Following a disaster like a fire or a flood, most homeowners immediately turn to their insurance company for help. They go through a claims process, find a contractor, and begin the process of rebuilding their home. If you've recently been through a disaster, whether it was a home fire or a recent storm, you've got a long road ahead of you. Rebuilding consists of many steps. Knowing the process can help you anticipate each step and can also help you make smart decisions as you navigate this challenging time.
File an Insurance Claim
Following a disaster, your first course of action should be to contact your insurance company to start the claims process. Each company is different. Start by calling a claims specialist and verifying that the damage your home experienced was covered by your insurance policy. When speaking to a claims specialist, ask questions such as:
- Do I need to get estimates for repairs?
- How long will it take to file a claim?
- What's the step-by-step process for filing a claim?
- Can I begin repair work right away?
- Are hotel costs covered if I am unable to live in my house right now?
Work with your insurance company to go through each step one at a time. Document all conversations and start a file where all documentation is stored in one place. In your notes, record who you spoke with, what they said, time, date, and next steps. This will help you if you run into trouble with your insurance company and will also help you stay on track throughout the process.
Know Your Coverage
Although your insurance company will tell you what your coverage is, read your policy and educate yourself about the various covered expenses, your deductible, and the terms and conditions of your policy. Hopefully you have a copy of your policy and can review it before contacting your insurance company. If you don't, ask your insurance company for your policy and review it as soon as you can.
Throughout this process, you'll start to get a sense of whether your insurance coverage is adequate for your needs. If it's not, you may decide to revise your coverage in the future. It can't help you now, but down the road increased coverage could help you rebuild in the event of another disaster.
Cost Is Not the Consideration
When the time comes to hire a contractor, some of the costs may sound high. Contractors hired to repair after a disaster must often charge more than a contractor hired to complete a repair that is planned weeks or months in advance. Anything that happens at the last minute and in a rush is going to be more challenging than a project that is carefully laid out with the most sensible timelines in mind.
- Materials that are bought with urgency and at the last minute often cost more than materials that are bought weeks or months before the actual construction, because contractors and homeowners have no time to shop around.
- Projects that are planned at the last minute are disruptive to the contractor and workers, thus forcing costs to rise.
- Projects that are finished in a hurry may be worked on during off-hours, including on weekends and holidays, which comes at a price for business owners.
However, with an insurance company paying for the work, the homeowner is able to hire a contractor with less concern for budget and more concern with fit and availability. Now more than ever, it's important to hire the best contractor for the job.
You May Need to Work With Specialists
Often, repairs that stem from insurance claims involve damage that requires a specialty contractor. Mold and smoke damage, for example, must be repaired by a contractor with understanding of and sometimes certification in remediation techniques.
That said, many general contractors work with a variety of subcontractors or employees who have specialty areas. If you're hiring a general contractor, ask them how they'll remediate the parts of your home that are suffering from water damage, mold and smoke. Your contractor should be able to tell you about the specialty contractors they work with, if they do not perform that work themselves. Hiring a general contractor makes it easier to complete the job in its entirety, including remediation.
Find the Right Contractor
To find the right contractor, start by interviewing reputable contractors in your area. Your insurance company may have guidance for finding a contractor, but if they don't, contact a contractor who has worked with someone you know and trust. References are a great way to find contractors who take their business seriously and produce quality work.
Meet with Contractors On Site
Meet with each potential contractor in-person on-site to discuss the problems and potential solutions. Ask probing questions to help you decide whether the contractor you're meeting with is a good communicator who has solutions to your potential problem. Meet with at least two or three contractors before hiring someone to do the work.
Any contractor with a history of doing good work and with experience on the job should have references that can tell you whether that contractor is someone you want to hire. Contact at least two or three references before hiring a contractor. It may seem like an unnecessary step, especially given the urgency of the circumstances, but once you've spoken to someone who has worked with that contractor in the past, you'll feel more confident in your choice when you make a hire. You may also use references to weed out contractors that you don't want to work with.
Read the Contract
The contractor you hire should provide you with a contract that outlines the scope of the work, charges, materials to be used and more. Compare contracts between each builder you're thinking about hiring. Contracts reveal a lot about the builder and how they work. You may be able to use the contract to compare each potential builder, to determine cost differences and more.
View Their Portfolio
Spend time browsing the portfolio of each potential contractor to get a sense for the quality of their work. Work with contractors who produce work you can appreciate.
Contact GTG Builders LLC
GTG Builders LLC builds custom homes in New Jersey. With over 65 years experience, we've become a trusted source for home construction, renovation and repair in central New Jersey. Contact us today for a consultation.