Every year, we have extreme weather that reminds us of Mother Nature's power. And it seems as if the storms are intensifying and the damage to buildings is worse, as we see thousands of people forced to evacuate their homes in the face of natural disasters.
In the case of a wildfire or tornado, the damage can be so devastating that the home is completely gone, left in splinters and ash. Rebuilding is the only option. Sometimes the damage is less extreme and a homeowner is left with a house missing its roof or with some structural damage, but the opportunity to repair is still available.
In floods, the damage is both obvious and hidden. When the floodwaters subside and homeowners are able to return, they find contents and furnishings saturated with mud and black water. This is a feast for toxic mold. Drywall and finished surfaces are ruined and need to be torn out, but more worrying is what's behind those walls: the insulation, framing and, especially, the electrical wiring have been underwater.
Disaster doesn't have to be on a massive scale. Every day, a homeowner somewhere has a sewer backup, or a burst pipe, or a kitchen fire. The results are the same. And in my experience, people always react the same way: they want their houses back the way they were. And they want it to happen fast.
I get it. The emotional upheaval and distress that results from a disaster is terrible. The pain of losing treasured mementoes, the frustration of dealing with insurance companies, and the time it takes to find documents and deal with the necessary paperwork is overwhelming, but the worst thing you can do is rush. The truth is, people don't think clearly under stress, and that leads to bad decisions.
What you need to do is take some time and assess what really needs to be done.
1. Don't panic
Yes, it's a disaster, but try not to overreact. Everything can be fixed. Call your insurance company.
2. Safety first
Make sure your home and family are safe. Call in the right pros. For example, in the case of flood, have the electrical system checked before it's used. Don't enter a building that's not structurally safe.
3. Clean up
Wear appropriate protective clothing, masks and gloves, and get rid of destroyed furnishings, such as carpet and drapes. Tear out drywall and soaked insulation.
Now that you've cleaned up, you can see what the extent of the damage is, and what you can and should do first.
5. Take your time
Yes, you are now able to start the repairs, but don't rush. Rushing always costs more and it leads to mistakes.
Did you see on the list where I said call the contractor? No, because it's not there. One of the worst things you can do is to hire too quickly. That's when you hire the wrong guy.
I've always said the best contractors are the busiest. They aren't able to immediately come and do your repair - disaster or not. You will have to wait.
Think about it. If an entire neighbourhood - or even an entire city - has been affected by disaster, there will be even more demand for skilled contractors. Everyone is in the same situation.
I hear all the time about predatory so-called contractors who move into areas struck by disaster, looking to make a quick buck. Let's face it: There's opportunity, there's money from insurance companies, and there are lots of desperate homeowners. It's a perfect storm.
If you are not willing to wait, and if you insist on rushing to get your life back to normal, you are playing the slot machine. You might get lucky and the job will be perfect. But odds are, you'll end up having to do the job all over again, because you rushed and hired the wrong guy. And you will have to pay the second time, likely without the benefit of insurance coverage, since you used that up.
Rushing causes bad judgment. Your desperation makes you see the fly-by-night contractor as a good bet. Your vision is cloudy.
Wait until the clear light of day before you make a decision. Finding the right contractor is like the dating game; you've got to get to know one another. Disaster doesn't change the rules of the game. You still need to go slowly, do your homework, and make sure you are hiring the right guy.
About the Author
Mike Holmes, professional contractor and TV host, is working with Associa to refine the standards and protocols that today’s Homeowner’s Associations use to Make It Right™ for their homeowners. He brings more than 35 years of experience in renovations, construction, and inspection services, and is best known as the contractor and host of “Holmes on Homes” and “Holmes Makes It Right” where he rescues homeowners from repair and renovation disasters.More Content by Mike Holmes