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Is My Insurance Company Trying to Cheat Me?

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Let’s be honest, anyone who has had an insurance claim has had this or a similar thought run through their head. For many years insurance companies have done things to earn a bad rep. I’ve been in the insurance restoration industry for the last 10 years, and during this time I can honestly say that I have rarely met an adjuster or contractor that wanted to skimp on the settlement. The few times I’ve seen this is when the policyholder has been extremely difficult to work with. Yes, bad estimates happen, however, most of the time the feeling of being “shorted or cheated” comes from not understanding your policy and how it pays out.

The biggest misunderstanding is most often the issue of matching. Insurance policies are specifically written with terminology and phrases to avoid matching. Homeowner’s coverage is to replace the damaged items with like kind and quality. While as a homeowner and contractor I often don’t agree with this and I will fight it to the best of my abilities. To explain this policy the easiest is to give you situations where you will most likely run into this situation. Let’s say you have a flood where the carpet has to be removed in the hallway. The same carpet runs throughout the home. The living room opens and connects directly to the hallway with the same carpet and you have 3 bedrooms directly off of the hallway and an office with french doors off of the living room. The carpet in the hallway and living room will be replaced but the carpet in the bedrooms and office will most likely not be replaced as most insurance policies are written to stop at doorways.

The other situation is most often with kitchen cabinetry. If water damages your lower kitchen cabinets (or a fire, your uppers) most insurance companies will allow replacing the run of damaged cabinets (meaning all of the lowers or all of the uppers). If you have specialty/custom cabinets you will most likely be given a custom price to rebuild that run of cabinets to match what was there. Very rarely is matching kitchen cabinets likely these days, however, it is not impossible. Over the past 25 years, there are hundreds of cabinet styles and specialty finishes, from dozens of manufacturers. Unless you recently replaced the kitchen, it will take countless hours of research to find the cabinet manufacturer that made your cabinets (a good place to locate the manufacturer is on the inside of the door. Let’s say you’ve managed to find the manufacturer, companies usually discontinue a line every 4-7 years, or they make considerable changes to it. On top of the possible discontinued issue, it is very likely that the elements have changed the finish on your cabinetry. Perhaps your contractor has pointed the issues out to your adjuster, depending on the difficulty they may add extra money to allow to get a close match, perhaps a custom cabinet.

This is where you have several options:

1) You can take your budget and get quotes from cabinet places on a less expensive cabinet to replace all of your cabinetry. Remember that by using less expensive items elsewhere in the reconstruction you will have that money to allocate towards your new cabinetry budget.

2) You can certainly create a unique custom kitchen by finding an opposite finish cabinet to replace your lowers or uppers with. It is very common today to mix cabinetry finishes to give a unique custom look to fit your style. For example, let’s say your cabinets are a stain cherry cabinet in a shaker style. You could go with a complementing stained or painted finish cabinetry, perhaps in antique white or black.

3) If the mix/match isn’t your style consider a paint treatment. My best example of this is a fire I did in Durham, NC in 2007; my client had a small grease fire that scorched the finish on 3 of her upper cabinets above her stove. The insurance company allowed for replacement of these upper cabinets. She was not happy with that. (Now to be fair, this was an extremely smart professor at Duke University and as soon as the fire happened she started dreaming of her new kitchen.) When I broke the estimate down into our budget for the cabinets she was highly disappointed. She wanted her new kitchen. I replaced the 3 damaged parts of the cabinets with unfinished stock pieces that matched in style and repainted all of her dated oak cabinetry to a new beautiful modern black. We added new hardware, repainted the walls and I was able to get new countertops for her, by choosing a less expensive replacement floor. Within 2 weeks she had a brand new remodeled kitchen with nothing more than her deductible out of pocket.

4) You could order the cabinets to match your existing cabinetry and if they don’t match well enough you can go back to your insurance company and have them come back out to assist you with another option. PLEASE NOTE: if you’re set on getting a kitchen completely different than what you had and you opt to try and match your existing cabinets and fail, the insurance company is not going to pay to replace the newly replaced cabinets again. Do not go out and get cabinets that clearly will not be a match to your cabinets and then call the insurance company and say “I tried to match the cabinets but they don’t match.” This is fraud and you can be charged.

The best advice I can give anyone is to understand your policy. Look at your declarations page thoroughly. Understand your coverage. If there are any changes in your home update your insurance as necessary, to protect your home, yourself and your family.

Understanding your claim can be both easy and confusing. It’s easy if you listen, take notes and ask questions (to both your insurance company and your contractor). I’ve seen homeowner become completely befuddled by a claim when they try to make sense of it without knowing enough or by trying to break down the estimate line item by line item and add up the totals to “checkup” on the contractor or adjuster. Just remember that life becomes unsettled when it’s least convenient. There is never a good time to have to file an insurance claim. However, life is unpredictable and it will slap you in the face when you have all your balls in the air. I recommend to all of my clients to get a spiral notebook or notepad the moment they have to file a claim. Write everything down because if you’re like everyone else as soon as you think of a question for you adjuster you’ll forget their name and lose their contact information and/or your claim number. Keep track of everything. Start collecting pictures of things you like that will have to be replaced, it’s good to dream but don’t be unrealistic. Don’t assume that because something got wet it will be replaced. Carpet is one of the most argued for items. Most homeowners assume that because the carpet was wet for several hours before it was discovered it will be claimed as unsalvageable. In a general Class 1/Category 1 (Clean water) loss most carpet can and will be saved. Restoration companies are HIGHLY trained to dry these items. Carpet is replaced as a last resort. It may need to have the pad replaced and be restretched/rekicked and cleaned but in rare situations does it require replacement. Delamination is a reason for replacement. Delamination is when the primary and secondary backing of the carpet separate. One of my favorite arguments for carpet replacement was from one of my homeowners in Virginia who said that her carpet wasn’t wet before and therefore should be replaced. I had to laugh on the inside when she said this because while I am confident that the 83 gallons of water which we removed from her living room were not present prior to the loss; the water did not damage her carpet. She argued her point (I think she was a law student) for nearly an hour and a half. She did not win. She argued that water damages fabric and since it was not wet prior to her loss it should be replaced to prior condition. I agree that water does damage some fabrics but her carpet was not made of silk or wool. It was average nylon carpet, and after checking the tags of 8-10 pieces of clothing (looking for nylon) that she normally wears and washes, she dropped that argument. She rebutted that the carpet color changed/darkened where the carpet was wet. Yes, it was darker where the water was, because it was still wet! Two days later upon completion of drying the carpet, the homeowner confirmed that the carpet color returned to its original shade. Nonetheless, her next argument was that by getting wet, the carpet’s structure was now damaged. She couldn’t really explain what she meant, but I was confident I knew where she was trying to go. When I explained to her that during the manufacturing process carpet is routinely exposed to several “water baths” in order to manufacture it. When she learned that water is used in the manufacturing process she had no further arguments. Feel free to use any of her argument should you want to try and get your non-damaged carpet replaced. If you’re carpet gets wet with clean water and isn’t found to be delaminated, look for staining from furniture feet. Staining IS a valid reason to replace carpet.

Drywall and trim are the other most commonly damaged items in a home during a water loss. Drywall patches are 100% acceptable in restoration. The insurance company does not owe to replace all of the drywall in a room because there was a section that had to be removed. Understand that drywall can usually be dried without any relating issues. If a section has to be removed a patch fit to the squared-up removed section is acceptable. Once properly taped and mudded that patch will not be noticeable, if it is than your contractor needs to have another drywall crew redo the repair. Yes, drywall is hung in 4×8 or 4×12 sheets but that does not mean that you need an entire new sheet of drywall “because it wasn’t previously patched.” Any new drywall will be sealed and painted to match.

Insurance companies/adjusters are starting to release the reins on painting of a room. It varies company to company- adjuster to adjuster- and on the clients’ attitude. For years the standard has been to apply two coats of paint to the new drywall and 1 coat to the remaining section of wall (corner to corner). The corner to corner theory is that when painting a room you can/typically stop in the corner once you have an entire wall painted. You never want to stop mid wall because that will be noticeable. Also with corner to corner if the paint shade is slightly off it won’t be visible as it stops in the corner and light casting shadows will affect the paint shade as well. Having been met with so many contractor arguments over painting the remaining walls, during the last 2 years we have seen the corner to corner rule relax. Typically now, if I have a 12×12 room and I patch one of the walls, I will apply two coats of paint on top of two coats of primer to the new drywall. I can usually get the adjuster to approve repainting the remaining walls, to match. This does not mean that you get to change your 12×12 powder blue dining room to Victorian red. This means that you get a fresh coat of powder blue paint in your dining room. However, if you’re nice to your contractor you can update that powder blue to a similar tonal value color such as a grey blue. Cultivating and fostering a good relationship with your contractor can only benefit you.

One of the other biggest items homeowners don’t understand that don’t get covered are the source repair costs. Example: the ring between your toilet tank and bowl rots, causing your toilet to leak. The insurance coverage will be to repair the damage that the toilet caused. It however, will not cover the cost of fixing or replacing that toilet, or your cost to hire the plumber to come out and shut off the water and remove the toilet. In short, your insurance company is not trying to “stick it to you”. It is important to note that any form of water damage should be cleaned in a timely manner. Water damage can spread to mold damage, and your insurance company is not likely to pay for a mold inspection if they feel that you aided the progression of the mold by delaying in drying the area. If something doesn’t make sense. Ask about it. If you don’t understand the answer or are having difficulty with your adjuster ask for their supervisor. If something raises a flag in the supervisors head they can and often will either send out another adjuster/field reinspector or come out and investigate. Don’t be afraid to ask if you truly feel that you’re not being treated fairly. Your insurance agent can also help to explain your policy to you.

Regardless of what you feel you’re owed, just because you’ve been paying into you policy for x number of years doesn’t mean you get everything and anything you want. Indemnity is a basic insurance principle that states that you, as an insured should not be allowed to profit from an insurance loss. This principle is important and helps to protect both the insurance company and you.

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Should You Consider a Tankless Toilet System?

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The bathroom is one common part of the house that usually undergoes home renovations. In a bathroom, the focal point of the upgrade is normally the toilet. With the many bathroom toilet models these days, homeowners have a lot of options to choose from. One of the increasingly popular toilet options today is the tankless toilets.

As its name suggests, the tankless toilet does not have a tank that makes use of gravity in flushing out the waste. Instead, it utilizes a powerful flush action to eliminate waste. Home tankless toilets have a motorized pump mechanism that pumps in a certain amount of water to the bowl.

There are certain benefits of a tankless system that makes this type of toilet ideal for a basement bathroom toilet as well as bathrooms located in other parts of the house. First of all, the tankless toilet results to more space within the bathroom. The toilet can be placed in almost anywhere, with only the link to the plumbing as the consideration.

A homeowner can either choose to install the toilet against the wall, or facing the wall with the water pipes connected from underneath the floor and through the bowl. Such toilet is ideal for homeowners who want more freedom in designing their bathroom layout. Since there is no tank, there is more than enough space to accommodate other fixtures like shelves, cabinets, and tables. The addition of these functional bathroom items can greatly help to improve its functionality.

Since the tankless toilet system makes use of an electric pump mechanism, there is the risk that the toilet would not function when there is an electric outage. Thus, homeowners opting to use them in their basement bathroom toilet or in any other bathrooms need to have an emergency generator. This is perhaps the major drawback of using this type of toilet system.

But overall, the use of tankless toilet systems offer a new way of improving the overall look and functionality of a bathroom without requiring too much space.

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What Are the Advantages of Choosing a Wall Hung Basin for Your Bathroom?

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Picture the scenario – you have bought your new home, however, the bathroom needs a complete refurbishment. One of the first questions you are likely to think about is what type of bathroom sink, or basin, you would like for your bathroom. In this article we will learn more about the wall hung basin, or wall mounted basin, and consider some of the advantages and disadvantages of choosing a wall hung basin for your bathroom.

Firstly, what is a wall hung basin? It is fairly simply a bathroom sink which essentially hangs or is suspended, in the wall. It is important to realise that it is not supported by a pedestal unit, or fitted over a bathroom unit. So what are some of the advantages of choosing this type of bathroom sink?

One of the biggest drawing points to wall mounted basins is the flexibility in the height of the actual basin. This is especially beneficial in houses with children – as they will hopefully be able to easily access the sink and wash their hands. This is also extremely helpful if you have any disabled or wheelchair users within the house, as they will also benefit from the lowered height of the mounted basin.

The very design of a wall mounted basin is also a significant advantage. As it does not use any type of stand, the basin will take up less space, especially on the floor. This allows these types of basin to be installed in almost any sized bathroom or cloakroom, and will more than likely fit comfortably. The disadvantage of a pedestal basin is that it can sometimes be more clunky and take up some of that crucial space which is needed.

Wall mounted basins are also easier to clean. Again the aesthetics of the design mean that the only real cleaning point is the actual basin. As there is no stand or any other clunky parts to the basin, the process of cleaning a wall hung basin should be relatively quick and simple.

If you are designing, or even redesigning, your bathroom – especially if you are seeking a more minimalistic look, then this type of bathroom sink may be the ideal choice for you. You should, however, be aware that there are also some potential disadvantages to choosing a wall mounted basin.

We mentioned above about the minimalistic look that a mounted basin can provide. However, this is both positive and a negative. The very design of the basin means that there is a lack of storage space associated with the sink. A lot of bathroom sinks will usually come with some type of cupboard space below the sink, where people usually keep other bathroom accessories such as toilet roll, soap or anything else. With the mounted sink, it can mean that you have to find a different place to store your bathroom accessories.

There is also the added financial cost of the installation of a wall mounted sink. As the plumbing cannot be hidden within a bathroom unit, it will need be to properly fitted by a plumber. Although the costs of plumbers can be reasonable, it will still increase your overall costs.

It is clear that wall mounted bathroom sinks do provide a large number of advantages. In the right type of bathroom, this can be a perfect choice and really enhance the look and feel of the bathroom. Whatever decision you make – always consider all of your options and the individual characteristics of your bathroom – and choose the right option for yourself.

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Acrylic Bath Resurfacing – An Easier Solution For Any Apartment

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When most people move into a new apartment they have a mix of excitement and exhaustion, but looking in my new bathroom I only felt disgust. After a month of looking for the perfect home in a new town (New York City to be exact), I settled on a cozy rental in Brooklyn, with the promise from my landlord to have a clean apartment from top to bottom. After carrying furniture and all the boxes up the seemingly endless stairs, my first instinct was to get cleaned up in the shower.

So you can imagine my surprise starring at bathtub that looked filthy, with stains from water and mold covering the bottom. Glazing on the powder blue tub had worn through the tub’s surface, revealing an odd mix of gray patches of what I assumed to be grout. Even the drain and stopper had started to rust through, although those could be more easily replaced. Against my own better judgment I took a shower that night, only to feel less clean than before I had stepped inside.

While the landlord had promised to restore the tub to working condition when I signed the lease, the crew had yet to replace the old tub. The next day I called them to come replace the tub, but now the was a catch; they could come to re-glaze our bath surfaces, but we would not be able to use the bathroom for another 48 hours!

Later that day to crew arrived and took over the entire bathroom, spending the rest of the afternoon cleaning and spraying glaze over the tub. Every surface needed to be taped over or else the glazing would ruin the rest of our bathroom. I could barely stay inside my apartment with all the noxious fumes, even with all the windows open. Two days later I stepped in the shower for the first time, more worried about ruining the tub’s new finish than enjoying the bath.

Recently my friend told me about the same problems during his apartment hunt, so after hearing about our ordeal he wanted to find a better solution. Instead of asking their landlord to re-glaze the bathtub, he sent them about link to acrylic bath resurfacing, which can be custom fit for any bathtub. Because this took less time to install, their landlord had no trouble replacing the old fixtures with a new acrylic bath liner.

Replacing the bathtub through acrylic bath resurfacing would have been a much more affordable option and a better investment in the apartment for the landlord. Especially now the bathtub’s surface is beginning to wear off again, I’d want to ask my landlord to simply replace the tub with an acrylic shower surface this time. Maybe it will be much easier for the next tenant who moves in, and next time I’ll know much better what to ask for in my apartment hunt.

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