Remodeling University: The Pros & Cons of Pocket Doors
The Pros & Cons of Pocket Doors… and what to do when you have to have them:
Note: I originally wrote this article for networx.com – a general interest remodeling blog, at netwrox.com’s invitation and request. The subject therefore, is a little different from what we typically cover in our Remodeling University blog. It is, nonetheless, a subject many remodeling homeowners would need to deal with, so the information is of use and merit to our readers as well;
There are homeowners that ask for pocket doors simply because they like them. Many homeowners, though, find themselves in a position where they have to decide about including pocket doors in their homes during the design process of a remodeling project, weather they would like to or not.
Pocket doors present particular challenges and solve particular problems. You should be mindful and informed about the pros and cons of choosing or agreeing to have a pocket door included in your project. If a decision was made to include a pocket door, your contractor and you should also be aware of the potential and common pitfalls associated with pocket doors and how to avoid them.
Why should you consider pocket doors:
1. Space: In tight quarters, like a small Jack and Jill bathroom, multiple swinging doors can ‘eat’ into the space available. The door might also be swinging into each other. Pocket doors solve that condition.
2. Space: swinging doors ‘occupy’ a wall space (when swung open) equal to the door’s opening. In small rooms, where wall space might be at a premium, pocket doors solve that dilemma.
3. Space: when two separate rooms are designed so that, when needed or desired, the rooms could be joined, a door system is often used. For example: the formal dining room has a wide opening towards an adjacent space. This can enable larger dinner parties to fit in, while it still allows for more intimate settings, when the door system is kept closed. There is a difference in the ‘flavor’ of a French door system (for example) and the ‘flavor’ of a pocket-door system that slides out of sight into the walls.
4. Aesthetics: as noted above, some folks simply prefer the look and feel of pocket doors and opt to use them for that reason.
Why should you avoid choosing pocket doors:
1. Sound: pocket doors do not ‘sit’ as tightly, as by design they merely slide into position rather than fit into it. As a result, pocket doors are not nearly as effective as standard doors in preventing sound from propagating from one room to the next.
2. Smells, light: for the same reason noted above, pocket doors are poor performers with respect to sealing off a room’s smell (think kitchens or bathrooms). Similarly, more light escapes from one space to the other, though this is rarely a big deal.
3. Wall’s sturdiness: for every pocket door, a wall opening, double its size is needed. While that opening is later covered up with the wall finish material (e.g. drywall), because there are no studs in that space (so as to allow for the pocket door to ‘disappear’ into it) – that wall section is flimsy and tends to wobble and sound hollow when tapped (which it is).
4. Function: pocket doors are notorious for function issues. They fall off tracks, they are difficult to roll, they are problematic to lock, they screech when rolled, etc.
5. Difficult to operate: pocket doors are not very friendly to anyone with difficulty grabbing or to anyone with diminished dexterity in their hands (e.g. arthritis sufferers). More dexterity is needed to grab and pull a pocket door out of its pocket than to grab a well designed and user-friendly (regular) door hardware.
So, if you have no choice but to choose a pocket door for your project (or, if you simply prefer it), here is what you and your contractor can do to be successful with it:
1. If possible use pocket doors in 2”x6” walls, rather than in 2”x4” walls.
2. Always spec and order heavy duty hardware. Note that pocket doors typically come with cheap hardware. Go for heavy duty ball-bearing nylon rollers.
3. Order (true) solid doors. Although these are heavier and thus more challenging to the hardware, the hardware would tend to pull out of the hollow core or composite doors with time.
4. Take special care to avoid any wall fasteners’ penetrations into the pocket space. These are often inadvertently and unknowingly project into the door’s travel path, creating a need to open the wall to fix the problem. It also means re painting the door. In cases where the projection into the door’s path within the pocket is not actually locking the door in place, such interference would forever undermine the door’s travel and will leave an inescapable scratch on the door’s face. Be especially careful if the wall is being tilled (with lathing used).
5. Print out the door’s installation instructions (online, at the manufacturer’s site and/or at many other online locations) and post them for your installer. While it is certainly possible that your contractor is an accomplished pocket-door installer, odds are against it.
6. Pay attention to your door’s hardware selection. I’m referring here to the door’s pull, not hangers/rollers.
The bottom line?
When and if you can – avoid pocket doors.
If you find yourself having to have a pocket door installed, educate yourself and your contractor and follow the advice above.
With care, attention (and a little competence wouldn’t hurt either) you’ll do just fine.
Remodeling University: How to Hire a Contractor
The First and Most Important Step for a Successful Home Remodeling Project:
How to Hire a Contractor
One of the hardest parts of a home remodeling project is selecting a contractor. Your contractor is the one who you need to trust to successfully complete your home remodeling project. Your home is probably your most important asset. Make selecting a contractor as painless as possible by taking your time, following your instincts and doing your homework. Start your project off right by following the tips below for selecting a reliable and professional contractor.
Types of Contractors & Home Improvement Professionals:
The type of contractor you need to hire depends upon the size and nature of your project. Understanding the different types of contractors will help you narrow down your search.
General Contractor – General contractors handle most home remodeling projects from start to finish. They typically hire subcontractors and work in conjunction with architects and designers to get the job done. Think of a general contractor as the project manager of your project. [Editor: the distinction made here about General Contractors working mostly though subs and Design-Build Contractors (see below) working with in-house crews is inaccurate in our opinion. The main difference would be that the Design-Build firm incorporates the design phase in its services, often offering it ‘in-house’ as is accurately noted below].
Architects – Architects design larger projects, such as room additions and home remodeling projects that require structural changes.
Interior Designers – Interior designers can work alone or with an architect to plan and design the finishing touches for your project.
Design/Build Contractors – Design/build contractors provide the same services as a general contractor but typically do not sub-contract the work [Editor: please see our editorial comment above].
They have architects and designers on staff. Homeowners do not need to hire any additional contractors or designers.
If you don’t know where to start looking for a contractor, the best place to start is by asking your friends, family and co-workers who you trust. If your friends and family were happy with a contractor, then chances are you will be, too. It’s best to consider recommendations from friends and family who have had similar projects completed. If you are planning a kitchen remodel and addition, don’t necessarily take a recommendation from a friend who had garage and deck work. Include questions about whether the job was completed on time and whether the contractor was accessible to answer their questions and address any issues. Keep in mind that each person has his own idea of quality. Inspect the work completed at your friend’s house so that you can determine if it is the quality that you want.
Contact the Contractor
Call or E-mail the contractor you are interested in and ask a series of initial questions to find out how long have he been in business; how many similar projects he has completed; what type of suppliers he uses, and whether he will work with the materials of your choice?
Get references and ask if you can view any of the completed projects. This may be more difficult with an indoor project. However, if a homeowner had a wonderful experience and is pleased with the results, he’ll probably be happy to show you the completed project. You can also request to visit jobs in progress. This step will give you a lot of insight into how the contractor works and interacts with his clients.
License and Insurance
Walk the other way if you come across an unlicensed contractor. Unlicensed contractors are a red flag. Any contractor who claims to be professional would not be without a license. According to the Federal Trade Commission, “most states license electrical and plumbing contractors, only 36 states have some type of licensing and registration statutes affecting contractors, remodelers. The licensing can range from simple registration to a detailed qualification process.” Check with your local licensing authorities to see what a contractor in your area is required to have.
Liability insurance is equally important. In most states, a license will not be granted without liability insurance [Editor: In California, there is no requirement for a contractor to have a liability insurance. A license will not be granted without a bond, but that is very different from liability coverage] . If the contractor uses sub-contractors, you must check that the sub-contractor has liability insurance or is covered under the policy of the contractor. This is extremely important because if a sub-contractor gets injured while working at your home and he is not covered by any liability insurance, he is legally allowed to sue you for the damages. [Editor: injuries to workers and subs are not covered by a liability policy, unless the general contractor was negligent. Always ask for and verify that every worker on your job site is covered with a workers’ compensation insurance. This is a mandated coverage in most states, but it is too often absent, leaving homeowners with a significant liability in case there is an injury]
A simple Internet search will reveal if there are any unresolved complaints against a contractor. Additionally, check with your local Better Business Bureau (BBB). [Editor: In California, check with the CSLB]
Check Out Remodeling Magazines
Several remodeling magazines, such as “Remodeling,” publish an annual list of the biggest home improvement companies in the country. While biggest isn’t always best, consulting with these companies will lead you to recommendations for quality contractors in your area. Additionally, remodeling magazines can help you think of design ideas for your project and to learn about new products.
Resist the Urge
The lowest proposal is definitely not the best proposal. For many homeowners, that urge to select the lowest bid is strong. Resist the urge to go with the lowest proposal. Instead, use your instinct, be smart and your homework will lead you to the best contractor for your project.
Learn all you need to know about contracts here.
Written by Marcy Tate
Marcy is a home improvement blogger at the Networx blog..
Remodeling University: We welcome posts by guests
“If you built it, they will come”:
In the past few weeks we have been approached on several occasions by other bloggers and industry experts in the areas most often covered in our Remodeling University blog about contributing posts to our blog, to the benefit of our readers.
Starting today, we will post here articles submitted to us that are dealing with the issues addressed and covered by Remodeling University that we can see would benefit our readers and visitors.
We start with Marcy, who is a home improvement blogger for networx.com.
If you are a blogger and/or an industry expert in an area of interest to Remodeling University, we would be happy to review your submission and post it here. It should it be accurate, professional and of interest to the readers of this blog.
Remodeling University: Choosing a Kitchen Designer, by Mal Corboy
The Benefits of a well-designed kitchen
“Good kitchen design involves both function and form; often, kitchen designers focus too much on the form, appearance and aesthetics of a kitchen at the expense of considerations concerning how the space functions. There are 40 design rules that apply when designing a kitchen, all of which involve the function of the kitchen. The form of the kitchen and its aesthetics are for me the requirements I have to fulfill for the client and the overall appearance of the project, regardless of the kitchen’s style.
In this article I would like to outline the benefits of using a qualified Kitchen Designer.
As a designer, I focus on the kitchen area and products that are available to give the client the best of both worlds. When designing a kitchen, the first and foremost thing on your mind should be “what appliances do I want for my kitchen”. The appliances opted for would determine to a great extent the direction the design and layout would take. For example, a double door refrigerator with an icemaker requires water and a fair amount of space in the overall design. It has to be accessible and not ‘hard against’ a wall. It also needs ample adjacent counter space. There are double ovens, which come in many different forms, and are either side-by-side or stacked. The amount of cooking and baking done in your kitchen will determine the type of oven you require and the layout as well. There are various types of cooktops that can be used, from electric to induction, gas and BBQ. When designing these into the kitchen there are several requirements that have to be met so that the construction conforms to the building code, and so that the end-user (you) get to use the space with full facility and enjoyment.
Perhaps you would like a coffee machine built in or a wine fridge. Many of us evolved into a café society and so these items are becoming very popular within modern kitchens, almost mandatory. As we all generally entertain and gravitate towards the center of our home, the kitchen, its look, function and facility are important to get ‘just right’.
Next we need to think about the products and finishes that we need or desire. These will be determined partly by the style of kitchen that you want and by your preferences. For example, if you don’t like to deal with scratches you should not opt for a stainless steel counter (or sink, for that matter). However, if you like the look of stainless steel the scratching eventually becomes part its character. The counters are an area of the kitchen that gets the most wear and tear. The counter is also a large element, visually. So it requires a fair amount of attention, and often investment. A good designer will advise you of all the pros and cons with each surface that is available, but remember it is always best to go with products that are tried and true.
This advice also applies to the finishes, the doors, drawers and the hardware that you choose. There are many hardware companies out there. Your Kitchen Designer would know which one would suite your needs and budget best. In most of the kitchens that I am designing (and in all of our Mal Corboy Cabinet lines), I am specifying the best available hardware on earth, as the hardware has so much impact on how well the kitchen would ultimately serve the clients over the long run.
When you are dealing with a competent Kitchen Designer (and when your budget and the skill-set of your contractor permit it) various materials are available to help create a unique look and feel for your new kitchen. A great example is colored glass. This is a great product to add texture and reflect light around your kitchen that can also provide the sense of bringing the outside in.
A lighting plan is an integral part of a good kitchen design. The kitchen should be well lit, good task lighting is essential as well and nice ambient mood lighting will complete ‘the picture’ nicely. Again, a good lighting plan goes beyond a number of recess cans and under-cabinet lights. Your Kitchen Designer could be a very valuable assent with that aspect of the design as well.
There are two principal aspects of a successful remodeling. One is the design. The other is your choice of a remodeling contractor. As far as design goes, your choice should be easier. Look for and hire a competent Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD).”
Mal Corboy CKD
Remodeling University: Announcing our ‘Featured Designer’ Series!
In our on-going attempt to bring value to everyone contemplating a remodeling project or involved in the remodeling and construction industries, and so that we could further expend the scope of useful information that is available here at our Remodeling University, we are announcing today our new “Featured Designer Series”.
In remodeling well in excess of 1000 kitchens over the last two and half decades we have crossed path with some of the area’s best (and worse) kitchen designers and architects. Thanks to our social networks activity and presence we had the privilege and pleasure of ‘meeting’ many of the country’s (and the world’s) best and brightest designers and architects as well.
Starting today, we are going to feature here guest posts by leading designers that we will choose based on the caliber and originality of their work. You will be able to review designing advice, approach and ideas for a variety of styles from a varied and leading talent. This should be great!
There is no better way to kick off the Featured Designer Series than to post an article by the ‘man himself’, Mal Corboy. Designer of the Year and manufacturer of the cabinet-line bearing his name, Mal is a force to reckon with, as far as modern design goes. He is a frequent guest speaker in TV and radio shows, was featured multiple times in international and local magazines and he gives seminars to kitchen professionals and designers, a new series of which would be launched in Australia in May and may even come to these shores.
Modern kitchens are the up-n-coming trend in design. Mal is at the forefront of this watershed change.
We are proud to be the exclusive distributors in North America of Mal Corboy Cabinets and we are proud to launch our new Featured Designer Series with Mal.
Remodeling University: Dealing with Hazardous Materials
A couple of days ago I had a call from a gentleman, whose parents hired a Los Angeles contractor that removed acoustic ceiling material as part of the demolition work at their home. The problem was that no one bothered to test the material for asbestos beforehand and, after it was all removed, it turned out asbestos was present.
Why is this a problem? Asbestos, once air born (no longer encapsulated) remains suspended in the air, contaminates flooring, walls, furnishings, clothing, etc. It becomes extraordinarily expensive to abate such contamination and complete success is questionable.
And why is that a problem? Because studies have conclusively demonstrated that long term exposure to asbestos leads to many health issues, not the least of which is cancer!
And that gentleman’s parents? They are very elderly and are staying in their home, in spite of the asbestos. Guests and family though, cannot visit them due to fear for their health, as the house is massively contaminated. Both the state and federal governments are now investigating. And the contractor? Well, not surprisingly – no sign of them (and this was a license company, as best the owners could tell).
Of the possible hazardous materials at homes, asbestos and lead would be at the top of the list (there are others). Please read a previous post regarding new lead-paint regulations. Like asbestos, the adverse effects of lead exposure are well researched and documented. Lead is especially devastating to kids and to pregnant woman. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you, your family or the workers you hired are placed in harm’s way.
Here’s is what to do:
1. Age of home: Neither asbestos nor lead should be found in new construction. Asbestos wise, there might be a risk if the house (or ceiling material) is from 71′ or before. Lead paint wise, your ‘cut off year’ is 1978. If your home is newer, odds are good you should not worry about asbestos or lead.
2. Testing: do not let anyone scrape off your (71′ or older) acoustic ceiling until and unless it was tested for asbestos. Asbestos test is inexpensive. Not doing it is a fools’ bargain. With regards to lead paint, starting April 22, 2010 no one is allowed to disturbed more than 6 square feet of interior paint (or replace a single window) unless they either tested the paint for lead or assume lead is present and take the required precautions. Lead testing is more involved than asbestos (more sampling is required) but it might be cheaper than to spend money on precautions if lead is not there.
3. Contractor: make sure your contractor is an EPA certified firm to deal with lead paint. This is applicable to your general contractor, to your painter, to your window replacement company or to any person or company working on your home, as the replacement of even a single window, as mentioned above, falls under the EPA regulations. No exceptions.
4. Records: review the credentials of the testing company/lab. Ask for a copy of the results and keep all pertinent paperwork for your records. If any abatement work is done, keep those records as well. This paperwork may become handy when you are selling your home or when a CalOsha or an EPA inspector comes calling.
5. Educate yourself: Reading this blog is a very good start. There are many online resources and publications available (EPA and CalOsha have great publications available free of charge) that can help you get a sense of what the correct abatement or defensive procedures should be. Educate yourself so that you could intelligently review your contractor’s efforts and confirm that what is done at your home is in compliance with the ‘best practices’. Its your family’s health that’s at stake here.
6. Cut costs at your own peril: Abatement can be costly. There are endless stories about homeowners that opted to ‘save’ by not properly handling and disposing of hazardous substances. If you don’t get caught “all that’s at stake” are your family’s health (and that of the workers – a potential liability issue for you to consider). If you do get caught (neighbors complain, a worker complained, an inspector drove by, etc.) the costs could be enormous in fines and in remediation work that would be needed to undue the damage.
“Knowledge is power” if and when it is intelligently acted upon. You now started collecting the knowledge. Next you ‘simply’ need to take the needed action. Think of Hazardous Materials as just one more thing to consider when planning a remodeling project.
If your home falls within the ‘problematic’ age group, a little caution will go a long way.
Remodeling University: Lighting Requirements
When remodeling your kitchen or bathroom (and in truth, when remodeling most all rooms in the home), your Los Angeles remodeling project will have to be in compliance with Title-24, which is the California code section that, among other issues deals with building energy efficiency. The 2008 standard (effective January 1, 2010) has particular requirements, that in some cases are different from the previous version of the standard. Your general contractor and/or your electrician should be mindful of these regulations, as should you.
Here are some of the highlights:
1. A minimum of 50% of the wattage contributing to lighting your kitchen should be from high-efficacy lighting. These would typically be fluorescent lights or LED lights. With fluorescent light wattage being 13W, as compared with 75W for regular incandescent lift, you can see that meeting the standard with any use of regular incandescent lights in your kitchen is a challenge.
2. Under certain provisions, you can get up to a 50W exception if your home is smaller than 2500SF and 100W exception if it is larger that this.
3. In-cabinet lighting is except, i.e. the wattage of your in-cabinet lights are not added to the equation.
4. In-cabinet light is limited to a maximum of 20W per lineal foot of cabinet.
5. In the bathroom (and in garages, laundry room, closets larger than 70SF) all lights need to be high-efficacy, unless lights are controled by a manually-on occupancy sensor switch.
6. In other rooms (namely bedrooms) again high efficacy lighting is required, unless lighting is controlled by a dimmer.
7. Low voltage fixtures are considered low-efficacy lighting.
So what does all this means to you?
1. The builder’s grade recess fluorescent lights are quite terrible. The light is extremely dim and ‘sickly’. Many homeowners opt to swap these out after final inspection because the light is so unsatisfactory. We recommend that you invest in better quality fixtures. They cost quite a bit more, but the light is bright, can be day-light-balanced and you have an efficient fixture you can keep.
2. Some owners opt to leave a blank fixture box so that a chandelier or another low efficacy fixture could be installed after final inspection. Title-24 now considers such a ‘blank’ just like a low-efficacy light.
3. The builder’s grade occupancy sensors are a pain. If not in clear ‘line of sight’ to the tub, for example, and you are taking a bath, the lights are liable to switch off on you and won’t turn back on until you do quite a ‘dance’ to have the sensor ‘see’ you. We recommend at the very least making sure that the sensors have ‘line of sight’. Better yet, install a ceiling mounted sensor. They are slick, very sensitive and work great.
4. A new kitchen design must include a careful review of the lighting plan. It is a challenge to get enough attractive light in a kitchen and still be in compliance with Title-24, but is is possible.
If your team and you have done a good job, than your kitchen remodeling project probably is probably great looking. No matter how nice your kitchen is though, without ample, bright and well located lighting to highlight the room’s features – the kitchen will never look its best. Without proper task lighting, your use and joy of it would be undermined as well. So take the time to discuss lighting with your design and building team and allow enough for lighting in your budget to make sure your lights are spot on.
Remodeling University: Water heaters – To Tankless Or Not To Tankless?
By now you are undoubtedly aware of tankless water heaters. While in use for decades in eastern Europe, Russia, Japan and elsewhere, the tankless water heaters are a fairly new addition to the US remodeling landscape.
Should you care? Do you need to get one? when is a good time to get it?
Well, we should all care about how much we are spending on the energy we consume. If we can spend less of it, all the better for our pocket book, for the environment and for our dependency on shady-regimes’ oil production.
The more efficient your water heater, the less it will cost you to heat your water (all else being equal). The water heater’s efficiency though is not necessarily dependent on your unit being traditional (with a tank) or tankless. There are traditional water heaters more efficient (and hence, cheaper to operate) than some tankless water heaters.
The calculation is complicated further when initial costs are taken into account. Tankless water heaters cost quite a bit more than traditional units. Even with lesser operating costs, how many years of operation are needed before the unit is at the break-even point, ROI wise?
In addition, it is highly recommended to have a water softener if a tankless is used (unless water where you live is already ‘soft’). So if your home is not equipped with one, this is yet another expense you need to consider if you want to go the ‘tankless route’.
Overall, I don’t recommend purchasing a tankless water heater if one’s principal or sole objective is to save money.
2. Daily Use:
The picture is different when you factor in the the chief benefit of a tankless water heater – you never run out of hot water. Anyone coming from a large family will appreciate this benefit.
Regular water heaters have a given capacity, or an amount of hot water they ‘hold’. Even if this is a well sized heater, there are always the ‘out of the ordinary’ scenarios in which you can find yourself showering in cold water; you have guests, someone went to the gym and is showering for the second time, it’s a cold day and everyone took to take just a while longer in the shower and so on.
With a tankless unit, the hot water just keeps coming.
3. Other considerations:
A (gas) tankless water heater requires electric power to work, i.e. you have no hot water in a power outage.
A tanked unit on the other hand takes a lot of space and is a hazard in an earthquake.
The tankless heaters are rather complex. With more parts and greater complexity there is more that can break or go wrong.
From an environmental point of view, a standard water heater works more, so as to keep a large volume of water hot all the time. It is also suffering from heat loss through it casing and its vent.
Heat loss is a none issue for a tankless water heater.
Recirculating water (so that you do not need to wait a long time for the hot water to arrive) is more of a challenge for a tankless heater, but new product on the market are addressing this problem.
Last, a tankless water heater typically requires a more robust gas supply (bigger gas line) than the traditional heater.
So when should you visit the question of which water heater to get:
1. When you undertake a kitchen remodeling project in your home (water heaters are sometimes enclosed in the kitchen or laundry cabinets).
2. When you do any sizable remodeling project.
3. When you are increasing the size of your home.
4. When hot water demands are changing significantly in your household.
5. When your existing water heater no longer works, no longer works well, is leaking or is ‘long in the tooth’.
We have installed nothing but tankless water heaters for some years now. A tankless is a wonderful product, bringing together green remodeling sensibilities with superior users’ benefits. Now, if it only cost less as well…
Remodeling University: Earthquakes and your home
With major earthquakes in Haiti and Chile causing such destruction (and unfortunately loss of life), many of us in California can’t help but think of the pending ‘big-one’. When would we be hit with the long anticipated and uniformly predicted next major earthquake? What can we do to prepare ourselves and to better protect our family ahead of such an event? And, what about earthquake insurance?
As for the ‘when’ – I think it is safe to say that no one knows. All the experts can tell us is that: 1. A significant earthquake in our area is not a question of ‘will it happen’, rather it is only a questions of ‘when will it happen’. As far as historical data goes, it would seem that we are now ‘overdue’ for a major seismic event.
So, what can you do to better prepare yourself for the inevitable:
1. Your water heater should be strapped to code.
2. While this may not be code mandated where you live, consider a gas shut-off valve.
3. Secure items in your home: place heavy items on lower shelves, install latches at cabinets with breakables, strap tall furniture pieces to the walls.
4. If you suspect a structural deficiency in your home (for example: in a past remodeling project a shear wall was significantly undermined), have a professional review it.
5. Have emergency supplies on hand: you can get a pre assembled kit or put one together on your own. Look online for what this kit should contain.
6. Develop an emergency communication plan: if a major earthquake where to hit at a time when your family members are not together, it might be very difficult to get a hold of one another. An out-of-state relative could be a great central contract.
7. Consider earthquake insurance: since the 94′ Northridge earthquake, insurance premiums for earthquake coverage have skyrocketed and the deductibles are now very high. Still, this is a great insurance to have if you can afford it. In the case of a catastrophic loss it can mean the difference between still having a home or not.
While the ‘official’ (FEMA) recommendation for personal protection during an earthquake is to seek cover under a heavy table, some experts with disaster rescue experience disagree; Rescue teams report most casualties are found under items that crushed them. Their recommendation is to lie down next to a sofa or other such large item. If heavy timber comes crushing down, a ‘safe triangle’ would be found between the lower edge of large furniture (such as a sofa) and the floor. This is where you are safest. Your best bet? outdoors, away from the building, power lines and the road.
There is not much we can do about the ‘when’ or the ‘if’ of an earthquake. We can, however, tilt the odds in our favor by recognizing the inevitability of such an event and by taking defensive measures ahead of it. As in ‘right now‘. Start today by evaluating your home for risks and by putting together an emergency kit and supplies. Get your family involved and informed…and be safe.
Remodeling University: If You Have Water Damage
Possibly the most common of damages to homes in Los Angeles, water damage presents particular challenges to the homeowners and their team.
You should be mindful that not all water damage is a covered loss under your policy. Most policies would limit coverage to accidental loss. So if a pipe burst in the house caused a flood and damage the home and its content, the loss is likely accidental and should be covered. If, on the other hand, you have a balcony that was not built or sealed correctly and during the last rain storm water leaked to the room below, your homeowners’ policy might not afford you coverage. You may have a construction defect claim against your builder or a warranty claim against whomever sealed this balcony last, but for the purpose of our discussion here (water damage loss and repair under your homeowners’ policy), this might not be a covered loss.
It is always a good practice to assume that you are covered. Do not rely solely on your insurance company’s input regarding coverage. When in doubt, check with your agent and have a Public Adjuster review your policy for feedback. I have seen claims rejected by insurance companies (especially in this area of loss, i.e. claims originating from water leaks), only to be later accepted and covered after we got involved.
While often not conceived as such by most homeowners, water is remarkably destructive to homes. Aside from the obvious staining and the bad smell standing water can cause, water is negative and pervasive in its affect on structures. It penetrates all assemblies (thus affecting and undermining substrates hidden from view), it delaminates adhesives (thus damaging structural plywood and all other wood products), left standing it can become a health hazard and, if water or moisture are allowed to remain, it promotes the growth of mold.
The first objective is therefore to to completely remove all water and excessive moisture from the building. The longer the water is allowed to remain behind, the greater the scope of the loss and the more expensive the remediation work would be. Unfortunately, insurance companies so often try to get by with doing less rather doing all that is needed and, just as often, move at glacial pace when demands are made by knowledgeable homeowners and their team members for proper testing and repairs, that what is an uncomplicated loss to start with becomes a very complicated and expensive loss to remediate and repair in the last.
What should you do:
1. Never rely solely on the insurance company’s feedback regarding coverage.
2. Assemble an experienced and qualified team to represent you. Start with a top-tier contractor that also has a lot of experience dealing with insurance losses (not any that your insurance company suggests- these contractors have experience dealing with insurance related losses, but from the insurance company’s side.) Your team should also include a Public Adjuster and an Hygienist. Your contractor should be able to help you locate the best consultants there.
3. This is a different ‘exercise’ from a typical remodel. Look for the best contractor you can find. Not for the cheapest you can afford. You are not paying for the repairs.
4. Report the claim right away to both the insurance company and your agent.
5. Document everything. Log all phone calls, conversations, etc. noting date, time, who you spoke with and what was said/discussed/decided or promised. Take a lot of pictures.
6. Find your policy, read it and familiarize yourself with your coverage and your rights.
7. Hand over management of the claim to your PA or to your contractor as soon as possible.
8. Remember: you are under no obligation to get the insurance company 3 estimates and you are under no obligation (neither is your contractor) to accept the prices proposed by your insurance adjuster. These numbers rarely make sense.
9. It is the insurance company’s obligation to remediate, restore and repair all damages and bring your home to pre-loss condition! This is a huge statement, the ramifications of which can only be fully realized when you have a competent team representing you.
10. Never deal directly and without representation with your insurance company.
No one plans on water damage. Los Angeles homes are built to resist rather significant earthquakes. None is immune to water damage though. When water does accidentally causes damage to your home, follow the above to insure your loss is properly adjusted, adequately scoped and professionally and fully repaired.