Public Adjusters Negotiate on Behalf of Policy Holders … Not Their Contractor

All of my business comes to me by way of my internet advertising and referrals.  I do not “chase fires and storms” or otherwise solicit policyholders who have suffered a loss to hire me.  A potential client (or the person referring them) must contact me, first.

Referrals come to me regularly from former clients, attorneys, and building contractors who recommend me to policyholders that they know, and that might benefit from my involvement with their insurance claim.

Some Missouri building contractors will attempt to negotiate with an insurance company on behalf of the owner of the property that they are repairing or rebuilding and will often find that the insurance company refuses to cooperate with them.  Instead of contracting to do work for less than what they need to make, or before using inferior products and labor and cut corners to afford to work for the insurance company’s lowball estimate, they advise the homeowner to hire a public adjuster for assistance.

I have received many referrals from building contractors and have assisted the policyholders that they referred to me with successfully reopening their claim and getting a fair settlement that covers the full cost of the project (as well as my fee) so that the contractor can receive his full pay to do quality work.  This is a win for the policyholder, a win for the contractor, and a win for an insurance company who operates in good faith.

Likewise, policyholders that I help will often ask me for advice or referrals when they have been paid and are ready to begin the work of restoring their home or business.  I will recommend many of the fine and reputable building contractors that I have come to know and admire, knowing that they will be satisfied with the results.

Sometimes I will get calls from contractors who are simply wanting me to aid them to increase their own level of profit, at the expense of the insurance company and the policyholder, by adding unnecessary work to the scope to increase the cost to the job and expect me to negotiate on THEIR behalf and convince the insurance company to pay it.  I don’t do that.

A recent case in point was a Missouri policyholder who was reluctant to hire a public adjuster but was pressured to contact me by his building contractor.  The contractor initially attempted to “represent” the policyholder in negotiating his contract with me and discussing the claim with me, but I refused and communicated directly with the policyholder.  This is the only way I do business.

As I investigated the claim, I found that the insurance company had inspected the hail-damaged roof and siding with the contractor’s estimator and had actually agreed to pay what the estimator had originally estimated the costs to be.  Then, for reasons not clearly explained, the owner of the construction company revised his estimator’s original estimate and added a large amount of money for something outside the normal scope of work, and the insurance company refused to pay for this additional cost.

My job, according to the building contractor who pressured the policyholder to hire me, was to get the homeowner this extra sum for this unnecessary work so that he could pay it to the contractor.  I refused to do this and advised the policyholder that the insurance company had offered a fair settlement that matched the original estimate provided by his contractor, and that I was withdrawing from his claim.

An insurance claim is a matter that is between the policyholder and his insurance company, and the only acceptable resolution to an insurance claim is a complete restoration of the insured property to the condition that it was immediately before the event that caused the loss.  The contractor is hired by the policyholder to perform the work to meet that level of restoration and the insurance company has a duty to pay the costs associated with that level of restoration.  Nothing more … nothing less.

I appreciate the many referrals that I receive from building contractors who are looking to help policyholders achieve fair settlements so that they can be paid in full for their valuable services; however, when the policyholder and I agree to work together on his claim, I represent the policyholder and his interests, only.

Home destroyed by fire.

Home destroyed by fire.

Hail Damage to Gutters – Repair or Replace?

I recently received an inquiry from a homeowner who, following a recent hail storm, had his gutters damaged.  He asked if he should seek to have his insurer pay to have them painted or replaced.

Although aluminum gutters can be repainted, this will become a process that will have to be repeated again and again over a period of time.  Even while the original surface will change color or become dull over time, the original surface is baked on and will not peel or crack, as will paint.  Painting gutters are, over time, the most expensive and least effective option.

This also applies to a metal siding.

A home owner’s insurance policy entitles that the home is restored as close as possible to the condition that it was prior to the loss event.  Painting a gutter or metal siding does not accomplish this.  Replacing it does.Damaged Gutter

Copyright 2013 James H. Bushart

www.publicadjustermissouri.com

 

Engineered Wood Flooring

Engineered wood flooring is an alternative to solid hardwood flooring made entirely out of real wood.  It’s currently the most popular type of flooring in the world.  North America is the only area left where traditional, solid wood floors still outnumber engineered floors, but engineered wood flooring is quickly catching up, with the rate of use for new builds, as well as remodels, increasing steadily every year for the past few decades.  Inspectors and homeowners alike may be interested in how this product is manufactured and installed, and what its advantages are compared to older, more traditional forms of flooring.

Brief History

The beginnings of mass-produced wood flooring can be dated as far back as 1903, when an E. L. Roberts mail-order catalog offered “wood carpeting.”  This flooring consisted of 1½ x 5/16-inch wooden strips that were glued to heavy canvas that was then installed by tacking it down with brads.  The wood was then sanded and finished.  The varnishes used were usually slow-curing tung oils from China.  These were not durable in themselves, so the floors were hot-waxed and buffed to a shine with a floor brush.

Early examples of the “wood carpet” eventually evolved into more modern iterations, such as laminate flooring, which consists of melamine-infused paper as its upper layer, and wood-chip composite beneath.  Laminate flooring typically features a printed or embossed top layer meant to approximate the look of real hardwood.

The current incarnation of engineered wood flooring has been available since the 1960s, and has steadily increased in quality, leading to improved advantages over traditional hardwood flooring.

Composition

Engineered wood flooring is most commonly made with a plywood-core substrate and a real hardwood veneer or skin, which comes pre-finished from the factory.  The top veneer, which looks just like the top of a traditional solid wood plank, is called the lamella. 

Some engineered flooring utilizes a finger-core construction, with a substrate comprised of small pieces of milled timber running perpendicular to the lamella.  This can be made with an additional layer of plywood running parallel to the lamella, which gives it added stability.  Fiberboard-core flooring is also available, but it’s generally considered to be an inferior option.

Engineered wood flooring is meant to be indistinguishable from traditional hardwood floor once it’s installed, and only the lamella is visible.  The lamella veneers available are made from nearly every type of common wood, as well as many more exotic ones, in order to provide the same variety of aesthetics typical of quality hardwood floors.  The substrate that the veneer is attached to is just as strong and durable as hardwood — if not stronger — and the finish applied at the factory often outlasts one applied on-site to solid wood flooring.  Even surface effects are available that can be applied to the finish to give the flooring a time-worn look, such as light distressing.

Engineered flooring runs the gamut from the low end, starting at $3 per square foot, to the high, at $14 and more. To judge quality, check the thickness of the lamella, the number of layers in the substrate, and the number of finish coats.  Typically, the more layers, the better. Listed below are descriptions of the advantages of adding layers to the construction in the common classes of engineered boards:

  • 3-ply construction: 1- to 2-mm wear layer; five finish coats; 10- to 15-year warranty; 1⁄4-inch thick; current price is about $3 to $5 per square foot.  Options for lamella veneer are limited to common species, such as oak and ash, and just a few stains are available;
  • 5-ply construction: 2- to 3-mm wear layer; seven finish coats; 15- to 25-year warranty; 1⁄4-inch thick; about $6 to $9 per square foot.  More species, such as cherry, beech, and some exotics are available for lamella, as well as all stains, and a few surface effects, such as distressing; and
  • 7-ply or more: 3+-mm wear layer, which can be sanded two or more times; nine finish coats; 25+-year warranty; 5/8- to 3⁄4-inch thick; average price is about $10 to $14 per square foot.  The widest selection of species is available for lamella, including reclaimed options.  More surface treatments are also available, such as hand-scraped and wire-brushed.

The cost of engineered flooring can be around 20% more than that of traditional flooring, but the difference can be offset or recouped by saving on installation, staining and sealing.

Installation

Installation of engineered wood flooring is generally quite simple compared to the installation of traditional hardwood, and can often be accomplished by a homeowner without the help of a professional flooring contractor.  If the services of a professional are enlisted, the job can be done more quickly and cost-effectively than if solid hardwood were to be installed.  Engineered flooring can be fastened in place with screws or nails, glued down, or left to “float,” relying on its mass to hold it in place.  Listed below are several installation methods:

  • A bead of glue can be applied to the tongue of each board, which is then tapped into place with a block. The floor floats, unattached to the sub-floor except by force of gravity.
  • A floor stapler and compressor can be used to rapidly secure the boards to the existing floor, without having to deal with any glue.
  • Boards can be laid in a bed of adhesive, as is done with tile.  This approach works particularly well over cured concrete, which precludes the use of staples.
  • Some types of engineered floor are designed with milled tongues and grooves that lock together without glue or fasteners. It’s the quickest and cleanest installation method.

Advantages of Engineered Flooring

While solid hardwood is a great traditional building material that provides aesthetically pleasing and structurally sound flooring, it does have its limitations.  For example, it cannot be installed directly on concrete or below grade, such as in basements.  It is generally limited in plank width and is more prone to gapping, which is excessive space between planks, and cupping, which is a concave or “dished” appearance of the plank, with the height of the plank along its longer edges being higher than the center with increased plank size.  Solid hardwood also cannot be used where radiant-floor heating is in place.
Engineered wood flooring, on the other hand, can actually provide some distinct advantages over traditional hardwood in many instances and applications.  Some of these include:
  • Lamella veneer is available in dozens of wood species.
  • Surface effects can be applied to further enhance its appearance.
  • The factory finish can outlast site-applied finish on solid hardwoods.
  • Drying time for the finish is eliminated because it’s pre-applied at the factory.
  • It can be used in basements and over concrete slabs.
  • Installation is quick and easy.
  • It can be used over radiant-heat systems.
  • It can be refinished to repair normal wear and tear.
  • The core layer can expand and contract more freely without warping.
  • The flooring can be removed and re-installed elsewhere, if desired.
Engineered wood flooring is increasingly the first choice for floor installations, and its advantages, in many circumstances, can be exceptional.  Homeowners with a little DIY experience can usually install it themselves.
by Nick Gromicko and Ethan Ward

Anti-Scald Valves

Anti-scald valves, also known as tempering valves and mixing valves, mix cold water in with outgoing hot water so that the hot water that leaves a fixture is not hot enough to scald a person. Anti-scald valves are used to regulate water temperature in buildings

Facts and Figures

  • Scalds account for 20% of all burns.
  • More than 2,000 American children are scalded each year, mostly in the bathroom and kitchen.
  • Scalding and other types of burns require costly and expensive hospital stays, often involving skin grafts and plastic surgery.
  • Scalding may lead to additional injuries, such as falls and heart attacks, especially among the elderly.
  • Water that is 160º F can cause scalding in 0.5 seconds.

Unwanted temperature fluctuations are an annoyance and a safety hazard. When a toilet is flushed, for instance, cold water flows into the toilet’s tank and lowers the pressure in the cold-water pipes. If someone is taking a shower, they will suddenly feel the water become hotter as less cold water is available to the shower valve. By the same principle, the shower water will become colder when someone in the house uses the hot-water faucet. This condition is exacerbated by plumbing that’s clogged, narrow, or installed in showers equipped with low-flow or multiple showerheads. A sudden burst of hot water can cause serious burns, particularly in young children, who have thinner skin than adults. Also, a startling thermal shock – hot or cold – may cause a person to fall in the shower as he or she scrambles on the slippery surface to adjust the water temperature. The elderly and physically challenged are at particular risk.

Anti-scald valves mitigate this danger by maintaining water temperature at a safe level, even as pressures fluctuate in water supply lines. They look similar to ordinary shower and tub valves and are equipped with a special diaphragm or piston mechanism that immediately balances the pressure of the hot- and cold-water inputs, limiting one or the other to keep the temperature within a range of several degrees. As a side effect, the use of an anti-scald valve increases the amount of available hot water, as it is drawn more slowly from the water heater. Inspectors and homeowners may want to check with the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) to see if these safety measures are required in new construction in their area.

Installation of anti-scald valves is typically simple and inexpensive. Most models are installed in the hot-water line and require a cold-water feed. They also require a swing check valve on the cold-water feed line to prevent hot water from entering the cold-water system. They may be installed at the water heater to safeguard the plumbing for the whole building, or only at specific fixtures.

The actual temperature of the water that comes out of the fixture may be somewhat different than the target temperature set on the anti-scald valve. Such irregularities may be due to long, uninsulated plumbing lines or defects in the valve itself. Users may fine-tune the valve with a rotating mechanism that will allow the water to become hotter or colder, depending on which way it’s turned. Homeowners may contact a qualified plumber if they have further questions or concerns.

In summary, anti-scald valves are used to reduce water temperature fluctuations that may otherwise inconvenience or harm unsuspecting building occupants.

by Nick Gromicko and Rob London

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