials.
- How about the pellet stove?
- We get many calls every winter with wood, pellet, or gas stoves that "puff back" and soot up the home because they haven't been maintained. You must clean these stoves regularly. And make sure you empty the shop vacuum after every cleaning. Hot ashes can and will start a fire in the vacuum or ash bucket. NEVER leave the ashes “out on the porch” for the same reason.
- Remember to be careful using temporary heaters.
- They cause many fires every winter. These fires range from the heaters not far enough away from combustible materials, heaters tipping over, improper or damaged cords, or undersized wiring.
- Be careful if you enjoy a natural Christmas tree.
- Keep it watered.
- Never use candles near the tree.
- Inspect the lights and replace any damaged cords.
- Don’t leave cords where they can be a tripping hazard
- Don’t put cords under rugs or anything that can cause them to overheat
- Make sure you have a clear escape route from any room in case of a fire
- Go over and practice the route and escape plan with any children in the home.
- Have a fire extinguisher handy.
You checked all the above? Great! Did you check your mom’s house, or grandma’s house, or your friend’s cabin who lets you use it in the summer? Many of the calls we get are seasonal homes where a small problem gets really big really quickly when nobody is checking to see if the toilet is overflowing, or furnace quits, or power is out. We have seen thousands of dollars of damage caused by someone breaking into a home to steal a half bottle of liquor. The thief then leaves with the broken window to drain the propane or fuel oil tank, freezing the pipes, and flooding the home.
Make a habit of checking to see if smoke is coming out of the chimney, check for broken windows or open doors, check for tracks in the driveway, or even fogged up windows. Remind the owners to consider turning off the water when not at home or even fully winterizing the cottage.
You know we are happy when you call us to help you or your neighbors, but a lot of those problems are preventable, and we are just fine if you prevent them. We are also sure your friends at your local insurance agency would appreciate you taking a few minutes to check the above list. If you need help, go ahead and call the friendly technicians at SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac and we promise not to say, “We warned you.”
“Tis the Season”
Who to call if you have visible mold
If you see visible mold in your home, do you need to call a hygienist? That is a classic “depends” question. Do you have “at risk” people living there? At risk includes:
- (1) very old--immune systems breaking down,
- (2) very young--immune systems not fully developed,
- (3) very sick--immune system disorders, on chemo, have organ transplants, or have AIDS
- (4) someone in the home is pregnant
If you answered yes to any of the above, you may want to consider a hygienist.
Are there legal issues or could someone be sued? An independent third party could be useful in that case. This often occurs in a renter/landlord situation. Are you selling your home and need documentation that the home is safe to live in? Was the water problem caused by someone who may be liable (subrogated) and forced to pay for the cleanup? If none of the above apply you probably do not need to pay for a hygienist.
If you have visible mold, you also have a water problem. The first thing you need to do is address the water problem. You cannot do mold remediation if the source of the problem has not been addressed. Most mold guarantees imply: “We guarantee your mold problem will be back if you do not address the moisture issues”. Usually this involves fixing the roof leak, dripping pipe, groundwater intrusion, or some other event causing the affected area to get wet and stay wet for at least 48-72 hours. Once the area is dry (below 16%) mold remediation can start.
A second time a hygienist could be useful is after the mold has been removed. It is a conflict of interest and illegal in most states for a mold remediation contractor to test his own work. An independent third party hygienist is often called at this time. However, the national guidelines state that successful mold remediation involves “no visible mold and dust free”. Note that it does not require clearance testing. Testing is always an option but isn’t usually necessary unless someone living in the home meets the “At Risk” definitions in the first paragraph or legal issues in the second paragraph.
If you have mold issues, it is best to just let the professionals at SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington and Cadillac make it "Like it never even happened."
A big shout out to SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac's Scottville crews of David, Victoria, Donnie, Cody, Johnathon. They spent most of last week in full PPE (Tyvek suits, rubber suits, boots, gloves, and full-face respirators) under a local home after a sewage spill flooded the crawlspace. The job involved scooping the "solids and liquids" into pails, sliding them on a sled to the access door, and transferring them to goose neck bags for proper disposal. Working all day on your knees in a crawlspace filled with sewage is not fun but they did a great job making the home safe for the owners and their children.
If you Google sewage you will get lots of advice on how to clean it up. It ranges from soaking it up with kitty litter, covering it with lime, covering it with plastic and dirt, and a whole list of fixes that are just dangerous. I'm sure if you look far enough someone will even have a recipe for mixing white vinegar and baking soda to make it as good as new. Nope. Two words, source removal. You must get it out of there. Hire a septic cleaning company to pump out any standing water. You can do it yourself if you have access to a sanitary sewer to properly dispose of the sewage water. Note: it is illegal to put it down the storm sewer. If you get caught, it will be expensive.
Once the standing water is gone, the feces and solids must be mucked out and disposed of properly. Be careful who you hire for this portion of the project. Make sure the company you hire is insured and requires their employees to wear safety gear (PPE). If the employees get sick or injured, you could be liable for any costs. The solids must be also be disposed of properly. Some cut-rate businesses have been known to toss the sewage in the woods and ditches. Again, you are liable if your sewage is disposed of improperly. Once the solids have been removed, you will also need to remove at least some of the contaminated soil.
Replace it with fresh sand and apply an EPA registered disinfectant to retard bacterial and microbial growth. Place a fresh layer of 6 mill black plastic over the affected area and clean any splashes off the structural portions of the home. You are now ready to dry the structure. Dehumidifiers and air movers may require returning the walls, floors, and joists to preloss condition and dry to below 16% moisture content to prevent mold growth.
As with any disaster time is critical. If you smell any unusual odors coming from your homes' crawlspace, check it out immediately. Then call the professionals at SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac to make it "Like it never even happened".
Are you aware if you have flood insurance coverage?
Do you need to buy National Flood Insurance from the NFIP (FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program) if you live in Western Michigan?
If you have a flood, your home insurance is probably not going to cover anything. Most home policies covering water damage require that the source of the water originate inside the structure. If ground water comes up from the floor or through the walls you are probably not covered. If it runs down your driveway and into your new egress window into the basement bedroom, no coverage. If it bubbles up from the city sewer, no coverage. If your sump pump quits and groundwater floods your basement, probably no coverage (unless you bought a limited sump pump policy rider).
There are a few exceptions. Often the homeowner’s policy covers sewage back up if it comes from your septic tank system (some policies consider the tank, drain field, and lines part of the homes plumbing). A few sump pump policies will cover you from sewer backups on your portion of the line to the city system. Read your policy carefully. You should have coverage if a tree falls on your home and damages the roof or high winds damage the home and allows rain to enter. Ice dams are usually covered. Other than these few exceptions the answer is usually “no coverage”.
According to FEMA, the average cost of one inch of water in your home approaches $25,000. USA Today says only 10-20% of North Carolina coastal homes and less than 3% state wide have flood insurance. The main reason obviously is cost. A policy in a high-risk area can easily exceed $10,000 a year. This cost is established by the government based on the risk assessment maps produced by FEMA. Much of western Michigan has been mapped and you can view your area by entering your address at the FEMA Flood Map Service Center. Most of our area is listed minimal or low risk of flooding which drastically reduces the annual premiums.
But flooding can and does happen. According to FEMA more than 20% of flood claims come from properties outside high-risk flood zones. If you live in a marginal flooding area of western Michigan, SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac recommends that you check the pricing on these low risk area policies. And please, read the policy carefully to determine exactly what is and is not covered. Also, do not hesitate to contact your local homeowner’s insurance agent and get his advice on protecting what is probably your most valuable asset.
Far too often SERVPRO of Manistee, Ludington, and Cadillac gets called to help flooded homeowners in Western Michigan and we must tell them to call their agent, but that they probably do not have coverage. Don't let that happen to you.
The most helpful resource tool
Did you know that 50% of businesses never re-open following a disaster? SERVPRO offers a no cost, no obligation service called an Emergency Ready Profile or an ERP. This proactive resource tool is to better prepare yourself, home & business for any of life's unexpected disasters. When you make the choice to have an ERP done on your business or home, one of our marketing representatives will walk through your business with one of your trusted employees. Your employee will show our marketer where all of your major shut offs are located and all contact information for the company. This 14-page portfolio will allow the SERVPRO employees to answer most questions on whereabouts for things, complete with descriptions to the shut locations and accompanied by pictures. This folder will also have work authorization contact info, insurance information and any other special regards that will help SERVPRO in the event of a disaster. When the ERP is presented, the marketer will also walk the representative from your company through downloading our free app that will already have all of this important information uploaded onto it. An ERP is an essential tool to help when life throws one of their unexpected disasters at you.