Contents Restoration: Will Your Possessions Survive a Fire or Major Water Loss?
It might be something you have never thought about before, maybe because we all think it won’t happen to us. Imagine what would happen to your acquired possessions if you suffered a fire or major water loss? We call them “contents” in the restoration and insurance industries, but they are so much more than that.
What would be most missed? You might think first of the family heirloom Bible, then to your ancestor’s farmhouse painting that has been handed down through generations. Your daughter’s favorite childhood teddy bear may come to mind, as well as great grandfather’s rocking chair, which soothed many a baby.
Oh, and then there all those photo albums, including your wedding pictures. Sure, most are stored digitally in the Cloud, but you enjoy real pictures, not seeing them on a screen. “Contents” seem just like impersonal stuff that fills a house. Valuable possessions often have memories attached to them and losing them would be devastating to most people.
It’s not just stuff or contents. It’s your life. Contents restoration is a very important part of the business. We have insurance to provide compensation for destroyed or damaged property, but what about those possessions that simply can’t be replaced, like the quilts your late grandmother painstakingly sewed for you. Is there any hope for these cherished items that no amount of money would replace?
The good news is, there is.
Today’s professional restoration companies like Lindstrom Restoration, routinely save many families’ most cherished items. This isn’t a job for do-it-yourselfers. Smoke and water-damaged goods need trained professionals to restore them to pre-loss condition. But it’s much more than that. Many companies simply “process” items in assembly line order without much care and thought about how valuable they are to the owners.
The very best in the business do one thing that separates them from the competition. They care.
Charlotte Red Owl, Contents Project Manager for Lindstrom Restoration has this to say about what she and her staff do daily: “It’s all about a caring attitude,” explains Charlotte. “We know how much these belongings mean to their owners. We handle them with great care and respect. We do our very best to return them as close to their pre-loss condition as we can.”
That means meticulously cleaning them using the most advanced methods and technology available.
Smoke smell is one of the hardest things to remove from an item. Water damage can be very tricky too. Some contents need cleaning specialists.
Charlotte’s crew often works with companies that specialize in restoring possessions like electronics, instruments, clothing, and fine art.
People spend time and effort choosing their wardrobe, shoes, and hats. Customers are often thrilled when they get their clothes back just as they were.
They also have hard-earned money invested in entertainment systems, computers, and other electronics. People are surprised to discover that electronics are restorable and that insurance carriers often insist on trying to save existing items rather than replacing them. Some electronics are beyond restoring, but a surprising number are cleaned and returned as good as they were before the fire or water damage.
A particularly interesting restoration specialty is fine art restoration. These companies employ gifted artists who are trained to restore such items as priceless paintings and sculptures to their original condition. A period painting can obviously not be replaced. Thankfully, these talented professionals produce outstanding results with water and smoke-damaged art.
In one instance, an artist was asked to restore a very valuable water-damaged painting from centuries ago. Upon close examination and analysis, the restoration artist asked the owner if she wanted the painting, (which was of a woman from the Victorian Age), restored to its most recent state, or its original condition.
The shocked customer then asked what that “original condition” happened to be. The artist said that the original was a nude and that somewhere along the line in the Victorian Era, an artist painted a dress on the woman in the painting. The owner inquired as to which was the greater value.
When the restoration company artist said its original condition, the customer elected to have it restored accordingly.
Of course, fine art is an exception. More routine are items such as silverware, glassware, plates, utensils, lamps, and tables. Or they could be guns, golf clubs or pickle ball racquets.
Lindstrom’s Charlotte Red Owl says even though some items are more mundane, that doesn’t mean they get any less attention. “There can be a lot of breakage in our business,” according to Red Owl. “It happens when items aren’t packed well, or they’re dropped when handled. We process items like they are our own and use bubble wrap for protection. We then clean them to cupboard-ready standards.”
Items are diligently packed and barcoded so they can be accounted for in the insurance process. They are also categorized so that if a policyholder wants to put their hands on something they can. All items are then stored in wooden crates in a climate-controlled environment.
While some insurance companies will bring in a specialized company to assist in the contents restoration and property inventory process, Charlotte and her team will also assist customers in detailing all the belongings they know they have and all the property they may have forgotten or didn’t realize they had.
“Most people have no idea just how much stuff they have,” added Red Owl. “They have no issue remembering property that is near and dear to them, but once you get beyond that, most peoples’ memories get a little fuzzy, and they need help with that, especially when they are still emotionally distraught. We do a lot of listening.”
“Stuff” can be a wide assortment of things such as household supplies, food, knickknacks, and more mundane items such as pens, pencils, and paperclips. “It adds up,” says Red Owl.
Experienced insurance and restoration pros know that people who have been through a major fire or a water loss go through a life-changing experience. Emotions run rampant as their worlds are turned upside down. Mike Lindstrom, president of Lindstrom Restoration, finds particular satisfaction in helping people cope with one of the most stressful experiences of their lifetime.
“Our job is to help people in need, and that can be very rewarding,” explains Lindstrom. “We encounter families at a very raw and devastating time in their lives. It’s hard to tell them everything will be OK when they walk through their homes, see the destruction, and struggle to get their hands on something as simple and taken for granted as a toothbrush.”
But even though the homes and families change, it’s never easy for Lindstrom to see people in pain and suffering. “Fortunately, we’ve seen many before and afters and know they will eventually reclaim their lives,” says Lindstrom. “We tell them it’s a process and can take longer than anyone wants, especially in [today’s troubled economy]. But in the end, it’s particularly satisfying to see the smiles on people’s faces when they return to their homes and everything is just as it was, and often even better.”
Lindstrom then reflected on his family-run business’s legacy and the key role restoration companies have in people’s lives. “I know we do very important work and so do our employees,” remarks Lindstrom. “My grandfather, who started the company, told me that, but nothing prepared me for the experience of walking through a dark, fire ravaged, and wet home with a sobbing couple.”
Lindstrom notes that when he hires, he looks for individuals that share his values and caring attitude. “Some people see a crude sculpture that looks like an ugly elephant. They say, who would want that? But the family knows this was their daughter’s first art project in grade school and it means a lot to them,” adds Lindstrom.
“We restore family’s homes and property, but what we really do, is help people get their lives and dreams back.”