Skip to main content

View more from News & Articles or Primerus Weekly

By Thomas A. Gray
Smith Debnam Narron Drake Saintsing & Myers, LLP
Raleigh, North Carolina

June 25, 2015:  Lighting struck the roof of our home. The firefighters arrived seven minutes after the 911 call. After 30 minutes, the fire was out, and we were soaked and without a home. Thirteen months later, we’re back in our fully restored home. What happened in the time in-between? A lot.

Immediately after the house fire, we received a steady string of unsolicited calls from restoration companies inquiring about our home and offering their services for hire. For good or for worse, they monitor the emergency scanners and neighborhoods and will likely find you before you find them. Take a deep breath and do not feel compelled to sign on with anyone immediately. Whatever damage you have in the home will likely remain unchanged for a day or two (unless there is pouring rain and you have huge holes in your roof). Take the time to do a little research on restoration companies in your area. Call friends and coworkers, search reviews on Google, and then make your decision. Referrals from friends and colleagues often prove most valuable. Further, your homeowner’s insurance company can be a good source for recommendations and may offer various names, but they will not recommend just one. While talking with the restoration companies, inquire about which insurance companies they have dealt with in recent years. If you can do this before they ask you about your homeowner’s insurance, all the better; it may be a good way to gauge their truthfulness.

How did I decide on a restoration company? Before the firefighters left, I called a friend familiar with the industry. He gave me names to call and questions to ask. The company I eventually hired had arrived first. I suspect the representative was monitoring the emergency scanners. It was pouring rain, and I had huge holes in my roof, so I asked if the representative could tarp the roof. While the other companies I was talking to had promised to tarp the roof within a few hours, this representative assured me he would have it done in an hour.

He made good on his word. The roof was tarped by 2:00 a.m. and the representative arrived at the house promptly at 7:00 a.m. the next morning to discuss the project, raising my confidence in their ability to keep their promises. At that moment is when I decided to sign on with the company and they immediately started the clean-up portion of the fire damage.

Lessons Learned

Makes friends with the Gatekeeper. Ask the Project Manager what method they use to keep track of purchases, payments, reimbursements, and orders. Find out the name of the person in the Contractor’s office who keeps the books and maintains the schedule for the Project Manager. Often, the project manager is the person with whom you communicate on-site, and he or she is on the road quite a bit. However, someone inside the organization likely directs activities. Make contact with that person and maintain contact. Keep track of your communications. Documenting your communications is critical once the reconstruction work begins.

Give the Project Manager a break. Weather and other unforeseen issues will come up that could cause delays for your project. My measure was to examine the situation rationally and assess if things were being handled equitably. If the answer is ‘no – then take action; if yes, then be reasonable. In the end, you will be glad you did.