Part One – How to choose a water damage restoration contractor in Atlanta

4 things you need to know before selecting an Atlanta water damage repair professional

Just suppose you got back from vacation and found three inches of water in your home. What would you do first? Hopefully, you’d call your trusted home insurance agent! But what would you do next? Would you use a Yellow Pages to find an Atlanta water damage restoration contractor? Or maybe jump on Google or ask for suggestions on Facebook? For today’s article, we interviewed Ron Vodjani of One Call Home Preservation, Inc. of Woodstock Georgia. He’s got some great tips to help you to protect your rights as a homeowner.

We caught up with Ron and talked about a few things…

  1. What is the IICRC?
  2. What’s one dangerous mistake contractors that are not IICRC certified might make?
  3. How can a homeowner turn off their water immediately?
  4. What is the most important call a homeowner needs to make when they have water damage?

Ron has been in the home improvement industry for many years. But back in 2007 something happened to him as a consumer that would change his entire business focus. Ron had a flood in his home. He called a water damage contractor and had a pretty bad experience. Ron decided to learn this business from the ground up. Then he built a water damage remediation company so that his clients would never have to go through what he experienced.

We started this interview by giving Ron a hypothetical – he’s got a family member who lives out of state. They call him in a panic because they’ve got a flood from a broken water pipe. There’s no way that he can go to help them in person. What’s the best advice he could give them as a homeowner to help them protect their interests?

What’s the IICRC?

“The first thing I would encourage them to do is to pick a water restoration pro that has been certified by the IICRC,” he said.

What does the fancy acronym stand for? “It stands for The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification,” Ron told us. The official website tells us that the purpose of the IICRC is to set and promote high standards, ethics, and practices for the inspection, cleaning, and restoration service industries. According to the website, “As an ANSI-accredited Standards Developing Organization (SDO), the IICRC has led the way in establishing the main industry standards and reference guides for professional carpet, upholstery, and fabric cleaning, water damage restoration, and mold remediation.”

Ron noted that this means that the consumer wins because the correct kind of work will be done based on the type of water damage there was. We asked Ron to explain that a little bit.

“First of all, I want to tell you up front that the majority of water and mold remediation companies are real professionals. However, here’s something to think about. All it takes is having a truck and a few dehumidifiers for a person to call themselves a water restoration company. That’s scary.

“For example, when I had my flood back in 2007, the contractor showed up with 13 humidifiers because they knew that the insurance company pays a set price per dehumidifier required. They put 3 of them in my closet alone! I felt ripped off because all of my circuit breakers were tripping. They also tore up my wood floors because they understood that the more they tear up, the more they get paid. After I went through the IICRC certification program, I learned that they handled it the wrong way. I was determined to build my company based on the IICRC principles.”

Can you give us an example of dangerous mistakes contractors that aren’t IICRC certified might make?

“Sure,” Ron answered. “There are different categories of water damage. There’s Category 1, 2, and 3. They’re not all treated the same. For example, Category 2 water is considered “gray” water, perhaps from a leaky washing machine hose. On the other hand, Category 3 water is sewage water. So, if a toilet backed up, you couldn’t simply disinfect, mop up, and install a dehumidifier! Instead, there would be special restoration steps that are required so that the consumer is protected from health risks. Someone who’s not certified may not know that and could unintentionally threaten the homeowner’s health.”

“Another mistake had to do with my hardwood floors,” Ron continued. “The IICRC calls for dehumidifiers being used for 2 days before making the decision to see if the floors need to be replaced. The bad contractors I used returned the next morning and tore up my floors before giving them a chance to dry out. This meant my insurance agency had to pay the bill for all new hardwood floors. This is bad for everyone because it makes your homeowner’s premiums go up unnecessarily.”

The lesson for you? Make sure that the professionals you choose are IICRC members. Look for the logo on their website. The official website tells us that IICRC Certified Firms have earned the right to display the IICRC logo as a symbol of quality. To achieve IICRC-certified status, firms must meet a rigorous list of standards in business ethics and professionalise. According to the “Benefits for Consumers” page on the website, all IICRC certified firms must:

  • Give accurate information to the customer and act with honesty and trustworthiness.
  • Require a formally trained technician that has passed all necessary tests for all jobs.
  • Have a continuing education program so that technicians keep up with the latest changes in the industry
  • Have liability insurance to protect all parties in case there’s an accident.
  • Have a written complaint policy and agree to Better Business Bureau or similar judgment to resolve conflicts, and accept the conclusions or recommendations that are reached.

Can you see why Ron recommends that you only work with an IICRC-certified company?

Do you know how to turn the water off?

If you discover a water leak, the first thing you need do is turn it off. The longer the water flows, the more damage you’ll sustain. The odds are greater that you’ll have mold problems later on.

So here are a few million dollar questions for you:

  • Do you know where your whole-house water valve cutoff is?
  • Do you know how to turn the water to your washing machine off?
  • Do you know where the shut-off valves for your toilets are located?
  • Can you turn off the water to your water heater tank?
  • Can you turn off the water to your dishwasher?

There’s an old Ben Franklin quote that says, “An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.” This really applies to the water shut-off valves in your home. To figure out how to turn things off, first visually inspect each of the appliances mentioned above. Usually, you can spot the shut-off valve when you look for it. Still not sure? Check on Youtube for video instructions or ask a friend who’s a plumber or handyman to point them out. Worst comes to worst, you can call a water damage pro. Ron says he gets calls all the time and is glad to walk people through the steps. He offers it as a professional courtesy whether he gets the job or not.

Don’t wait for an emergency to figure this out. Take 20 minutes and walk through your home and figure out how to turn off all water-based appliances right now. In an emergency situation, your head will probably not be screwed on tight. Learn where the shut-off valves are now and teach your family how to turn off the appliances, too.

Call your insurance agent first.

Ron told us that your first call should always be to your insurance agent. “They’ll schedule a time for an adjuster to come look at your home’s damage. They also have a vendor list available with approved water and fire remediation companies listed for you to call. This saves you work. Now, you don’t have to use their vendor list. You can use your own contractor if you’d like. However, their companies have been checked out already. They have proper proof of insurance, they use the insurance pricing guidelines, and they’re most likely IICRC companies.” If you want to search for your own contractor, then be sure to check out their reviews carefully.

The lesson? Your agent is an ally. Call them and they’ll walk you through the steps to help the claims process go quickly and smoothly.

We hope you found Part 1 of this series helpful. In Part 2 we’ll discuss how to protect your personal belongings as well as how to avoid being the victim of insurance fraud.