People often call remodeling contractors because they have a dream. They call insurance restoration contractors because they have a nightmare. Insurance restoration contractors come into the home in the wake of a disaster, usually brought about by fire, water, wind, or impact, and they often have to work with stressed clients. They must be available immediately. Many operate 24/7 emergency services. “What sets us apart is emergency response,” says Kevin Giertsen, president of Giertsen Co., with offices in Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Chicago.

Maximum Multitasking

Disasters strike regularly, which makes insurance restoration a fairly steady business. But it has its cycles. For instance, Dave Manley, director of business development for Mellon Certified Restoration, in Yeadon, Pa., notes that when the temperature first drops below freezing, pipes burst and people file claims. And should hail or tornados hit, the volume of work can be overwhelming.

All this has made insurance restoration tempting to new-home builders or remodelers who have seen their own volume drop in the housing downturn. “A lot of those guys have come into our market,” Giertsen notes. “It’s become much more multi-bid. People are stacked up trying to get this work.”

What novices might find, say contractors who specialize in this field, is just how much goes into restoring the property to pre-loss condition. Insurance restoration companies provide a whole host of services, from “contents cleaning” — deodorizing, sanitizing, and reconditioning the interior — to “board-up service,” (sealing up the home until work begins), mold remediation, document restoration (restoring key documents), odor and smoke remediation, and more. Such services require specialized equipment and training for technicians.

And, unlike other types of home improvement, franchise operations play a big role in the insurance restoration industry. With insurance companies such as State Farm Insurance steering policyholders to franchises via preferred provider programs, independents have felt the pinch. So five years ago, Illinois contractor Pat Harmon formed IMACC (Independent Mitigation and Cleaning/Conservation). The group’s website, helps steer property owners to a network of certified, noncompeting insurance restorers.

—Jim Cory is editor of Replacement Contractor, a sister publication of Remodeling.