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Picking Your Restoration Contractor

Eric Nei - Tuesday, April 10, 2018
There are only two ways to go about choosing the restoration contractor you will eventually need. You can wait until you are staring down your basement stairs at your new and unplanned indoor swimming pool, wondering who to call, smart phone in hand, frantically browsing websites. Or, you can can go through the process of choosing contractors on calm easy going day day when you don't really need a restoration contractor. Which method would you prefer? 

Either way, it is very likely you will need a restoration contractor in the future. It's a 'when' not 'if' situation. About one out of seven homes file some kind of insurance claim each year. The likelihood of any one bad thing happening that requires an insurance claim is pretty small. But the likelihood of something bad happening is pretty high. Here's a partial list:hail, direct wind damage, falling trees, excessive rain, excessive snow load, a hot water heater that leaks, leaky pipe, leaky water supply line for your ice maker, freeze and thaw damage from a failed heating system in a seasonal home, extended loss of power due to storms, failed sump pump, clogged or frozen air conditioner condensation discharge line, blocked soffit vents trapping warm moist air in your attic, mold, sewer or septic back up, serious smoke intrusion from a fireplace flue that wasn't opened in the fall, water intrusion from ice dams, and home fires. 

That's the short list.   

Now that you understand the need, let me help you with choosing the restoration contractor. In the restoration world their are two types of contractors; preferred and independent. In this article I'll help you understand how to choose a restoration contractor whether they are preferred or independent.  

First, listen to word of mouth. The new word of mouth is social media. If you haven't already done so, get online and read reviews. At the same time, this would be a good time to read my blog post, "Can You Trust Online Reviews?" Assuming the reviews you are reading are natural (not purchased) and local, more reviews win the day. Seventy-two percent of online shoppers looking for goods and services now read reviews before taking any other purchasing action. So why wouldn't a professional build a collection of natural, local reviews? You likely read reviews. It's important to you. Go with what's important to you.

Second, give some weight to years in business, but don't discount the small start up. Would you ever choose someone new to a profession? Maybe. They are going to be hyper-vigilant about doing things right and interacting with you well. If not, their business will disappear. On the other hand, well established businesses that are booked up for months probably got that way because they do great work. But do they still care about winning each customer through craftsmanship and a great relationship? With a solid book of business they could settle into the mentality of, "The phone will ring again." So, time in business tells you important things. However, it is worth interviewing the small start-up. It may mean they learn with you, and you could have a long relationship.

Third, make a few calls. Develop questions that are important to you in choosing a restoration contractor. Here's are a few to get you started: 
  • How did you learn your trade?
  • How do you select, train and manage your employees?
  • What restoration certifications do you have and why?
  • Will you have your insurance provider send a letter of notice directly to me that you are covered for water, fire and mold restoration. (These are the three most common causes of home or business damage. Crime scene clean up, meth lab remediation, lead and asbestos abatement may require additional coverage.)
  • Are you the person who will arrive on site when I have an emergency?
  • Can I visit your shop? ("Yes, any time" is the only acceptable answer. This is important because how the contractor organizes and cares for their place will tell you a good deal about how they will organize the job site at your home or business.)
  • What size loss are you prepared to handle? (Effective large loss management, over 20,000 square feet, comes with time, experience and significant investment in capital or strategic partnership with other restoration professionals. It's something restoration contractors grow into.)
  • What is your average response time to investigate a situation? (Investigation is the process that begins to determine the extent of the damage. It does not include setting any drying equipment.)
  • What is your average response time to act on a situation once a someone decides to work with you? (This is critical. If there is standing water or completely saturated materials in your home that water is still migrating and causing damage. The longer it sits, the worse it gets. In the Northwoods anything over 2 hours is unacceptable unless the contractor you want to work with is involved in another job at the time of your call.)
  • Can I expect 24 by 7 by 365 response, and how do you cover your phones?
  • What trade associations do you belong to?
  • How do you stay current with best practices in your trade?
Through this entire interview you are assessing how you feel about this contractor. It's like choosing any other contractor when you know very little about their trade craft. You likely don't ask your dentist about specific tips he uses in his drill. Similarly, you are not likely to ask a restoration contractor about the brand of thermohygrometer they use and why. You are assessing technical expertise by asking non technical questions and also considering their professionalism.

Fourth, ask them if they belong to any preferred programs or get their work through third party administrators. Independent contractors are not beholden to the interests of anyone but the customer and industry best practices. 

Fifth, ask for printed literature, or at least a website. Both will tell you about how serious the contractor is in running their business like a business. 


As I said, this all happens before you need a restoration contractor because there are only two ways to go about choosing the restoration contractor you will eventually need. You can wait until you are staring down your basement stairs at your new and unplanned indoor swimming pool, wondering who to call. Or you can calmly walk to your refrigerator and call the number on the magnet card that is quietly and reliably holding up family pictures. That magnet card was given to you by a restoration contractor you chose three years ago through a careful process. 

Until next time...
Eric Nei, Owner/CEO

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