Escape of water 5 – repairs (at last)!

This is the fifth in a series of articles which document the procedure/process following a burst water pipe and the subsequent insurance claim. I decided to write the articles following such an event in my house and being unable to find much in the way of useful information online. Hopefully, in time, the search engines will pick these articles up and if you are unfortunate enough to suffer a similar event, my experience might give you some idea of what to expect. The first article in this series can be found here.

Repairs to my flooded property eventually started in May 2015, almost five months since the original burst pipe incident. The first thing to be done was to reinstate the first floor flooring so that it was possible to access this level. Next the partition walls on the first floor had to be rebuilt as the original ones had all been removed due to water damage. Ceilings throughout the property were replaced and first fix electrical/plumbing work was carried out, ready for the huge amount of plastering which needed to be done.

While the plasterboard walls and ceilings only needed a skim coat of plaster, there were a lot of breeze block walls which needed a bonding coat of plaster and then a skim coat. Basically the bonding coat is a much thicker layer of plaster which goes on first. The plastering took several weeks to complete in the end but as the bricks were slowly covered up, so the building started to look a bit more like a home again.

With the plastering finished and dry, so begin the next stages of the process: door frames, architrave, skirting board, second fix electricals and plumbing and coving and ultimately decorating and flooring, doors and finishing touches such as curtain poles etc.

When I originally met with the contractor to discuss the work required, he quoted me a timescale for the repairs of six weeks. I’ve been involved with enough refurbs over the years to know that you have to at least double an estimate like this! In the end, from the start of the repairs to the finish took a little over three months (so doubling it was almost spot on!) By this time, I really wasn’t bothered if things took a bit longer – much better to have everything done properly than rushed. I can’t speak highly enough of the guys who worked on my house and everything was done to an extremely high standard and nothing was too much trouble. In the greater scheme of things, a few extra weeks really were neither here nor there, especially when you are talking about a total time from flood to finish of eight months.

Latest book now available!

distinctly-average-entrepreneur-642x1024When I started writing ‘Distinctly Average Entrepreneur’ last year, it was my intention to have it written, edited and published by Christmas (last Christmas). That didn’t happen. I set a new target date for Easter but a burst pipe and subsequent trashing of my house meant that I missed that deadline too. But I’m pleased to announce, that just six or so months after my intended publication date, ‘Distinctly Average Entrepreneur’ is now available for purchase…

The book is a kind of humorous business biography and covers numerous entrepreneurial ventures undertaken by me, my mum and one of my best friends. It certainly isn’t a boring business book and I think that anyone interested in business should find something of interest. There are plenty of business failures, as well as quite a few success stories. I’ve also included a few tips and hints which should help any budding entrepreneur along the way.

DAE was an enjoyable book to write as it reminded me of the sheer number of business ideas I have tried over the years. Like most entrepreneurs, it wasn’t just a case of rolling out one idea and making an instant fortune (actually I’m still waiting for the fortune to arrive but if you read the book, you will see that I am less focused on this aspect of business nowadays).

Anyway, you can find out more about ‘Distinctly Average Entrepreneur’ by clicking here. The book is available from Amazon in both Kindle and paperback versions. Enjoy!

Escape of water 4 – quotes and schedule of works for repairs

This is the fourth in a series of articles which document the procedure/process following a burst water pipe and the subsequent insurance claim. I decided to write the articles following such an event in my house and being unable to find much in the way of useful information online. Hopefully, in time, the search engines will pick these articles up and if you are unfortunate enough to suffer a similar event, my experience might give you some idea of what to expect. The first article in this series can be found here.

My last update ended with the property having been stripped out and in the process of drying. Drying the house took around three and a half months and during this time, not a great deal happened. I visited the property every couple of days to empty the dehumidifier containers and hassled the insurance company/contractors etc to get whatever they needed in order so that once dry, they could crack on with the repairs as soon as possible. It was a frustrating period because there isn’t really anything that can be done until the building is dry so it is just a case of being patient but I’m not very good at that. Someone from the drying company visited every couple of weeks to check the humidity levels but until they get down to a reasonable level (about 20% from memory), no building work can commence.

Around the three month mark, the insurance company’s contractor arranged an appointment to visit my house to draw up a quotation and schedule of works. By this time the property was almost dry enough for repairs to start. The appointment took an hour or so and basically involved walking round the sad looking building while making a list of everything which needed doing. The contractor then drew up a quote and sent it over to the insurance company for approval. I was given the option of using my own contractors if I so wished and the insurance company would have just paid me out on their quote (assuming it was reasonable) and it would have been up to me to oversee/manage everything. In the end, I decided to use the approved contractor as I wouldn’t have to get involved with paying them and I had someone to go back to if there was a problem (the insurance company). If I had employed my own contractor and there had been any issues then I doubt the insurance company would have wanted to get involved. The only exception I made here was to use my own plumber and electrician and this was simply because I knew someone I could trust/rely on. For all of the plumbing/electrical work, I settled the bills myself and the insurance company paid the money to my bank account once I sent a receipt to them.

By this time, I had also moved into rented accommodation, having become completely fed up with living in a hotel. Not being able to cook for over two months meant that I put on about a stone in weight and I didn’t want this to turn into two or three stone by the time I eventually got back to my house. The insurance company initially paid for me to rent a studio apartment and then a two bedroomed house.

There were more delays once the building had been certified as dry as the contractor is not allowed to do anything until a formal ‘dry certificate’ has been issued. Despite me chasing this on an almost daily basis, it took about three weeks for this to be produced. Unfortunately, at times, it did seem like the only person in a rush to get things repaired was me.

Because of the size of the quote (in excess of £50k), the insurance company advised me that it would be normal practice for them to put the job out to tender. This would create a further delay of around two months while additional quotes were submitted, considered and ultimately approved. Fortunately, because of the amount of work I had done on the property in January, the insurance company representative agreed that they would go with the quote of their contractor rather than cause additional delays. This was a huge relief as otherwise there would just have been yet another period of time when nothing was happening.

It is worth mentioning that, if you find yourself in a similar situation and have changes/improvements you want to make to your property, this is the time to do it. I had a few minor, cosmetic alterations I wanted carried out so I discussed them when the contractor was drawing up his quote. The insurance company will pay out to put the building back the way it was but if you want to substitute some things with others, it might not necessarily cost you anything. Equally, if you want more expensive fittings etc, you will have the option of paying the extra yourself. I had quite expensive solid wood flooring downstairs and I opted to replace this partly with carpet and partly with Karndean flooring. This left a bit of cash spare and almost covered the cost of replacing my internal doors with smart oak veneer ones rather than the normal white painted panel doors.

Repairs eventually started in May, almost five months after the pipe had actually burst.

Escape of water 3 – stripping out and drying

This is the third in a series of articles which document the procedure/process following a burst water pipe and the subsequent insurance claim. I decided to write the articles following such an event in my house and being unable to find much in the way of useful information online. Hopefully, in time, the search engines will pick these articles up and if you are unfortunate enough to suffer a similar event, my experience might give you some idea of what to expect. The first article in this series can be found here.

As agreed with the loss adjuster during his visit earlier in the month, I have spent most of January stripping out my sodden property. After a few days of working, I began to regret making the offer of starting this job as it is clear that rather than ‘making a start’ (as was my original intention), it is likely that I will end up doing 75% or more of the total strip out. The reason for this is simply that it takes time to get contractors to quote/start work and while this process continues in the background, I may as well just crack on with the work.

If your home has suffered a similar burst pipe scenario and you have reached this page hoping for some good news at the end of a pretty bleak looking tunnel, I’m afraid the news is, initially at least, not going to be great. Your house is almost certainly going to end up looking a whole lot worse than it did when you first discovered water pouring through your ceiling etc. I was away when a pipe in the loft burst and water was pouring through the property for some time before anyone noticed thus creating a pretty much ‘worse case scenario’.

By the time I had finished stripping out my home, I had filled three large skips. I removed all of the soaking loft insulation, all of the ceilings, all interior doors, all carpet, the wooden flooring on the ground floor, all of the skirting boards, door frames and architrave and the sanitary fixings in one of the bathrooms and the downstairs cloakroom. All lighting, electrical sockets and radiators would also eventually be removed. The house was looking pretty bare at this point but there was still more to go. When the contractors arrived to complete the job, they stripped all of the plaster from around 60% of the walls in the house, taking them back to breeze block and the chipboard flooring from 75% of the upstairs. Most of the dividing plasterboard walls upstairs were also eventually removed. In the end, it was possible to stand in the lounge and look up through the floor joists to the roof tiles. The property hadn’t been this naked since it was built.

Shortly after the loss adjuster’s visit, the drying company had called and installed approximately ten dehumidifiers and half a dozen ‘air movers’ (giant fans). These would run 24/7 to dry the house out. By this time, the heating had also been repaired and the this was also left on constantly to help the drying process. Relative humidity in the house was 100% and it was very uncomfortable working or even being in the building. I was surprised at how much my breathing was affected just because of the humidity levels. There was absolutely no way anyone could have lived in the house during this period.

I remember getting quite impatient in the few days after the loss adjuster had visited because the drying company didn’t phone me immediately. Obviously, I wanted the house dry as soon as possible. A few days wait turned out to be pretty irrelevant in the end because it actually took three and a half months for the property to fully dry out! On the plus side, the insurance company will pick up the tab for all of the electricity and gas I used during the drying process so, every cloud…

Escape of water part 2 – the loss adjuster calls…

This is the second in a series of articles which document the procedure/process following a burst water pipe and the subsequent insurance claim. I decided to write the articles following such an event in my house and being unable to find much in the way of useful information online. Hopefully, in time, the search engines will pick these articles up and if you are unfortunate enough to suffer a similar event, my experience might give you some idea of what to expect. The first article in this series can be found here.

So, to pick up where the last article in this series left off, I had returned home to find a burst pipe in my loft which had resulted in the house being filled with water. Approximately 75% of the property and my contents were trashed and the insurance company had paid for me to move into a hotel pending the visit of a loss adjuster.

The loss adjuster arrived a couple of days after my phone call and I was pleased that he seemed like a friendly and reasonable chap. As I said in the last article, I have never claimed on a house insurance policy so had no idea what to expect but I was pretty concerned that the loss adjuster’s main aim might be to try to wriggle out of paying up. Fortunately that didn’t appear to be the case. Unable to offer him anywhere to sit, we stood in the freezing cold kitchen (it’s January and the heating packed up along with the rest of the electrics when a billion gallons of water were chucked over them) while he typed up his notes on a laptop. I answered the questions you would expect: what had happened, how long had I been away, have I ever made any claims before and so on. I should say at this point that I was extremely grateful that I am not one of these people who claim for every tiny thing on their insurance policy. I would have felt very nervous if I had had to stand and confess to a string of minor claims over the previous years. Being able to say I hadn’t claimed in 23 years must surely have been a good thing? Not that I had anything to hide but when you are basically asking the insurance company to stump up tens of thousands of pounds, you want to be in the strongest position possible.

After completing the necessary paperwork (which all went straight into a laptop so actually no paper at all), we went to inspect the damage. The loss adjuster made notes on the extent of the work required to repair the house along with a list of contents which had been damaged. Some items such as the TV and beds, he agreed to pay for immediately. Other, larger pieces of furniture would need to be assessed by a restoration company to see if they could be economically repaired. This company would contact me in the next few days to arrange this.

The loss adjuster then explained what would happen next. Firstly, we needed to clear the house of any items which hadn’t been damaged. In my case, this wasn’t much but he said he would arrange for a storage company to collect and store the few bits of furniture and the odd personal possession. As I know a very reasonably priced local storage company, I asked if I could arrange this myself as it would almost certainly be cheaper than using their contractor. He agreed that if I got some prices, he would be happy with this if the cost was reasonable. In the end, there were quite a few jobs that I arranged personally because it was more convenient to me and cost the insurance company less overall. I could have just walked away and let them sort everything out but I wanted to try and keep the total cost of the claim down as much as possible – no point in wasting money regardless of whether it was mine or theirs.

Next on the list was getting the house dry. Nothing could be done in terms of repair before the property had been completely dried out and had a ‘drying certificate’ issued. Again, the loss adjuster said he would arrange for the drying company to contact me in the next few days to sort out dehumidifiers and air moving fans. He also said he would get a building contractor to contact me regarding stripping out the property. Having been involved in a number of refurbishments over the years, I asked if he was happy for me to start stripping the house out myself. This would obviously save the insurance company some money but (and this was the main reason for my offer) it would also speed the drying process up. There was an awful lot of wet stuff in the house which didn’t need to be dried (carpets, loft insulation, wood flooring and so on) and the quicker it was out and in a skip, the quicker everything else could dry. He agreed that I could start the strip out and confirmed that he was happy to pay for as many skips as I needed. It was also pretty obvious that my offer was highly unusual and not what he was used to seeing when visiting a client! It was also clear that anything I could do to minimise the size of the claim would be appreciated by the insurance company. Obviously, most people won’t be in the position of being able or even wanting to deal with the stripping out of a soaking property so the normal course of events at this point would be, I guess, to wait for the insurance company’s builder to come along and deal with this task.

There was no way I could live in the house going forward and therefore the options for accommodation were outlined to me. The loss adjuster was happy for me to stay in the hotel which I had booked into a few days previously (the Premier Inn) as this was actually cheaper than the cost of renting a flat or house on a short-term basis. I figured that I could happily live in a hotel for a couple of months so agreed to extend my booking. Now, it is possible for the loss adjuster to arrange for their agents to deal with the hotel booking but this is considerably more expensive. The upside is that you don’t have to pay for the booking and then claim the money back. The downside is that it will inflate your claim by quite a bit (my average room cost was about £60 a night but if the agent booked it, the same room in the same hotel went up to £90 a night). Personally I couldn’t see the point of throwing the insurance company’s money away by paying someone 50% commission for doing next to nothing. The loss adjuster agreed that if I paid for the hotel room, he would get the insurance company to reimburse me by bank transfer immediately so this is what I agreed to.

I should add, at this point, that with the benefit of hindsight, agreeing to stay in a hotel was a mistake. Most insurance policies will cover the rental of a suitable property for the period of repair if the house/flat is so badly damaged that it can’t be lived in. I agreed to stay in the hotel because I thought it might be fun for a while and I also thought it would save some money for the insurance company. Living in a hotel is fun for about a week and then it becomes very unfun! It is also expensive and bad for the waistline because you can’t cook so end up eating in the hotel restaurant every day. My insurance company did pay me a £10 a day ‘subsistence’ payment (designed to cover the difference in cost of eating at home to eating out) but this wasn’t enough to pay for a three course meal and beer each night (which, of course, you have to have if you are living in a hotel because it is basically the same as being on holiday!) I should’ve opted to go straight into rented accommodation because this would have been better for my weight and, more importantly, would have enabled me to get settled, rather than living out of a rucksack. If you ever find yourself in this position, get into a rented house asap!

So after a visit of a couple of hours, the loss adjuster left having agreed that this should be a straightforward claim albeit one which was going to take a few months to sort out. I felt much more at ease after the meeting and also had a better understanding of what was going to happen next. In summary, a payment would be made to me for expenses and initial costs (hotel, storage costs, skip hire and some of the contents) and I should expect a call from the drying company and the furniture restorers. I also agreed to get the heating and electrics back up and running as having the heating going would be an important part of the drying process. The loss adjuster would have arranged this if I had wanted but I know a good heating engineer/electrician so it was just as easy for me to sort it out and claim the cost back. As an aside, the process for getting costs such as this reimbursed was extremely easy – I just emailed a copy of the invoices to the loss adjuster and he arranged for the payments to be made.

Having now had a good look at what needs to be done to put the house back together, I can honestly see the total cost being in excess of £50,000 and this doesn’t include my contents and accommodation costs. A substantial sum of money. There is probably several thousand pounds worth of work just in stripping the house out, which is now my new job for the next week or so…