Everyone likes first hand knowledge. So we were thinking... What do you do when your house floods or you incur other disasters like earthquakes, tornados or windstorms? So based on our own experiences when we lived thru Florida hurricanes, those of clients who have had damage from major storms ... plus the general advice we have read recently,... We offer this list of things to consider when disaster strikes.
1. First and Always... Ensure physical safety - everything else can be replaced - you can’t so don't put you nor anyone else in any type of jeopardy.
2. Take a deep breath. You are in a marathon now, not a sprint - everything will take much, much longer than you want it to. You will be dealing with the federal government (national flood) and they move at their own pace.
3. Take pictures - lots of pictures. Establish how high the water was inside and outside of your house. Take pictures of structural damage that is critical to the "building envelope" such as doors and windows. If a flood, you need to prove how deep the water was as part of your flood claim. Use a yardstick or ruler on the outside of your house to establish the high water mark. Make a written list of the main items that have occurred damage and with a date and time stamp.
4. Remember.... File your claim as quickly as you possibly can. You will need to get in line to meet with your insurance agent, adjustors and contractors.
5. Flood insurance will not reimburse you for loss of use, so any hotel or lodging expenses will be out of pocket. But you may be able to use the receipts from lodging against your taxes.
6. Save all receipts - all of them. One way is to to take pictures of all your receipts.
7. Order a POD or storage container to be delivered to the residence FAST as they will sell out fast since everyone one will need one that have to empty out rooms or entire homes.
8. As soon as the water recedes, start mitigating the damage. Shopvac out what water you can, remove the wet carpets, remove the baseboards and start removing wet sheetrock. Cut a line about 2 feet up the wall. The straighter you cut, the easier the rebuild will be. Bag debris/insulation etc and take it outside. Save a square of ruined carpet and ruined carpet pad for the insurance to verify replacement value - if you have multiple carpets, save multiple samples. - Your goal is to get anything wet out of your house so it can begin to dry. Don’t worry about removing glue down hardwoods, let the contractor handle that during the rebuild
9. Take pictures of any damage you see such as wet sheetrock, wet carpet, wet furniture, anything you want to claim - document. For contents, document individual items - each shirt, book, etc needs to be enumerated and documented for the claim - if you say 20 books on your claim, you need a photograph where 20 books can be individually accounted for - be exact and over detailed.
10. Be very careful about hiring “the experts” ...those companies that will bring in fans, etc and eat up a lot of your claim check by “drying” your house - once the walls are open, the studs will dry in time. Every dime you spend renting expensive blowers is money you can’t use towards granite countertops or tile upgrades when you rebuild. Fans, your air conditioner a dehumidifier from Home Depot will do the job. You can spray the studs with bleach as they dry out.
11. Be careful hiring contractors - ask for multiple references, ensure they use sub-contractors they know - they will be busy and be prepared to wait. We saw a huge influx of so-called contractors flooding in Florida after the hurricanes in 2006. And some were not licensed to perform any time of contracting work... just a tool box and a pickup truck.
12. Plastic storage tubs work better than cardboard boxes for storage of your undamaged stuff.
13. Wear a mask when you begin to dig around as mold and mildew will likely be an issue. Look for the tell tale signs of wood, sheetrock or other materials becoming black, grey or dark green. Those are sure signs of things growing.
14. Have a LOT of patience. Be very nice to the adjustor - he or she will be valuing your loss and establishing the rebuild - every dollar counts, so be a pleasant memory for the adjustor, rather than “that” person.
15. No matter who your insurance company is, all flood claims go through the federal government, all money comes through FEMA, so the time between the adjustor visiting your house and you getting money takes weeks/months - be patient - it is challenging and horrible waiting, but you are dealing with the government and all the other claims that are in flight as well.
16. Your first estimate will likely be less than you expect, so work with your contractor to file a supplement for things that were missed. Be wary of working with 3rd party arbitrators as they will take a percentage of your total claim, not just any extra they get you in the supplement.
17. Accept help when offered and be specific - if someone asks “what can I do?” tell them something specific - I need candles, contractor bags, sandwiches - be grateful of those that reach out and be honest with what you need.
18. You will get through this. It will not be easy. It is a struggle, but you will get through it. Lean on your faith, your friends and family. Call in favors and trust that karma will provide much needed blessings.
19. Don't blame yourself for such natural disasters such as the one that Houston is experiencing,... nor for not preparing in advance. Things like this happen and many of us that have experienced such challenging times may still not be prepared as we should. We have started a small "earthquake survival kit" that surely will not fulfill all the personal needs such the "big one" hit... but it is better than nothing at all. And we continue to add to it over a period of time.
20. Eat well. Get sleep. Rest when at all possible as you will need all the energy that such events require to manage.
Michael is an award winning interior designer based in Palm Desert, CA. He is a Professional Member of the American Society of Interior Designers and a member of the ASID College of Fellows.
As a Certified Aging In Place Specialist, he creates smart looking spaces that are safe and secure and create homes for a lifetime.
And with thirty plus years in the profession, he has honed his humor, elevated his passion for design and sharpened his wit to not take anything too seriously except his design work.