Tips & Tricks

Your disaster response team should include contractors and several other resources and support – outside of your own staff.

As more and more “smaller” contractors are tackling bigger commercial disaster projects, they often find themselves in over their heads, and we get the panicked phone call. We understand that most restoration contractors want to get and perform large commercial disaster projects, but most are totally and completely unprepared to appropriately respond and then handle the loss properly.

We are seeing contractors “in over their head” because they have not assembled all the right players to help the property owner recover with the greatest success. One of the key ingredients (resources) every property owner should consider is hiring a Public Adjuster!

Even the restoration contractor that has lots of equipment and a skilled staff will find themselves needing outside equipment and manpower resources to have the real success they want. Many

times, it’s simply the challenge of dealing with a large loss adjuster that can be intimidating. Working alongside a great public adjuster can be valuable to the contractor as well as the property owner!

In addition to a skilled public adjuster, if you want to be one of the power brokers of the disaster recovery industry, you need to line up all your resources well ahead of the large commercial loss coming to you. This includes other disaster contractors, water extraction (or carpet cleaners with truck mounts), and skilled labor-ready companies able to provide you with qualified laborers.

You also need to get relationships set up with other vendors like equipment rental companies, large loss equipment rental suppliers, and especially those that can deliver, AND set-up, AND run large loss projects on your behalf. Beware of the “chain” rental companies that really don’t have much equipment on hand and force you to wait days while they truck it in from another region!

Just the ability to have someone else handle the administration, billing, staff hourly tracking, photos, and all the other critical documents required on a large loss will allow you to confidently take on big jobs and get them completed successfully with timely payment. Some disaster recovery companies can achieve the mitigation portion fairly well, what smaller (and many larger) contractors lack is doing the documentation timely and accurately, to satisfy the commercial property owner and the large loss adjuster.

Since the contractor isn’t expected to (and shouldn’t) interpret the insurance policy, you should encourage the property owner to engage a public adjuster to be sure they are well represented and not being misled by the carriers’ adjuster!

Once you realize you cannot be an island, that you must depend on others if you want to do large loss projects, you will start dialing. You can call me (Dick WagnerBill GiannoneScott TarpleyCheryl WagnerScott Friedson) and many others that will provide you with great resource connections.

Most contractors strive to be a significant player in the industry – most don’t know how to get into that position. This is what we do – daily! We can help.

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By Dick Wagner – Guest Blogger

How To File Insurance Claims With Your Insurance Company

This content originates from the article “Insurance Strategies For Texans With Winter-Weather Problems”, by John Egan and Amy Danise of Forbes.

  1. Review your policy. Figure out what’s covered when filing insurance claims; what’s not covered, and what the deductibles are. If you’re unclear about coverage, contact your insurance agent or insurance company.
  2. Document the damage. Take photos and videos of damage caused by the winter disaster.
  3. Hang on to receipts for any temporary repairs, which may be covered by your policy. However, don’t make any permanent repairs until an insurance adjuster has evaluated your damage, as that could jeopardize the payment of a claim.
  4. Keep track of all of your communication with the insurance company. This should include the date, name, and title of each person you speak with and what was discussed.
  5. If an insurance claim adjuster is scheduled to visit, plan to be at your property at the time so you can point out all of the damage.
  6. Obtain repair bids from several contractors and compare them with the insurance adjuster’s report before settling your claim.
  7. Save proof that you paid the deductible on your claim. State law in Texas prohibits contractors and roofers from promising to waive a deductible or provide a deductible rebate. The law lets insurance companies request proof, such as a receipt or canceled check, that you paid for repairs in the amount of your deductible.
  8. Paying for repairs out of your own pocket if the claim payout will be less than your deductible. This way, you can avoid filing that will go on your record but that won’t result in a check.
  9. Stand up for yourself. Give your insurer a chance to do the right thing, but politely assert your right to the full protection you paid for.
  10. Be prepared to negotiate for a fair settlement of your claim.
  11. If you have a large claim, such as extensive building damage, consider hiring a public adjuster to help you with the paperwork and advocate on your behalf.
  12. Be patient. Some insurers will go above and beyond to ensure your claim is paid promptly and adequately, while others may vigorously fight a claim. “You will learn a lot about your company when you file a claim,” he observes.

Don’t get caught in the cold! Read our tips for thawing frozen pipes, and prevent damage to your home.


The first step you need to take is to shut off your water at the main shutoff valve, usually located at your water meter somewhere near the street, and open (turn on) all of your faucets (inside and outside). This step is very important because what causes burst pipes is the build-up of pressure in the lines; opening the faucets will help release that pressure once the pipes thaw.

1. How do I know if my pipes are frozen?

First, temperatures outside typically need to be below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for pipes to have the potential of freezing.

The first indicator of frozen pipes is that you have lost your water supply or it is flowing slower than usual, but your neighbors still have water. If your neighbors are also out of water, it could be that your water provider has cut water to the neighborhood; contact your provider for updates.

Try turning on all of your faucets. If some of them have flowing water while others don’t, you have a localized issue that is not impacting your entire plumbing system. If some water is coming out, although slowly, leave it running; sometimes this is enough to melt the ice in the line. If there is no water, try to trace the plumbing line from that faucet back to where your water line comes into your home to determine where the blockage is located. It will most likely be in an uninsulated area.

If all of your faucets don’t have water when you turn them on, your main service line out in your yard (carries water from your water meter at the street to your foundation) could be frozen. This will only occur in extremely cold situations, typically below 20 degrees Fahrenheit with or without wind chill.

2. What should I do if my pipes are frozen? How important is thawing frozen pipes? The first step you need to take is to shut off your water at the main shutoff valve, usually located at your water meter somewhere near the street, and open (turn on) all of your faucets (inside and outside). This step is very important because what causes burst pipes is the build-up of pressure in the lines; opening the faucets will help release that pressure once the pipes thaw.

3. How do I start thawing frozen pipes? We repeat: keep your faucets open and your water turned off while pipes thaw! Keeping the faucets open will also expedite the thawing process and allow the thawing ice to run through the pipes.

While it is important to try to thaw a frozen pipe as quickly as possible to avoid further damage, doing so yourself does come with risks. If possible, locate the section of pipe that is frozen and thaw it yourself using gentle heat (slowly warm it up). If you heat the pipes up too quickly, they can crack or melt due to the quick change in temperature! Try wrapping an electronic heating pad around the pipe, heating the area with a hairdryer, or both. Towels soaked in hot water will help as well. Apply until water runs normally.

If possible, locate the section of pipe that is frozen and thaw it yourself using gentle heat (slowly warm it up). If you heat the pipes up too quickly, they can crack or melt due to the quick change in temperature!
If you cannot locate the location of the blockage, increasing your home’s temperature may help (above 55 degrees Fahrenheit). Open all cabinet and closet doors to increase the temperature in these enclosed spaces. If you suspect that there are pipes in or above the garage, use space heaters to heat up that space as well. Make sure to keep heaters away from anything potentially flammable!

Your pipes will eventually begin to thaw on their own once the temperatures rise above freezing. As they do so, you may begin to hear your pipes making gurgling, clanging, or banging sounds as the ice begins to move. The hot water heater may do the same.

Slowly turn the water back on at the main shutoff valve and inspect for leaks. If there are leaks, be prepared to turn the water off again immediately. If frozen pipes have cracked, homeowners may need to seek a plumber as soon as possible.

4. Can my irrigation system freeze too? What about my pool lines? Yes and yes. It is best to winterize these systems in advance, but at minimum, turn off the system at the main controller. It’s also beneficial to shut off the system at your backflow device. If you have an above-ground backflow device then be prepared for it to be busted. Make sure you know where to turn it off at.

5. Can my sewer lines freeze too? This is very rare since typically only pressurized lines freeze, but it is possible. If there are foul odors escaping from your drains, it could indicate ice is blocking the drain. Follow the above recommendations for thawing frozen pipes.

6. Will my insurance cover the damage? Until you are able to contact your property insurance agent for details, document everything, from the time you notice the problem and every step you take to repair it. According to The Balance Small Business, if you have the proper insurance, they should help cover some of these costs, but not all policies cover damage from frozen pipes. Some policies have specific requirements you must follow in order to be covered, such as maintaining the heat at a certain temperature in your home or shutting off the water supply during absence from your home to prevent a potential flooding issue. An insurance company wants to see that you took reasonable measures to prevent a problem from occurring. Our insurance adjusters can help you with this process.

7. How do I prevent my pipes from freezing in the future? Unfortunately, infrastructure in southern states is not built for extreme cold, so rarely are your plumbing lines insulated well enough to handle below-freezing temperatures for extended periods of time.

Should you file a claim? It depends on your deductible, extent of damage, and coverage for these types of winter weather losses which can vary depending on your specific insurance policy. If your property is damaged, be sure to reasonably protect and mitigate against further damage, contact your insurance agent right away and tell them you have a loss. Keep financial records of expenses you incur, take photos and be safe! For help with your insurance claim, click here>>