The Six BIG Questions to Ask a Contractor

Was Your Home Damaged by Flooding? The Six BIG Questions to Ask a Contractor

shutterstock_122886430No matter where you live, when flooding damages to your home, your family will face a whole range of heartache, especially if you’re displaced to temporary lodging. Your home is your biggest asset, so you want to know right away how bad it is, what costs you’re facing, and most of all, how long it will take to make it just like new. Until you can answer those questions, you’re going to feel vulnerable, anxious, and stressed.

Let us help you get a handle on the problem with this excellent list of six BIG questions to ask when you’re shopping a contractor.

1) Ask About the Company

You want a reliable and experienced company that’s worked with clients in your position before.

  • Find out where they are based. Local companies will be more sensitive about their reputation.
  • Ask how long they have been in business.
  • Ask for references and to see pictures of previous work.
  • Double check them online through a referral service like Angie’s List, Home Advisor, Zillow, or Yelp.

2) Learn About Their Licensing

This includes any and all professional licenses and certification the company has. Both the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) and the Association of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration (ASCR) offer professional certification to its members to ensure consumers get the best service available.

3) Ask About Their Experience

Find out if they have ever remediated homes following major flood disasters. You’ll need a contractor to guide you along the process so you’ll know what to expect during this period. You may face frustrating and daunting difficulties with city ordinances and permits, as well as FEMA rules and registration. For example, summer flooding in Houston left many homeowners facing steep rebuilding costs from a little-know city ordinance requiring flood damaged-houses to have a base flood elevation certificate before any construction permit will be granted by the city.

In some cases, properties must be raised in elevation 2 to 6 feet, a process adding $100,000 to $200,000 to the restoration costs —well above the pre-flood value of the home. Over 1,000 Houston residents are affected. Insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) covers damage up to $250,000 for the building/structure and $100,000 for contents, however, it does not cover rebuilding costs. In the Houston suburb of Meyerland, for example, median values of some flooded homes were $550,000.

4) Ask Them About Their Drying and Mold Cleanup Process:

Find out what mold cleanup chemicals and techniques they use. Mold contamination in your home can lead to serious health problems. Contractors should follow accepted procedures that protect you and their employees.

Ask how much much drywall do they plan to remove. For drywall, FEMA recommends that, if the water level was less than 2 1⁄2 feet, the wall material should be removed to a height of 4 feet to facilitate re-installation of full sheets of drywall. If the water level was greater than 2 1⁄2 feet, the wall material should be removed to a height of 8 feet or the ceiling junction (whichever is higher).

Do they provide dehumidifiers? These will need to be run for weeks to dry out the building after tearing out sheetrock. Relative moisture content in wood framing should be less than 15%.

5) Ask About Their Understanding of Local Codes

Do they know the newest flood resistant provisions in building codes? Flooding throughout the US from hurricanes has changed or altered many national and local building code standards as recently as 2012 and 2015. New buildings relying on NFIP coverage must comply with these news codes to reduce future loss.

6) Ask About Their Relationship with FEMA

Have they worked with engineers that provide Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Elevation Certificates? City ordinaces restricting building on flood-prone areas differ. However, if your home is located in a Special Flood Hazard Area, insuring it after rebuilding on your property if it will require an Elevation Certificate. This must be completed with a land surveyor, engineer, or architect who is licensed by the State to perform such functions. The certificate is used for residential flood insurance through NFIP to determine premiums.

One more thing — Not sure if your home needs flood insurance protection? Check out FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center. Just enter your home’s address to learn if it is situated in a currently designated flood hazard area. It could save you frustration and heartache in the future.

Ultimately, it’s important to ask your contractor these six big questions so you can get the best possible work done after a flood damages your home. You want to resume your normal life, and finding the right contractor is key.


Vernon Trollinger is a writer with a background in home improvement, electronics, fiction writing, and archaeology. He now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.