Navigating Disaster Claims and Repairs – What to Expect

In your typical home improvement project, things move along pretty quickly. The homeowner and the contractor meet to discuss the project, agree on a scope of work and a price, and set a start date. Permits are pulled, materials are ordered, and work commences. The homeowner pays a percentage up front, to cover materials, and makes progress payments until the work has been completed.

When disaster strikes – a tree falling on the house, a flood, a fire, etc. – this process can get complicated in a hurry:

  1. The homeowner contacts their insurance agent, who files a claim on their behalf, and sends out an adjuster to view the damage and write an initial scope of work. If this is a major storm event, it may take several days or weeks for an adjuster to reach you. Add another week to this for the adjuster to complete their written scope of work and estimate for repairs.
  2. The insurance adjuster completes an initial rough estimate. The purpose of this estimate is, chiefly, to get an initial check into the client’s hands quickly. (Neither the insurance company, the adjuster, nor the contractor expect the adjuster’s initial rough estimate to cover the actual cost of the complete repairs.) Next, the contractor reviews the adjuster’s estimate, to understand the scope of the work for which the insurance company is willing to pay. The contractor then amends the adjuster’s estimate with his own scope of work and estimate of the cost of the actual repairs. If the adjuster is working multiple claims in a disaster situation, this process may take several days.
  3. Once the scope of work and the price have been agreed upon by all parties, the insurance company writes the check. Depending on the dollar amount of the loss, homeowners may be surprised to find that the check is made out to them AND to their mortgage company. In this case, the payments to the contractor may only be released at the discretion of the mortgage lender, who may call for inspections at certain phases of the work. These inspections are in addition to the ones required by the city or county where you live, and they may cause the work to stop until a particular phase is approved.
  4. The contractor will apply for permits from the city or county. Each locale has their own rules and regulations, so the permitting process can take a few days or a few weeks.
  5. The homeowner requests the contractor’s deposit amount from the mortgage lender. The check usually arrives in 5-7 business days. (Get used to this process. It will be repeated every other week as the contractor bills for progress payments.)
  6. Materials are ordered and work commences.

As you can see, the average remodeling job is very streamlined, compared to the disaster repair. It’s easy to get frustrated with the process and the delays. Keeping the lines of communication open with your agent, adjuster, and contractor will help with this. Understanding the reasons for potential delays will give you a realistic expectation of the timeline for the repairs.

Some helpful tips:

  1. Choose a local contractor who is properly licensed and insured. In a major storm event, you are likely to be approached by someone who promises to get started immediately, if you give them a big up-front payment. While these “storm chasers” may be qualified to do the work, they are usually from out of state and won’t be around later, should you need to address any issues with their repairs.
  2. Ask your contractor whether he is familiar with Xactimate. This is the program most adjusters use to determine the scope of work and budget for your repair. If your contractor “speaks the same language” as the adjuster, negotiations on your behalf will go much more smoothly.
  3. Open a separate bank account for the insurance proceeds, and pay all damage-related expenses from this account only. This will help you keep track of what’s been received, and what’s been spent. You may need to account for this money on your tax return, so having all your expenses in one place will help.
  4. Know what your insurance policy covers (and what it doesn’t). Check in with your agent annually to ensure you have enough coverage, especially if the value of your house has increased. Ask about flood insurance, whether you live in a flood zone or not. Consider adding riders to your existing policy for big ticket items like electronics and jewelry, which may not be covered under a basic homeowner’s policy. Take a photo or video inventory of each room periodically, and keep it in a safe place. 


Choosing the right contractor and understanding your insurance policy, before you need to file a claim, can provide you with peace of mind during a very stressful time.

Storm Damage Restoration Project

Fire Restoration Project in Yorktown


Room Addition and Screened Porch in Yorktown

Mike and Karen have a lovely home in Yorktown, but they wanted more of an open floorplan downstairs. After consulting with our engineer, we were able to remove 2 exterior walls, create a new living space between the kitchen and a bedroom, and add a fabulous screened porch, with a covered area for grilling. These before and after pictures tell the story.

We started with the concept drawing. The client initially considered copper for the roof of the addition, but decided on architectural-style asphalt shingles.

Before: The small deck on the back of the house, between the kitchen and a bedroom has been removed.

After: A new living space was created between the kitchen and bedroom, and a screened porch was added.
The new space ties into the kitchen and enlarges the living room. The large arched window from the kitchen was moved into the addition, and the former space the window occupied has been converted to a door that opens onto the new screened porch.

Before: The dining room was closed off from the living room. The door in this picture opens onto the small deck we removed.

After: The exterior walls were removed, 2 columns and header beams were installed, and the addition is complete. In this picture, you can now see into the living room and the addition from the kitchen.
The new room added much needed space to the living room. Removing the 2 walls opened up the area and created a better flow between the kitchen, dining room, living room, and the addition.

Before: The living room is closed off from the kitchen and dining room, and the large furniture dominates the space.

After: The exterior walls have been removed, and addition is finished.
The sofa and loveseat placement is the same in the living room, but the new open floorplan is a better fit for the large furniture. The large arched window adds more light, and the new paint color brightens the entire space.

Before: Another view of the dining room, showing the arched window and the exterior door to the small deck.

After: The arched window from the kitchen has been moved into the addition, and a new door leading to the screened porch has been installed in its place.
The addition provides space for a new sitting area, furnished with some of Mike and Karen’s beautiful antiques. Again, the open floor plan is light and bright.

The new screened porch is the perfect place to enjoy morning coffee, to entertain friends, or to relax after a long day. The ceiling fan helps to keep the porch cool on those hot summer days.

The area of the porch that isn’t screened is covered, to keep the rain away, with a specially designed spot for Mike’s grill.

We hope Mike and Karen will enjoy their new and improved home for many years!
For more before and after photos, click here:

Kitchen Remodel in Hampton

Kitchen Remodel in Hampton

We love repeat clients! In the Spring of 2018, we were asked to update the exterior of this home in Hampton. A former rental property, the siding and trim were showing their age. The homeowner asked us to replace these, and to remove a failing back porch. The new exterior looks great, and it will give the homeowner a carefree exterior for years to come.

Check it out here:

We were delighted to hear from Janet and her sister Francine when it came time to remodel the kitchen and family room. While the basic layout of the kitchen worked, the cabinets and countertops were dated and there simply wasn’t enough storage space. The kitchen also felt a bit closed off from the family room, separated by a peninsula and an upper cabinet.

First up – demo! In the kitchen, all the cabinets and fixtures were removed. The upper cabinet between the kitchen and family room was eliminated, creating a more open look between the two rooms. In the family room, the wood paneling and carpet were removed.

With the help of our kitchen designer, the sisters selected beautiful new birch cabinets in “Rouge”, brushed nickel knobs and handles, laminate countertops in “Kalahari Topaz”, and a stunning glass and shell mosaic tile for the new backsplash. Luxury vinyl tile replaced the original wood floor. Previously, the cabinetry had been limited to the area between the kitchen and family room, and along one wall. The new layout kept the peninsula between the two rooms, but deleted the upper cabinet. New cabinets were added along the back wall. The one next to the fridge even has a pull-out pantry for lots of food storage!  New stainless steel appliances and range hood, and recessed lighting complete the look.

In the family room, the old fireplace had been removed during our earlier project, and a pellet stove was installed. For this phase, we removed the wood paneling, repaired or replaced the sheetrock as needed, and painted. The carpet was also removed, and a new laminate floor was installed. The new ceiling fan helps to keep the room comfortable year-round.

Janet and Francine have become favorites of our entire team, and we hope to work with them again soon!

Energy Efficient Sunroom and New Kitchen Countertops in Newport News

Andy and Jackie had a great sunroom at their home in Newport News. The problem was, it was too cold in the winter and too warm in the summer. Multiple sliding glass doors lining the walls leading out to the deck gave an unobstructed view, but they were very drafty.

In the kitchen, the homeowners wanted to update the countertops and sink, eliminate the raised breakfast bar, and add a new slide-in electric range.

New energy efficient windows and door were a must in the sunroom. We installed 10 new Low E/Argon filled double hung windows and one new sliding door. Above that door we also replaced the 3 picture windows and the arched window, keeping the same size and style of the originals. The entire room was painted, in the same cheerful yellow and white the homeowners loved.

The layout of the kitchen still worked for the homeowners, and the cabinets were in great shape, so they were left as-is. The laminate countertops and raised breakfast bar no longer worked, so they were replaced. The homeowners selected a beautiful Quartz countertop, with a new undermount sink and faucet, accented with a new tile backsplash. The single-level countertop allowed room for a new slide-in electric stove, while still providing a comfortable place for meals.

This sunroom update gave the homeowners a space that is now comfortable year-round, and the new energy efficient windows and door will save them money on their heating and cooling costs. The new Quartz countertop in the kitchen looks great and is much more functional.

Andy and Jackie tell us, “We were more than pleased with the sunroom and kitchen work.  You have a good team that was a pleasure to work with and we will consider you for future projects.”

Thanks for your kind words! We enjoyed bringing these beautiful updates to your home!

Storm Damage Restoration Project

Location: Carrollton, VA

Client situation: A large tree fell on the home during a storm. There was substantial structural damage to the roof and chimney, and to the interior and exterior of the left side of the home.

Our solution: This one involved our entire team. Repairs started at the roof with new trusses, decking and shingles. The left outside wall was reframed, rewired, and reinsulated, top to bottom and front to back. The Hardie Plank siding, chimney for the gas fireplace, windows, doors, and deck railings were replaced. Interior areas affected were the two-story family room, living room, bedroom, and the finished attic. These received new floors, drywall and paint.

Jim says: The most difficult part of this job was being persistent with the insurance company, to ensure that the homeowner was properly indemnified. The homeowner hung in there with us and, in the end, the insurance company did the right thing.


Photo descriptions:
Photos 1-5: A large tree punched through the roof, the trusses and the ceiling of the finished attic space.
Photos 6-8: Exterior damage along the left side of the house. Windows and doors, Hardie Plank siding, deck railings and the chimney required significant repairs or replacement.
Photos 9-11: When the tree hit the left side of the home, several windows in the family room were shattered, and the wall was pushed inward. The floors and fireplace were also heavily damaged.
Photos 12-14: Interior and exterior repairs are complete, and the home is ready for the family’s return.


Siding and Trim Update

Location: Hampton, VA

Client need: Previously a rental property, the homeowner has returned to Hampton, and wants to make this her permanent home. The aging siding and trim have become brittle, and there are cracks in multiple locations. The back porch is also failing, so the client wants it removed. The chimney and fireplace were damaged by a fire, so the client wants those removed, and the interior wall closed.

Our solution: The client loved the original color of her siding, so we installed Mastic Carved Wood in Cameo, which was the closest match. She wanted to change the trim color around the windows, and chose Montana Suede, a warm brown tone. This new, maintenance-free exterior will look great for years!
We removed the porch but left the concrete slab. This patio will become a new focal point for the backyard. We also replaced several sections of privacy fence and added a new gate. The chimney and fireplace were removed and replaced with a pellet stove.

Jim says: We enjoyed working with Mrs. McKinney and her sister. This is the first of several projects they have planned. Stay tuned!

New Granite Countertops and Backsplashes

Location: Suffolk, VA

Client need: Update the countertops and backsplashes in the kitchen, and the countertops in the master bath, with custom granite. The stove was replaced with a new stainless-steel model.

Our solution: Our client liked the layout and cabinetry in her kitchen and bath, but wanted to upgrade the countertops and backsplashes with custom granite. We put her in touch with our kitchen designer, who helped her select the perfect new look for both rooms.
The kitchen cabinets were modified to allow for a new stainless-steel gas stove, and range hood.

Jim says: “It’s amazing how much difference new countertops and backsplashes can make! I really like the way these turned out.”

Kitchen Remodel Project

Location: Yorktown, VA

Client objective: The kitchen feels small, dark, and closed off from the den and dining room.

Our solution: Remove upper and lower cabinets between the den and dining room to create an open floor plan. Install new white cabinets and trim, and black granite countertops, add a new center island with a butcher block top. Add lots of storage along the wall. New brushed nickel fixtures, new floors, and paint throughout.

Jim says: “Hal and Patty were great to work with and I loved their ideas! I am really happy with how bright and open the kitchen is now. This neighborhood is quickly becoming a showcase for our kitchens!”

Screened Porch Project

Location: Yorktown, VA

Client objective: Existing porch is small and dark, and no longer meets the client’s needs.

Our solution: Demo existing screened porch, and create a new 20’x20’ living space, featuring a cathedral ceiling and skylights.

Jim says: “Good people know good people! The Sommers were referred to us from one of our favorite former clients, Rob & Dale Kutz.” They were a joy to work with and quickly became a ‘crew favorite client’ that everyone in the Production Department wanted to work for.”

The client says: “We enjoy our screen room every day. Jim’s company bought the roofing expertise that was the key to success. Our Project Manager, Haegen Fuller, was exceptionally responsive and easy to work with. Jim stood by his work, and we’re quite happy with the finished project.”

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