Restore vs. Repair

We have a client who calls on us whenever she needs work done at her house.
Repeat clients like that are priceless! Besides, she’s a single mom and we work
hard to make sure that the work we do on her home gives her the best value.
Recently she called with a problem. She had an exterminator under the home
who told her that she had a leak under her hall bathtub, and it had caused
significant damage to the floor under her bath. She called her insurance
company, and then she called us.
I sent John, one of my best carpenters, under the house and confirmed what
the exterminator had said. It was actually the commode flange that leaked under
the tile floor, (a very common leak) and had completely damaged the floor of the
5′ x 8′ bath. Everything was going to have to come out, including a 5′ single
piece fiberglass tub & shower combination. Now, a tub & shower
combination is a BIG bath fixture. In fact, it is physically bigger than the
space it is in, because it has a flange all the way around it that the drywall
covers. There is NO WAY that tub is coming out of that bath without either
cutting it into pieces or taking it through the wall into the next room. Since
the tub itself was undamaged, we opted for the latter, something we have done
many, many times and is actually pretty easy to do.
Meanwhile, the adjuster had sent his “pet” contractor out to see her, trying
to get him the job to fix the bath. Problem for him is, we have worked for her
and her father several times, she trusts us, and she wants us to fix the house
for her, period. That contractor still wrote an estimate, sent it to the
adjuster, and guess what? It never mentioned moving the tub! Beware of “pet”
contractors that many insurance companies have! Often times they are called
“Preferred” contractors. Why are they preferred? Because many of them will cut
corners to save the insurance company money, even if it means reducing the
quality of the work you need! Don’t misunderstand me. Damage to a home is not
like a soft tissue injury in a car wreck that can’t be seen in an x-ray. Damage
to a home is obvious to those who know how to look, and each item can be seen,
touched, and verified.
Now this is where the subject of restore vs. repair comes in. I wrote an
estimate to RESTORE the bath, which included taking the tub through the wall
into the bedroom next to it. That meant detaching and resetting an electric wire
and outlet, taking down 3 studs, rolling up the carpet in the bedroom, taking
down about 3′ x 6′ of drywall, and painting a small 10′ x 12′ bedroom. The
adjuster had a fit! He wanted to know why we were working in the bedroom at all,
since it was undamaged from the leak. I told him that the tub had to go
somewhere so we could replace the sub-floor under it. He said he had been told
the floor under the tub was undamaged. Now I’m wondering if my guy was wrong! So
out I go to the house, camera in hand, and crawl under the house myself. Sure
enough, the floor was just as John had said. I took photos and emailed them to
the adjuster. He still didn’t believe it, and sent his “pet” contractor back out
to confirm what I had told him. Unbelievably, the “pet” told him that though the
floor was damaged, it was “not enough to worry about, since it was under the tub
and couldn’t be seen.” Uh, unless you go under the house! The adjuster then told
me that “generally, we don’t worry about the floor underneath tubs.” I thought
“well then, generally you rip off your insureds.” I was wise enough not to say
that out loud! The client insisted on the proper work, and the adjuster paid for
it like he should have from the beginning.
Now, think this through with me. What if my client didn’t have a contractor
she could trust, and instead trusted the “pet” contractor supplied by her
insurance company? They would have REPAIRED her bath, and from the top it might
have looked great. Then, sometime in the future, she would have put her house up
for sale and some home inspector would have found that damage under the tub. At
that point she would have to either properly fix the floor with her own money or
take that amount off the price of the house. It would have cost her THOUSANDS.
Not exactly what a single mom needs when she is trying to sell her home!
Instead, she had a contractor who was working for HER, had her best interests at
heart, and RESTORED her bath properly.
The big idea to take with you here is that VALUE is what you are insuring
when you insure anything, be it a home, a car, or a life, and while you can
REPAIR something and it may look fine, that doesn’t necessarily RESTORE the
value that it previously had.

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