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#1
Old 07-03-2018, 11:28 AM
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Homeowners' insurance question: now what?

We had some water damage to a ceiling. Nothing fell down, nothing is currently leaking, the issue that allowed the water in has been resolved. But a section of the ceiling is discolored and broken up and sagging in parts.

It looked to my untutored eye that the cost of repair would probably be beyond our $500 deductible, so I called the insurance people. I also called the guy we use for home repair sorts of things. They both came on different days.

The insurance company said $1200 and change to repair and promised to send us a check for $700+.

The repair guy said $3400 and change to repair and wrote up a detailed estimate explaining what he wanted to do.

Okay. Now it's quite possible that I should have contacted one of them first (probably the repair guy?) so the second one would know what the first was thinking. But I didn't; oh well, water over the bridge or in the ceiling in this case. It's also true that the repair guy wants to do a lot, including repainting the entire ceiling although only a portion of the ceiling is affected. So that may account for some of the difference. Still, the two figures aren't close.

So, my question for those that know more than I do, which will no doubt be many folks on this board--what next? Do I have any shot at getting the insurance adjuster to, well, adjust the amount? If so, do I simply send him the estimate and see what he says, or is there a better method? I don't know whether the repair guy would be willing to talk to the adjuster--if so, would that be a good idea or a bad one? Or is getting more money from the insurance company a pipe dream and I am just going to have to go back to the repair guy and ask what he can do for $1200? Spending $2700 ($3400 - the $700 check) out of pocket for the repair is just not a possibility at this moment. (Spending anything like $2700 is not a possibility either for that matter.)

Thanks for any suggestions.
#2
Old 07-03-2018, 11:43 AM
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Location: Milwaukee, WI
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ulf the Unwashed View Post
Okay. Now it's quite possible that I should have contacted one of them first (probably the repair guy?) so the second one would know what the first was thinking. But I didn't; oh well, water over the bridge or in the ceiling in this case. It's also true that the repair guy wants to do a lot, including repainting the entire ceiling although only a portion of the ceiling is affected. So that may account for some of the difference. Still, the two figures aren't close.
I'm curious as to what your person wants to do that would cost almost triple what the insurance company said needs to be done.
It should be noted, however, that the entire ceiling will have to be repainted. If you just paint one spot, you'll notice it forever, especially if you're replacing drywall.

I'm thinking you should go back to your insurance company, with your repair person's detailed bill and tell them this is the quote you got and ask them to submit it.
If they can't or won't, my next suggestion would be to ask them to find someone that could do the job for the price they claim it can be done for.


Having said all that, $3400 sounds awfully high for cutting out some drywall, putting new drywall in, taping/mudding/sanding and a couple of coats of paint. I would guess a skilled handyman could do the entire job in two days and drywall isn't that expensive.
But I/we haven't seen the bill. It's entirely possible there's more to the job than a simple drywall patch...OTOH, he could have doubled or tripled his rates when he heard that the insurance company would pay for it.
#3
Old 07-03-2018, 11:47 AM
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That is actually a very simple repair you can do yourself at low cost and real quick. Watch some youtube videos. (Unless the sagging indicates a structural problem. I am assuming it is just cosmetic.) He does not need to paint the whole ceiling. The newer paint can be blended in with minimal skill. I suspect you can say to a plumber: cut out that portion of the ceiling and look at the pipes, then replace what you cut out, and his quote would be lower. But that is more extreme than just making it look nice, which I get the impression is all you need to do. It is too bad you already reported it to your insurance. But sure get on the phone and talk to your insurance company, fax the estimate, etc. You have nothing to lose but your time with your insurance company now.
#4
Old 07-03-2018, 11:50 AM
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If you do it yourself, I would suggest asking your insurance company if you can cancel the claim. Say you don't want your rates to go up. They might do that for you.
#5
Old 07-03-2018, 11:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joey P View Post
Having said all that, $3400 sounds awfully high for cutting out some drywall, putting new drywall in, taping/mudding/sanding and a couple of coats of paint. I would guess a skilled handyman could do the entire job in two days and drywall isn't that expensive.
This. Assuming it's just a drywall repair, we're talking maybe $50 in materials and a few hours of labor between 2 people. I think the insurance company was quite generous offering $1200.
#6
Old 07-04-2018, 12:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joey P View Post
It should be noted, however, that the entire ceiling will have to be repainted. If you just paint one spot, you'll notice it forever, especially if you're replacing drywall.
Not true. We had water damage in one spot, due to an ice dam. The ceiling with the damage extended through 70% of the first floor, without any dividers. I was dreading painting all those rooms. We managed to find a good painter who was able to match the existing 20 year old paint, by eye, saving us a bunch of money.
#7
Old 07-04-2018, 03:01 AM
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A contractor's estimate differing from the adjuster's estimate is a common occurrence so send the estimate to the adjuster. Perhaps he can resolve the matter with your contractor or it may be necessary to obtain a second contractor estimate.

Last edited by Dereknocue67; 07-04-2018 at 03:02 AM.
#8
Old 07-05-2018, 09:31 AM
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I had some leaking in a ceiling, and I was told by the plumber that it's important to leave the hole open for a while so as to let the joists etc. dry out completely. Otherwise you risk getting mold, which could be a much worse problem than anything you're dealing with now.

Re the insurance question, I agree with the poster above that having your rates go up is a potentially big issue. You could be paying back this money for years. The key question is how big of a claim triggers increased rates (assuming there is a threshold altogether). If you can find this out, it would be instructive.

One additional thing to be aware of is that insurance companies report all claims into a database which is shared with other insurance companies.

Here's a prior thread on the subject.

In my case (discussed in that thread) I made several thousand $$$ upfront, as I did not end up doing/needing much of the repairs that the adjuster assessed. But I've been paying a few hundred $ a year since then. And at one point I contemplating switching insurance companies and the agent told me that I would not be quoted by the company he was thinking of using because of the claim in my record.
#9
Old 07-05-2018, 10:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fotheringay-Phipps View Post
One additional thing to be aware of is that insurance companies report all claims into a database which is shared with other insurance companies.
Worse than that, a simple inquiry call asking "Am I covered?" with no actual claim or monetary exchange can be a black mark. My sister found this out the hard way when her carrier dropped her for excessive claims. Several of them were listed as "zero dollar" claims. She then had to buy high-risk insurance for several years at a very high premium.
#10
Old 07-05-2018, 11:27 AM
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My younger self made a claim on my home insurance to repair drywall behind my refrigerator (the water line leaked and caused some damage). The adjustor cut me a check for $1400 and I just fixed it myself. Unfortunately the next year my insurance rate went up by over $700 due to a water damage claim. So, moral of the story, don't file a claim for a something you can afford or just do yourself because you'll end up paying way more in increased premiums. Save your home insurance claims for the really big stuff.
#11
Old 07-05-2018, 01:35 PM
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It's not unusual for insurance to pay less than the actual cost. They estimate it based on the minimum amount of work.

The handy man, for example, plans to paint the entire ceiling. He knows that's the only way to avoid an obvious line where the old and new paint join. He wants his finished job to look good.

The insurance only pays for minimal painting.

It's the OP's home and investment. It's worth paying extra to get it fixed right.

Last edited by aceplace57; 07-05-2018 at 01:37 PM.
#12
Old 07-05-2018, 01:59 PM
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Originally Posted by jasg View Post
Worse than that, a simple inquiry call asking "Am I covered?" with no actual claim or monetary exchange can be a black mark. My sister found this out the hard way when her carrier dropped her for excessive claims. Several of them were listed as "zero dollar" claims. She then had to buy high-risk insurance for several years at a very high premium.
There's a difference between calling up and asking if basement flooding (or whatever) is covered vs calling them and telling them that your basement is flooded. Even if you don't make a claim they now know that you have a flooding problem.

In worker's comp, I've learned that your rates probably won't go up due to the cost of the claims, but the amount of them. That is, if someone slips and ends up with a hundred thousand dollar injury*, that's one thing. OTOH, if 4 or 5 people slip and even just with minor injuries your rates are going up. Once could be a fluke, multiple times a year is a problem.

I don't believe there's any other reason than this that you're required to report all injuries to them with in 48 hours. They even specifically say that you can't wait for the bill to decide if you're going to pay it on your own. It's a good way for them to know about (pretty much) every injury that happens there.


*IIRC, that's about how much they paid out when I had a 'slip and fall' accident at work.
#13
Old 07-05-2018, 06:14 PM
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Is your repair guy accustomed to dealing with insurance companies? Many contractors are. I would see if he's willing to deal with them directly and make his case for whatever work he feels is necessary. That's what I did when I had my roof redone due to storm damage. I got the roofer to deal with them directly, providing all the evidence they demanded, which saved me a lot of hassle and got them to fully cover his estimate.
#14
Old 07-07-2018, 11:36 AM
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Thanks for all the replies. FWIW, I did file a claim (same house, same insurance co) about 15 years ago and my rates didn't go up then; quit possible they will now but I can hope. Also, I'm sure the folks who said it's a fairly easy DIY job were well-intentioned, and I appreciate the vote of confidence, but this is just not something I would feel comfortable doing, and I'd be worried throughout that I was taking a $1200 repair and turning it into a $4000 repair!

I'll get in touch with the claims adjuster on Monday. I don't expect to get very far, but I guess there's no harm in it. If anything out of the ordinary happens, I'll check back in. Again, thanks very much for the responses--it's been helpful to hear different opinions.
#15
Old 07-07-2018, 07:21 PM
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$3400 is insanely high for this job. We built a house two years ago. 2000 sf with two-story ceilings in the living room. The drywall for the entire house, including materials and labor, cost $6700. Now, you may live in a higher cost of living area. But patching drywall in one room and painting the ceiling should not be more than a thousand, and I personally wouldn't pay more than $500 to have someone do it. Get a second quote. I'll also note that if you want to sell this house in the future, having multiple insurance claims can make it hard for the buyer to get insurance, and kill the sale.
#16
Old 07-07-2018, 07:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ulf the Unwashed View Post
Thanks for all the replies. FWIW, I did file a claim (same house, same insurance co) about 15 years ago and my rates didn't go up then; quit possible they will now but I can hope. Also, I'm sure the folks who said it's a fairly easy DIY job were well-intentioned, and I appreciate the vote of confidence, but this is just not something I would feel comfortable doing, and I'd be worried throughout that I was taking a $1200 repair and turning it into a $4000 repair!

I'll get in touch with the claims adjuster on Monday. I don't expect to get very far, but I guess there's no harm in it. If anything out of the ordinary happens, I'll check back in. Again, thanks very much for the responses--it's been helpful to hear different opinions.
Tell them what you think it will cost to get it repaired. As them why they disagree. Ask them to put their reasons in writing. Tell them if they can get it fixed for what the claim it can be done for, they can have at it, otherwise, they need to pay your guy what he's going to charge to get it fixed. If they do the repairs, take a lot of before and after photos.
#17
Old 07-07-2018, 07:35 PM
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For most people, I would not recommend doing this kind of ceiling repair yourself. I would say it's at the expert level of DIY repair. If you have not done any drywall or skim coat work, don't attempt the ceiling as your first try. It's not that the task is technically difficult--it's that it will be very challenging to have it be smooth and invisible:

- You're working above your head
- The ceiling is a long, unbroken surface which typically has light streaming horizontally across it. Any high/low spots will be visible as shadows.
- Matching the paint can be challenging. A DIY person will likely need to paint the entire ceiling wall-to-wall to avoid paint edges around the repair. Probably need to prime as well to ensure the sheen of the ceiling is the same everywhere.
- If there is texture, it will be challenging for a newbie to match the existing texture for a seamless repair.

An expert handyman can likely do the job quickly because they have years of experience and have the touch to get it done right the first time. But even so, $3400 is very high for this job. Get a few more quotes.
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