Winter Home Damages: Navigating the Insurance Process

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Tahoe’s recent winter has been a record-breaker, with snowfall levels that left many homeowners dealing with serious damage. Roof and deck collapses, broken windows, and water intrusion are becoming more apparent as the snow recedes, and unexpected discoveries are devastating for many families. As we move into spring and the snow begins to melt, it’s important for homeowners to understand what steps they need to take to rebuild their homes and their lives.

When damage to a property is discovered, the homeowner’s insurance provider must be notified to kick-start the process. Thoroughly documenting any damage as soon as it’s discovered helps to expedite the claims process. Review of the policy prepares the homeowner prior to speaking with a claims representative. Depending on the extent of the damage, an onsite meeting with the insurance company may be required. If there’s evidence of water intrusion, they may send a remediation crew to help prevent mold growth.

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WINTER’S UNVEILING: After a record-breaking season, some homeowners are dealing with serious damage. Photo by Ted Coakley III/Moonshine Ink

When processing the claim, insurance companies may cite national average costs to repair or rebuild. These estimates may be significantly lower than the market value for labor and materials in the property’s location. This can result in insufficient benefits relative to necessary repairs. It is essential to consult with multiple licensed contractors who are familiar with the insurance claims process and can help to achieve the maximum value from insurance benefits as well as those involved in the repair process.

To help local homeowners, an interior design firm has teamed up with an architect and a builder/general contractor to be a one-stop shop when navigating the insurance process of getting repairs done. The collaborative group is currently helping a client whose second home in Tahoe Donner experienced significant damage from the winter. The entire north side of the Maloney house had ice dams, leading to water incursion that caused damage to the sheet rock, insulation, carpet and flooring, cabinets, and the roof. Even the kitchen countertops buckled from the water leak.

On top of that, after the damage was discovered a truck slid down their driveway and hit the house. Now the Maloneys had two insurance claims.

“The biggest initial hurdle with any insurance claim is navigating the claims process and helping the client achieve the maximum benefits they are entitled to,” said Michael Hackley of Truckee Pines Construction.

The Maloneys had already been in contact with interior designer Emily Roose, of Emily Roose Interiors, in the fall since they were planning a renovation. Once the damage was discovered, Hackley stepped in to prepare the bid for insurance. Hackley stresses the importance of working with a team including a contractor, architect, and interior designer.

“I will be the first point of contact, then if structural repair or deck repair is needed, I will bring in an architect to re-engineer decks,” he said. “If someone’s kitchen is destroyed, it’s very advantageous to bring in an interior designer to help you pin down all of your new selections. They can put together design packages more quickly than someone picking out stuff at Home Depot. It saves time and is more efficient.”

It’s also important to use professionals who understand the pain of dealing with insurance companies. Roose and Hackley work with architect Stacy Eisenmann of Eisenmann Architecture. Eisenmann’s Incline Village home was flooded a few winters ago and she had to go through the process herself.

Repairing winter damage doesn’t have to be all negative; it can also have a silver lining.

“We help clients understand what they can do with their home,” Roose said. “Whether you have to remove walls, now is a good time to start getting the house where you want it. Use insurance as a blessing.”

While addressing necessary repairs, consider taking the opportunity to renovate outdated kitchens and bathrooms, add a much-needed bedroom, or tackle a remodel you’ve been putting off. There’s an economy of scale when bundling several smaller items into a larger project, saving costs, time, and inconvenience.

Fixing storm damage is also an opportune time to make your older home more energy efficient by installing LED lighting and water-efficient plumbing, and using more sustainable building materials.

“In the long run we are creating homes that are much healthier for clients down the road,” Roose said. “Clients will have built environments where the interior is less toxic, more structurally sound and stable. We are designing homes with what we know now versus 30 years ago. Hopefully these homes can be a legacy home people can give to their children.”

The team working together to help homeowners provide a comprehensive solution for rebuilding in the Tahoe area includes Michael Hackley of Truckee Pines Construction, Stacy Eisenmann of Eisenmann Architecture, and Emily Roose of Emily Roose Interiors. Info: truckeepinesconstruction.com, eisenmannarchitecture.com, emilyrooseinteriors.com.

Author

  • Melissa Siig

    Melissa Siig ditched international politics in Washington, D.C. in 2001 to move to Tahoe, where she quickly found her true calling — journalism. She has written for regional and national publications, and enjoys writing about community issues and quirky human interest stories. When not at her keyboard, she is busy wrangling her three children, co-running Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema, or playing outside.

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