The following are some FAQs that we hope will help.

Q. My home has just suffered damage, whom should I contact?

It is a good idea to contact your homeowner’s insurance company and inform them of the damage. Then, call a certified insurance restoration professional. You should read your insurance policy to know what your coverage limits are. Ultimately though, you will decide which contractor to use.

Q. How do I choose a contractor capable of handling my home’s damage? Is any “handyman” capable of repairing my home?

Not all contractors are familiar with insurance restoration. It is wise to contact a certified & insured contractor who specializes in restoration. This contractor should be able to identify restorable & non-restorable items, and items not affected by the loss at all. A restoration contractor is familiar with how insurance claims are handled, and will work with your insurance company to get your home back to original condition quickly, and with attention to detail. You should request copies of insurance certificates (with you listed as an additional insured), and cleaning and restoration certifications.

Q. My home was just damaged by water. What should I do to prevent further damage?

Make sure the area is safe, and evacuate if necessary before calling your insurance company and an insurance restoration professional. You should call a restoration professional quickly, because the water can spread to additional areas. Avoid walking on affected areas. Also, if left for a period of time, mold & mold-forming bacteria can begin to spread. The longer a damaged home is left before treatment begins, the further damage will occur, in greater areas of the home.

Q. My home was just damaged by water. Should I leave my belongings and furniture in place so the insurance claims people can see my home as it is?

Call your insurance company first, but then move belongings and furniture from the affected areas as quickly as possible to prevent further water damage to belongings and staining of carpets and floors. If you are able, move your belongings to a dry, unaffected area. Most carpets can be saved and restored if restoration starts within 12-24 hours of the water occurrence.

Q. My home was just damaged by fire, what should I do to prevent further damage?

It is most important that the area is made safe. Evacuate if necessary before calling your insurance company and an insurance restoration professional. Do not walk through the building in case there have been structural damages that might cause further collapse or injury. Depending on the extent of damage, the house may still be live able. It is important to contact a restoration professional quickly, because the longer smoke & soot stay in the home, the more difficult it will be to clean and deodorize. Also, do not attempt to clean the fire or smoke damage yourself. Restoration professionals have scientific methods used to specifically clean different types of damages on different types of surfaces. You might make the cleaning job more difficult by using improper or incorrect methods.

Water Damage

Q. MY HOUSE IS FLOODED! SHOULD I CALL MY INSURANCE COMPANY FIRST?

No. As a matter of fact, your insurance company would prefer you call a water damage restoration company to begin water cleanup and fix water damage as soon as possible. The faster our crews arrive, the more destruction we can prevent, which decreases restoration costs and protects your home from further house flood damage. You still want to call your insurance company to make a claim, but you should not wait for an adjuster to arrive before calling a professional company to fix water damage.

Q. HOW DOES THE WATER DAMAGE RESTORATION PROCESS WORK?

Water repair or water cleanup is a multi-phase process. The first step is to remove all standing water from flooring, wet carpet and other affected materials. Once the water is removed, dehumidifiers and other specialized equipment are used to dry the areas. This can take multiple days, depending on the amount of water and spaces involved. After the process is complete, we use moisture meters and thermal imaging cameras (when applicable) to make sure your home is thoroughly dry. Fixing water damage may also involve drywall removal, carpet cleaning, wood floor repair, odor control, air duct cleaning and mold removal.

Q. HOW LONG SHOULD WATER CLEANUP TAKE?

Full restoration consists of two major phases. The first, mitigation, consists of demolition, cleaning and drying out the structure and belongings. This phase usually takes no more than 3 – 4 days. The second phase, repairs, can range from a few days to a couple of weeks depending on the degree of damage and lead time of materials such as carpeting, cabinets, or other flooring materials. Your Bellwether project manager will work closely with you and your insurance company to develop a full timeline for your mitigation and repairs so that your property is back to normal as quickly as possible.

Q. WHAT CERTIFICATIONS DOES BELLWETHER HOLD FOR HOUSE FLOOD WATER DAMAGE RESTORATION?

The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) provides a specific set of standards for fixing water damage. According to the IICRC S500, water damage repair should only be done by experienced and trained technicians that will promptly and professionally fix water damage from a house flood according to IICRC standards.

Q. HOW MUCH DOES IS COST TO FIX WATER DAMAGE?

The cost of water damage cleanup depends on the size of the flooded area and amount of time needed to handle the water repair. If your insurance policy covers water damage restoration, you are typically only responsible for the deductible. Because water can move so quickly and be extremely destructive, if not promptly removed with the right equipment, there can be even bigger problems like mold growth and even structural damage. When done properly, fixing water damage can take several days and many man-hours to complete, which have varying costs.

Q. WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT CATEGORIES OF WATER?
  • Clean water – poses no harm to people. This includes water damage caused by a sink or bathtub overflow or an appliance malfunction, such as a water heater or washing machine.
  • Gray water – can cause harm and illness to people. This category includes water that has a significant amount of contamination, which can be chemical, physical and/or biological.
  • Black water – can cause severe illness to people. Black water is very unsanitary and contains pathogenic agents coming from other contaminated water sources. Black water can come from seawater, ground surface water and sewage backups.
Q. CAN FLOOD DAMAGE OR WATER CAUSE MOLD?

Water flood damage certainly has the potential to cause mold growth. Because mold thrives in moist environments, any place that is wet (and especially humid) is a perfect place for mold to grow. If you ignore the moisture, mold can begin to grow within 24-48 hours. It’s very important to take immediate action when you experience house flood damage of any type!

Q. WHAT ARE THE MAJOR CAUSES OF FLOOD DAMAGE AND WATER DAMAGE?

House flood water damage can be caused by a variety of factors, requiring you to find a reliable company to fix water damage. Some of these include heavy rain storms, burst or leaky pipes and malfunctioning appliances. House floods can also occur as a result of roof leaks and from defective gutters and downspouts which can cause water damage in your basement or crawlspace.

Q. CAN WATER DAMAGE BE HIDDEN? IF SO, WHAT ARE THE SIGNS?

Some signs of hidden house flood water damage include peeling paint and wallpaper, visible mold, moisture and condensation, musty odors, and moisture or dampness in your carpet or other flooring.

Fire Damage

Q. What can I clean on my own?

A: It’s frustrating waiting around with all that devastation in front of you, but most people don’t have the training, equipment, or cleaning products to deal with the situation. Trying to clean something by yourself can have the opposite effect and ruin something that could have been salvaged by an expert. While you wait for a restoration team to arrive, sort through items as much as possible and set aside items that should be considered top priorities for restoration. Fragile, expensive items such as computers and TVs must be restored sooner than everyday dishes. This will help the technicians know where to start when they arrive.

Q. How long will restoration take?

A: The length of time depends on the extent of the damage and the complexity of the restoration. A fire in a single room will take less time to restore than an entire floor, while a contemporary building that doesn’t have to comply with historical neighborhood codes or require hard to find replacement items will be completed sooner.

Q. Will I have to move out during restoration?

A: It depends on the extent of the damage. You won’t be able to stay in a home that has sustained extensive damage, lacks structural stability, or has no utilities. If the fire was contained to a single room, you may be able to stay, depending on the smell, the sounds of fire damage restoration work, and other concerns. Someone who works at home may not be able to deal with construction tool sounds and paint smells all day. Ultimately, it’s up to you and the restoration company.

Q. What items should I keep with me if I have to leave after a fire?

A: Be sure to keep valuables and items that will be difficult to replace easily in your possession. You may have to leave your home due to structural instability, and you don’t want to leave things like these to the mercy of criminals:

  • Cash and checkbooks;
  • Medications;
  • Important personal documents;Valuable collections, such as artwork, or coins.
Q. Do I have to pack up my belongings?

A: We prefer to restore items on-site as much as possible. Sometimes that’s not an option; an item may be too damaged, or the building may not be structurally sound enough to safely allow our employees to work there. In situations like these, we will carefully inventory any items we remove from the premises, and pack-out and transport them to our secure facility for restoration. Occasionally there are high-value items, such as artwork, that require the services of a dedicated specialist for restoration. In these situations, we’ll work with your insurance company to find a qualified specialist to take the project.

Q. Will I have access to my items if they’re at your facility?

A: Of course! We realize sometimes you need access to documents, clothing, and other important items, especially when dealing with a disaster like a fire. Sometimes it happens that the items you need are being stored in our secure facility. With advance notice, we can schedule one of our helpful technicians to help you access your items quickly and efficiently. A nominal service charge may apply.

Q. I have to inventory the non-restorable items for the insurance company. How do I do that?

A: You don’t need to go into great detail; list the quantity of the lost item, the name, year purchased, and an estimate on price. For example:

2  16 ounce boxes     Corn Flakes     2017      $5.00

1                                    Yoga Mat        2014      $30.00

This helps the insurance company estimate your losses for the claim. It’s important to remember all your losses after a fire, even for small things like dishes and toothbrushes, because you need all of these items and they need to be replaced. Be sure to keep a copy of the inventory for yourself.

Q. When is it safe to turn on the furnace/air conditioning again?

A: Never turn on the furnace or AC until it’s been thoroughly checked by an HVAC technician. The system could have been damaged by the fire without your knowledge, and using it can cause new problems. You also want to be sure the system won’t pump soot and smoke through your home.

Mold

Q. WHAT IS MOLD?

Molds are fungi that can be found both indoors and outdoors. No one knows how many species of fungi exist but estimates range from tens of thousands to perhaps three hundred thousand or more. Mold grows best in warm, damp, and humid conditions and spreads and reproduces by making spores. Mold spores can survive harsh environmental conditions, even dry conditions that do not support normal mold growth.

Q. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE KINDS OF INDOOR MOLD?
  • Cladosporium
  • Penicillium
  • Alternaria
  • Aspergillus
Q. HOW DOES MOLD OR MILDEW AFFECT PEOPLE?

Some people are sensitive to mold or mildew. For these people, exposure to mold or mildew can cause symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation. Some people, such as those with serious allergies to molds, may have more severe reactions like fever and shortness of breath.

Q. CONSIDER THESE FACTS:
  • In 2004 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found there was sufficient evidence to link indoor mold or mildew exposure with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheezing in otherwise healthy people.
  • The IOM also found suggestive evidence linking indoor mold or mildew exposure to respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children.
  • In 2009, the World Health Organization issued additional research in the WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality: Dampness and Mould that addresses the causes and risks of poor indoor air quality.
  • Other recent studies have suggested a potential link of early mold or mildew exposure to development of asthma in some children.
Q. I FOUND MOLD OR MILDEW GROWING IN MY HOME. HOW DO I TEST IT?

Generally, it is not necessary to identify the species of mold or mildew growing in a residence, and CDC does not recommend routine sampling for mold or mildew. Current evidence indicates that allergies are the type of diseases most often associated with mold or mildew. Since the susceptibility of individuals can vary greatly either because of the amount or type of mold or mildew, sampling and culturing are not reliable in determining your health risk. If you are susceptible to mold or mildew and mold or mildew is seen or smelled, there is a potential health risk; therefore, no matter what type of mold or mildew is present, you should arrange for its removal. Furthermore, reliable sampling for mold or mildew can be expensive, and standards for judging what is and what is not an acceptable or tolerable quantity of mold or mildew have not been established.

Q. AN ENVIRONMENTAL LAB TOOK SAMPLES OF THE MOLD IN MY HOME. CAN CDC INTERPRET THESE RESULTS?

Standards for judging what is an acceptable, tolerable or normal quantity of mold have not been established. If you do decide to pay for environmental sampling for mold, before the work starts, you should ask the consultants who will do the work about criteria for interpreting the test results. They should tell you in advance what they will do, or what recommendations they will make, based on the sampling results. The results of samples taken in your unique situation cannot be interpreted without physical inspection of the contaminated area or without considering the factors that led to the mold growth.

Q. MY LANDLORD OR BUILDER WILL NOT TAKE ANY RESPONSIBILITY FOR CLEANING UP THE MOLD IN MY HOME. WHAT CAN I DO?

If you feel your property owner, landlord, or builder has not been responsive to concerns you’ve expressed regarding mold or mildew exposure, you can contact your local board of health or housing authority. Applicable codes, insurance, inspection, legal, and similar issues about mold generally fall under state and local (not federal) jurisdiction. You can also contact your county or state health department about mold issues in your area to learn about what mold assessment and remediation services they may offer. You can find information on your state’s Indoor Air Quality program at http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/airpollution/indoor_air.htm.

Q. I’M SURE THAT MOLD IN MY WORKPLACE IS MAKING ME SICK.

If you believe you are ill because of exposure to mold in the building where you work, you should first consult your health care provider to determine the appropriate action to take to protect your health. Notify your employer and, if applicable, your union representative about your concern so that your employer can take action to clean up and prevent mold growth. To find out more about mold, remediation of mold or mildew, or workplace safety and health guidelines and regulations, you may also want to contact your local city, county, or state health department.

You should also read the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Guidelines, Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings, at http://www.epa.gov/mold/mold_remediation.html.

Q. I AM VERY CONCERNED ABOUT MOLD OR MILDEW IN MY CHILDREN’S SCHOOL AND HOW IF AFFECTS THEIR HEALTH.

If you believe your children are ill because of exposure to mold or mildew in their school, first consult their health care provider to determine the appropriate medical action to take. Contact the school’s administration to express your concern and to ask that they remove the mold or mildew and prevent future mold or mildew growth. If needed, you could also contact the local school board.

CDC is not a regulatory agency and does not have enforcement authority in local matters. Your local health department may also have information on mold, and you may want to get in touch with your state Indoor Air Quality office. Information on this office is available at http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/airpollution/indoor_air.htm.

You can also read the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines, Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings, at http://www.epa.gov/mold/mold_remediation.html.

Storm Damage

Q. How do I know if my property or roof was damaged by a storm?

Simple. Call the experts at Bellwether and schedule a FREE property inspection.  We can quickly and easily identify any storm damage to your property or roof.

Most property owners cannot see roof damage from the ground from storm related events such as hail or wind. Hail damage to roofing structures needs to be inspected by trained professionals.

A Bellwether Project Manager will conduct a free inspection and take photos of all damage, prepare proper scope of damages, estimate at fair market pricing and in a professional format that insurance company and/or insurance assessor will understand.

A Bellwether Project Manager will also meet any adjuster and/or other building contractors at your property to provide any ladders, photos, estimates that the insurance assessor requires to get your insurance claim and the scope of works approved. Additionally, we will make sure all items that are damaged by storm get covered by your insurance company and complete repairs at no out-of-pocket expense to the property owner.

Q. How do I file an insurance claim for storm damage?

If storm damage is found by an Bellwether Project Manager during your free inspection, you simply call your insurance company to file a claim.

File a claim for the storm damage that occurred to your property and the date of storm or catastrophic event. Please make note of your claim number and contact and notify us so we can send in our photos, scope and estimate to your insurance company.

Q. Will filing a claim cost me money?

No.

The insurance company is paying for your restoration due to storm damage. The only cost to you is your excess. The company actually doing the work will charge the excess.

Q. Will filing a claim raise my insurance rates or cause my insurance company to cancel my coverage?

No.  A claim filed as a result of hail, wind, and/or lightening is considered an “Act of God” claim.

That is to say, there was no way you could have prevented the damages to your property.  Insurance companies cannot raise your individual rates as a result of such a claim. Premium increases are based across a whole region, city or state of thousands of claims being filed for the same storm or catastrophic event, not individually.

Q. What if my insurance company sends out a “preferred contractor” versus an insurance adjuster to review the scope of my damage?

A Bellwether Project Manager will meet any insurance adjuster and/or building contractor at your property to review the scope and estimate.

Your insurance company will either schedule a time for an insurance adjuster or another building contractor to come out and inspect and assess your damage. The adjuster will call you to schedule a time that works for you. It is important you schedule a specific time to meet this adjuster. If possible, take down the adjuster’s name and contact number. While some builders and adjusters work for the insurance company, Bellwether works directly for the property owner. We don’t take short cuts, nor are we bonused for additional work from the insurance company by trying to keep the amount of the claim low. Our goal is to get all storm damage related repairs looked at and fixed and covered by the insurance company through this process.

Q. What if my adjuster or building contractor estimate is lower than the RFC initial estimate? Do I have to use the contractor sent by the insurance company?

No you do not.

If you have already decided on hiring Bellwether Restoration Services as your contractor, please inform your insurance company, claims manager and/or adjuster of your decision. You have the right to use whatever contractor you choose.

If the estimate provided by the insurance company or adjuster is lower than the initial RFC estimate, you need to request the scope of work that was used to determine that estimate form your insurance company.

Bellwether will match any fair market pricing of any builder or adjuster, as long as the scope of work is the same. For example, if the insurance company sent out a builder who forgot to include gutters, proper roof components, safety equipment and some damaged windows in their estimate, naturally their assessment would be lower. It is important to get a copy of this scope of work so that a proper comparison is made. If items that were estimated by Bellwether were not included in the insurance company’s assessment, then the property owner must request a variance for those items to then also be included.

If reasonable and fair market pricing is provided on the insurance company assessment and the scope is the same, then Bellwether would adjust any of their initial estimates to match the dollar amount being issued by the insurance company, which then allows us to live up to our guarantee of doing all properly scoped work for insurance proceeds, with no out of pocket expense to property owner (minus their excess amount).

Q. What if my insurance company or one of their preferred contractors tries to pressure me into a contract, or into agreeing to property assessment I feel is incomplete or interferes with me choosing my own contractor?

Again, you have the right to choose a contractor of your choosing and also get the work done at fair market pricing.

First, call the Claims Manager and file a complaint with a supervisor and/or manager of the insurance company.

If nothing gets resolved in 5 business days, contact Bellwether for further assistance filing a complaint.

Q. How do I request a cash settlement so I can begin repairs with a contractor of my choosing?

Before accepting a cash settlement, you must always first request a copy of the detailed scope of work from the insurance company’s adjuster that they are using to determine the value of the claim.

It is important for property owners to review this detailed scope of work and make sure that all items were properly noted and covered and that this amount allows for full repairs at fair market pricing. This must be done before accepting a cash settlement.

Once you accept cash settlement from the insurance company, you can then use those proceeds to enter into a formal building contract with Bellwether as your choice of contractor.

Bellwether has a variety of options including a 3rd party trust setup for the purpose of progress payment billing and convenience for the customer.

Q. Will I have to pay my excess?

Perhaps.

The insurance company is obligated to pay a fair market rate for the damages done to your home less the amount of your excess. If you choose to have all the damages your insurance company assess as damaged repaired you may have to pay your excess.  You may chose to use funds assigned to a less important part of the restoration to pay the excess (the work you are opting to shift funds from would then obviously not be done) thus reducing or eliminating your out-of-pocket expense.