A Deeper Look

When anyone searches for just about anything on the internet, most of us tend to rely on user reviews.  We all have our own systems, with some people looking for how many, while others will only look to read the poor ones.  But what about the fake ones?  When speaking of contractors, since that’s what we are, there are a few tell tale signs to know if the reviews they’re getting are fake.

  1.  Companies will have many positive reviews shortly after getting a few bad ones.  You can easily see this by scrolling through the reviews and looking at when the positive reviews were left.  If a company gets a bad review on Google, you may notice 6 to 10 positive reviews within the next week or so, all lumped together in an attempt to drive the bad reviews further down the line.
  2.  Their reviews all sound the same.  In water damage restoration, you may see dozens of reviews all left at the same time claiming breaks in water lines and flooded homes.  And although this can happen, it’s very unlikely to all happen in the middle of the night and in the middle of the summer.
  3.  The users leaving the reviews only have one review.  It does happen, but it’s also uncommon for a person to take ample amount of time to write a great and lengthy review, and then never have done the same for anyone else.  This sometimes is a sign of new accounts being started just to write a review.
  4.  They’re number of reviews get lost.  Once Google goes through routine checks of companies through their service, you may notice a company who once had 20 reviews, now only showing 14.  That’s because Google marked those reviews as suspicious, and removed them.
  5.  They all sound the same.  When the same person is creating fake accounts and writing fake reviews, eventually they’ll start sounding the same.  They’ll use the same examples, or phrases and even misspell the same words.  You can easily spot this by the lengthy praises they give the company while using the same words like, “Fantastic, Outstanding, Life Saving,” etc.

Be sure to thoroughly do your due diligence when hiring anyone, just the same as you would for a purchase.  Reading all the reviews will help you tremendously, especially the bad ones, while also looking at the time line of when they were posted.

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Choosing The Right Deductible

A deductible is the amount of money a policyholder must pay out-of-pocket toward damages or a loss before their insurance company will pay for a claim. You do not actually pay your deductible to your insurance company like you would a premium or bill. If you file a claim and it is covered, the deductible is subtracted from the amount claimed. For example, say you have a $500 deductible and you file a claim for $10,000. Your insurance company would pay you $9,500 for that claim.

There are generally two types of deductibles: a dollar-amount and a percentage based. The difference between them is how your deductible is calculated, and there are a couple of nuances depending on how much your home is valued at. Once calculated, the amount a homeowner pays if they file a claim is fixed for the length of that policy.

Your home insurance deductible should be as high as you can reasonably afford because the higher your deductible, the lower the cost of your premium. Raising your deductible can reduce the cost of your homeowners insurance premium as much as 20%, but that does not mean you should raise your deductible as high as possible.

When choosing a deductible, what you’re really doing is balancing the short-term cost you can afford (your deductible) and the long-term cost of a policy (your premiums). The more you can afford in the short-term, the more you’ll save in the long-term because your premiums will be lower. Insurance companies design the products this way to encourage homeowners to assume more of their own risk and to reduce administrative costs for small claims. For example, the premiums would be higher for a policy that has a $500 deductible versus a $1,000 deductible because the policyholder elected to assume greater financial risk. They would have to pay $1,000 toward a claim instead of $500 if they had to file one.

There are other reasons it makes sense to raise your deductible. Every insurance company is different but typically if you file a claim for any amount, the cost of your premium will increase because you’ve essentially become a riskier and costlier homeowner to insure. And the more claims you file, the higher your premium will be. For that reason, there are circumstances in which even if you have a low deductible, it might not be in your best financial interest to file a claim.

For example, say you have a $500 home insurance deductible. If wind destroys a small part of your roof and causes $1,000 in damages, you probably shouldn’t file a claim if you can afford to pay for the damages out-of-pocket. Yes, you could have your insurance company cover the $500 after your deductible but the cost of your premium might increase. That increase might be small or large, depending on the amount claimed and especially the number of claims you’ve made. If you file multiple claims, the cost of your premiums could go up as much as 25% or more and you never know what what the future holds. After the small wind damage, hail could destroy your roof entirely and a tornado could damage your home a month later. All of a sudden you haven’t made it through the spring of one calendar year and you’ve already filed three claims. So if you’re in a financial position to consider paying for small damages or losses out-of-pocket, then you should increase your deductible and lower your monthly premiums. If you remain claim-free for usually three years, companies can lower your premium rate.

Keep in mind that many insurance companies offer a one-time discount to customers who have never filed a home insurance claim. The discount might lower the cost of a standard policy anywhere from 5 to 20% depending on the company. If you file a claim and negate that discount, the cost of your premium will increase.

You should also keep in mind your emergency or available funds with an eye toward paying your deductible. While raising it can drop your rates, it should not do so at the cost of financial stress. Everyone should have a liquid emergency fund in the event of unpredictable circumstances. A homeowners insurance deductible might be one of those so consider what you you have saved for an emergency when choosing your deductible. At the same time, it’s not a good idea for your deductible to entirely wipe out the savings you’ve set aside for an emergency. You might need additional emergency funds at the time you have to file a homeowners insurance claim. For example, say a fire or tornado destroys half of your home and it is uninhabitable. Most homeowners policies also offer additional living expense coverage to take care of hotels bills, restaurant meals and other expenses. But what if you reach your limits for those expenses or need money for another emergency? If your deductible consumes your entire emergency savings, you might not have the money to cover those expenses.

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Basement Joist

Many companies will show you before and after photos of mold with the after usually just in white.  But is the mold really cleaned?  Here is a before and after of a basement joist covered in mold, and prior to any encapsulation.  This photo shows why we always apply clear encapsulates and only use white as per the customer request.

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Equipment Upkeep

In the mold remediation and water damage restoration business, there’s many pieces of equipment that are vital to completing a job.  Mold Remediation will use equipment like Air Machines, (Scrubbers and Negative Air), HEPA vacuums, Fog machines etc.  While Water Damage Restoration will use equipment such as Turbo Fans, Axial Fans, Dehumidifiers and more.  So why is this important for a home owner to know?  Because without the proper upkeep of this equipment, your home or business could be subject to cross contamination, improper removal of mold, and structures that aren’t dried correctly.  Many companies new and old alike, will buy used equipment from large franchise outfits that have already used them for several thousand hours.  One location will purchase the equipment, and then sell it to a newer franchise and so on, before it’s finally dumped back into the market, where smaller companies purchase them for pennies on the dollar.  These machines have been used for several years and can log up to thirty thousand hours of use or more, and now are being brought to your home.  Is this always a bad thing?  Not necessarily.  But the chance that these pieces of equipment have been maintained properly throughout the years is very minimal.  Which brings us to another point.

Many companies even with newer equipment, do not maintain them properly.  It is completely fine for a home or business owner to inspect the equipment being used.  For air machines, new filters should be visible for each job.  Contractors who arrive to a job with dirty filters are already risking cross contamination by just introducing that machine into the home even before turning it on.  All equipment should be clean and free from dirt or soot, while fans and dehumidifiers should also be pushing out the appropriate amount of air.  When fans are nearing the end of their life cycle, they’ll tend to make a lot of noise, push out a minimal amount of air and drain your electric.  You can always get a hint of the caliber of contractor you’ve hired from the type of equipment being used and how well it’s maintained.  If they can’t maintain their own equipment, how could they do a good job in your home?

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What Can Happen

Ignoring the importance of regular maintenance to your gutters and roof could eventually lead to several thousand dollars worth of interior damage.  This damage could result in mold growth, and structural issues within the home.  As seen in the pictures below, a clogged gutter, (filled with just leaves), resulted in severe interior water damage and mold growth, while also compromising the sheathing.  The drywall and insulation needed to be removed, the sheathing had to be treated and the interior was structurally dried, all because of poor maintenance.  Remember, the coming of summer doesn’t just mean a change of weather.  It also is a reminder of several household maintenance items that should be addressed.

Average Mold Inspection Costs

There are many different types of inspections a mold inspector can perform on your home or business.  The two most common types of inspections are:  Air Sampling & Surface Sampling.  Air Sampling is designed to capture and quantify a broad spectrum of fungal spores (both culturable and non-culturable) present in the air, and to assess whether the levels present suggest a fungal problem in the indoor locations.  Surface Sampling is designed to determine whether the suspected surface (visible stain, discoloration, etc.) sampled is indicative of mold growth on the sample location, and to determine and identify molds actually growing on the surface sampled, as opposed to the mere presence of mold spores.  But what do these services generally cost?

Different mold inspection companies charge different prices for many reasons.  The sampling material may be one, and the associated lab charges they send them to is another.  Some companies perform moisture mapping and thermal imaging while they sample, and others do a full visual inspection while the equipment is collecting air.  But here as some of the most common charges for both air and surface sampling.

Air Samples:  $90 to $120 per sample collected/used.

Surface Sampling:  $100 to $160 per sample collected/used

In mold testing, you do get what you pay for, so remember, cheaper isn’t always better. And where the mold inspector was certified means a lot when vetting the professional you intend on hiring.

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What are HEPA Vacuums?

HEPA (High‐Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuums differ from conventional vacuums in that they contain filters that are capable of trapping extremely small, micron‐sized particles. A true HEPA filter can trap 99.97 percent of all airborne particles larger than 0.3 microns. To illustrate how small this is, a human red blood cell is usually between 6 and 8 microns wide.

For Mold Remediation, these vacuums are a vital tool in removing loose particulate prior to any application of chemicals or demolition, as to minimize spread contamination.  HEPA vacuums are also recommended for cleanup of dust that may have settled on surfaces outside the remediation area.  Care must be taken to assure that the filter is properly seated in the vacuum so that all the air must pass through the filter. When changing the vacuum filter, remediators should wear PPE to prevent exposure to the mold that has been captured. The filter and contents of the HEPA vacuum must be disposed of in well-sealed plastic bags.

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