What type of contractor is best for insurance repair?

Nobody wants to find themself in the position of needing to file a homeowner’s insurance claim. Not only do you need to find a contractor to quickly and effectively repair the damage to your home, but you also have to work with an insurance adjuster to manage the repair costs.  This balancing act can leave you with more questions than answers. How do I find the right contractor for an insurance repair job? What if the insurance payout won’t pay for the level of quality I expect for repairs? Should I take the opportunity to re-design parts of my home? 

At Lamont Bros., our design-build team has worked with several Portland-area homeowners to bring their homes back from disaster. From our experience, we’ve learned that the insurance repair process comes with many challenges and looks different for every project. As a result, the type of repairs you need will directly influence the type of contractor you should hire.

In this article, we’ll discuss the strengths of different types of repair contractors. Once you finish reading, you should be able to identify the type of contractor that is best suited for your needs and have a better idea of what the repair process will look like. Specifically, we’ll discuss:

What is the process of an insurance repair?

When you file a homeowner’s insurance claim, it’s because your home has sustained some form of damage. Usually, it’s due to fire, water, or natural disasters. In any case, it’s important to act quickly to repair your home. Below is a breakdown of the steps you should take.

Wait until it is safe to go back inside

In the case of a fire or flood, first responders may have to inspect the home before allowing you back inside. They may also need to investigate the cause of the damage. For your safety, make sure not to go back into your home until you have been given the all-clear. This will ensure that the authorities can properly document the damage and prevent further harm to your home.

Report the damage to your insurance company

To get the ball rolling with your insurance claim, the first thing you should do is contact your insurance company. Make sure to gather as much information on the damage beforehand as you can. If you have photos or police reports, have those ready to send in.

Your insurance company will likely send an adjuster to assess the damage and estimate the cost of repairs. Most insurance companies use a software called Xactimate to price out the cost of insurance claim repairs. This system is vastly different from most other estimating softwares in the construction industry. It often provides much lower cost estimates than other construction estimator tools. 

This discrepancy means the amount you are offered by your insurance company to repair your home will likely be much lower than what a construction contractor would charge using a different estimating system. Remember, it’s not the insurance adjuster’s job to provide you with the amount of money you need for high-quality repairs. It’s their job to minimize the amount of money the insurance company has to pay. 

Begin damage remediation

As soon as you’re given the green light to begin repairs on the home, the most urgent issue is remediation. Whether it’s water, fire, smoke, or a tree that fell on your roof, you want to get rid of the damaged materials in the home. 

Remediation is different from repair in that it primarily involves the removal of hazardous or damaged materials. Repair, which comes later, is the process of replacing those materials with something new. It’s important to begin remediation as quickly as possible to prevent further damage to the home.

Let’s say a water pipe in your home burst and flooded everything from the 2nd floor down. Remediation would involve removing standing water from the floor, drying out the walls, and removing the affected drywall or flooring.

After remediation, you may need to find temporary items to replace what has been removed.

Design & Repair

After you’ve handled the urgent issue of remediation, it’s time to start thinking about repairs. If the damage is minimal, you may be able to forego any design work and jump right into fixing things. However, many insurance claim jobs have enough damage to warrant at least some form of planning and design.

While the goal of remediation is to act quickly and prevent further damage,  the goals of design are to take your time and make sure it gets done the right way. One of the best ways to ensure that the repairs will live up to your expectations is to develop a design plan before beginning the repair process. Design plans give you a clear vision of what the project will look like, how much it will cost, and how long it will take.

Repair is also the phase where you’ll find the most contention with your insurance company. If you plan to do your due diligence in making sure the repair quality is up to snuff, expect at least a little pushback from your adjuster. However, as long as you can justify the costs as necessary to restore the home to pre-loss condition, the insurance company should pay the bill.

What type of contractor is best for insurance repair?

During the insurance repair process, your insurance company may recommend you work with a specific contractor. Sometimes, they may even lead you to believe that you must work with the contractor of their choice. However, you legally have the right to work with whichever contractor you decide. 

In some cases, there are benefits to working with an insurance-provided contractor. However, you should know about the other options available to you so you can choose whichever type of contractor is best for your insurance repair job. 

Oftentimes, insurance companies have existing relationships with a handful of small repair contractors. These tend to be the contractors your insurance company will push you towards working with.

These contractors are often small businesses with a single owner/operator and a handful of employees. Their overhead expenses tend to be minimal, so they can afford to charge a lower rate than other construction companies. These companies are generally also more willing to work with the insurance cost estimating system rather than use their own.

The important thing to note about an insurance-recommended contractor is that they work for the insurance company and not for you, the homeowner. Their main concern is to keep costs as low as reasonably possible so the insurance company will continue to recommend them for future repair jobs. To do this, some of these contractors could cut corners or perform repairs they are not qualified to do.

Work with an insurance-provided contractor if:

  • You prefer not to argue with your insurance adjuster about project costs
  • You would rather let your insurance company take point on finding a contractor
  • You don’t want to pay any additional repair costs out of pocket
Small-scope jobs, like re-flooring a home, don’t require a lot of design work.

Option 2: Damage Restoration Contractor

If you’re looking to hire a company specializing in rescuing homes from disaster, a damage restoration contractor is an excellent choice. Chances are, you’ll at least work with a damage restoration company during the remediation phase. These are generally the guys who are trained in immediate cleanup and urgent repairs after a home gets damaged. 

Damage restoration contractors are excellent candidates for jobs that require more cleanup and minor repairs than actual renovation. For example, let’s say your laundry room catches fire and smokes up your whole house. In this case, you’d probably call a restoration company to repair the laundry room and any smoke damage. That would involve removing burned surfaces, scrubbing the walls, replacing the furnace, and cleaning the home’s ducts.

Some damage restoration contractors also offer renovation and remodeling services. While many of them do a good job in this department, their strong suit is almost always going to be in damage remediation.

A restoration contractor doesn’t usually provide design services, which can be helpful for an insurance claim. As a result, you’ll likely need to find an independent designer at your own cost if you want the job to include design work.

Work with a damage restoration contractor if:

  • The damage requires immediate remediation and cleanup
  • The job involves very little renovation to the home
  • You want to work with a company that specializes in damage restoration
A damage restoration company specializes in identifying and removing damaged materials after a disaster.

Option 3: Design-Build Contractor

In cases where the insurance repair project requires extensive design work, a design-build contractor may be the ideal choice. Design-build companies aren’t exclusively restoration contractors, but they are fully capable of handling insurance claims when the need arises. Design-build contractors tend to be more expensive than other restoration options, so there’s a high chance your insurance company will object to their pricing.

A design-build contractor excels in insurance repair situations where a strong design is integral to the success of the job. For example, if your kitchen faucet springs a leak and floods your kitchen, you might want to take the opportunity to improve your kitchen layout and fix issues with the way the kitchen was originally designed. If that’s the case, you’ll almost certainly want to work with a professional kitchen designer. 

What sets a design-build firm apart from other contractors is its ability to incorporate both design work and construction into one seamless process. So, if your house sustains major damage and has to be extensively remodeled, a design-build contractor can develop a complete plan set and restore the home based on those designs.

Keep in mind, that if you are using an insurance claim as an opportunity to improve your home, your insurance company won’t cover anything beyond what it costs to restore your home to pre-loss condition. However, you are certainly allowed to pay an additional amount to take your restoration to the next level. In this case, a design-build firm can work with you during a restoration project to custom design it specifically to your needs and taste and get the correct contribution from your insurance company. 

Work with a design-build contractor if:

  • The damage to your home requires design services
  • You want to take the opportunity to remodel your home the way you want it
  • You don’t mind paying some out-of-pocket costs
For repair jobs involving significant design work, a design-build firm can help you balance the cost and quality of the work.

Want to learn more about the design-build process?

At this point, you should have a basic understanding of the process of repairing your home after an insurance claim, as well as which type of contractor might be best for you. Now, take the next step! To learn more about how companies like Lamont Bros. use the design-build process to give homeowners a spectacular remodeling experience, check out our Process Overview page

Do you think your home repair job needs the help of a professional designer? If so, don’t wait! Click the button below to schedule a free design consultation with a member of our design team. We’ll help you identify challenges and brainstorm solutions for your upcoming repair job.