One of the principal drivers of our industry for both the contractor and the insurer is the restoration of more and the replacement of less. Because of this, innovations to increase and support successful restoration are constantly being introduced.

One of the principal drivers of our industry for both the contractor and the insurer is the restoration of more and the replacement of less. Because of this, innovations to increase and support successful restoration are constantly being introduced.

Textiles, garments and soft goods damaged by smoke, water, mold and more can account for up to 40 percent of the value of affected contents in a typical loss. Textiles and garments include clothing of all types, as well as bedding, tablecloths, towels, window treatments and so on. Shoes, belts and purses are known in the industry as “soft goods.”

Because these items can represent many tens of thousands of dollars in replacement costs, (and can be restored for a fraction of that cost), the textile and garment restoration industry was born.

There are many benefits to successful restoration. On the insurer side, indemnity expenses are reduced, claim files are closed much faster for reduced loss adjustment expense, policyholder satisfaction is greatly increased and closing the claim is made easier for the adjuster.

Contractors benefit in that they are able to profit from the restoration of contents that would otherwise be written off and replaced. In addition, they are able to deliver better service to both the policyholder (such as conserving policy limits) and the adjuster (providing additional reasons to work with their firm).

The response to this need has come from two industry categories: retail dry cleaners that process restoration work in addition to their over-the-counter business, and companies that specialize exclusively in textile, garment and soft goods restoration.

Understanding the differences in restoration processes before selecting a textile and soft goods restorer is a must for contractors and adjusters alike. The success-rate differences can be quite substantial, and as everyone is aware, the higher the success rate, the happier the policyholder and the lower the overall cost to restore the loss.

Many companies remove smoke and other odors with ozonated air. A drawback to using ozone chambers, however, is that textiles require 24 to 72 hours or more of treatment to effectively remove odors, especially smoke. Airborne ozone also degrades rubber, causing elastic in clothes to lose its elasticity. Also, air ozoning will remove smoke odors but not soot, which must be removed in a separate process.

A new standard has been created with the introduction of ozone washing systems. These systems introduce ozone into the wash water. The hospitality industry uses such a system, as do many retail dry cleaners; the latter frequently employ systems that inject ozone bubbles into the wash water, a method resulting in a 24 percent ozone saturation rate; the rate is too low, however, to be effective on smoke odors.

A new ozone-washing process now in operation differs in that it utilizes a careful balance of ozone, temperature and special additives. The ozone is mixed in a vacuum created by a special vortex, resulting in a 90 percent ozone saturation rate.

Many companies make claims regarding a percentage of items that they restore, but do not include items that they did not attempt to process, as these would lower their success rates. The industry’s best companies are typically willing to offer head-to-head comparisons on a number of losses to substantiate their success-rate claims. This new system of ozone washing dramatically increases the number and type of items that can be successfully restored.

There are other issues that are vitally important to insurers besides cleaning and odor removal. Inventory control has long been a major issue in terms of policyholder satisfaction. Some companies utilize bar coded garment tags and Assured Software’s POI (Pack Out Inventory) system to track every item at each step in the restoration process. This ensures that the policyholder sees all their items returned, and allows them to locate items needed during the restoration process.

Inventory control is such a major issue for insurers that some have implemented requirements that any garment restorer working on their claims must use POI.

Successful garment restorers strive to act more like restoration contractors in terms of meeting the kinds of service standards expected from an immediate responder. This includes very fast response time, one point of contact for all involved parties from start to finish, delivering estimates within 48 hours, completing the job in 14 days and delivering the type of comprehensive documentation the adjuster needs to close the claim file quickly.

The new system also allows for the delivery of emergency clothes to policyholders the day after the pack out, even when they have been contaminated with heavy smoke. Policyholders have suffered a terrible trauma, and being able to be back in their own clothes the very next day imparts a sense of normalcy and gives them confidence that their life will get back on track. The ability to deliver this type of customer service will go far in bringing policyholders around in support of you and your firm; you can imagine how that will impact the adjuster’s view of you as well.

As the industry evolves it really pays for insurers, adjusters and restoration contractors to understand the differences in processes and the results they can expect. After all, all textile, garment and soft goods restoration companies are charging Xactimate pricing, so it’s important to understand the total value at that price in order to get the maximum benefit from the restorer you choose.