Freeze aftermath: Plumbing and insurance claim mistakes to avoid

Unlicensed plumbers, general contractors or DIY approaches may cause more costly damage

HOUSTON – The state of Texas has 60,000 licensed plumbers and the challenge they are all facing is “overwhelming,” according to Frank Denton, the Chairman of the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners.

No doubt, the repair process is a daunting task. Last week’s tens of thousands of homes and businesses were impacted during the historic freeze, forcing plumbers to the front lines once again. However, the aftermath of this storm is much different from Hurricane Harvey.

In fact, every plumber KPRC 2 Investigates spoke with says it’s much worst because of damage suffered in every region of the state.

In order to address the massive volume of repairs, Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday eased plumbing restrictions, allowing former licensed plumbers who left the industry in recent years to once again enter the system. The state also is issuing provisional licenses to plumbers from other states who are licensed. Plumbers from out of state getting hired by Texas-based companies also fall under the company’s Texas license.

All being done to speed the process up with more licensed plumbers.

Victor Martinez of Vekter Plumbing and Drains already has seen one pipe burst as a result of a bad repair by a contractor after Harvey.

“What happened is they didn’t put in the insulation. They didn’t put in the right pipe and unfortunately, this customer is going to have to tear the entire master bathroom to do the proper repair,” Martinez said.

Repair mistakes also are made by homeowners who opt to do it themselves without the professional experience that comes with being a licensed plumber.

“I go from one busted pipe to 14 holes in the pipe on the same house and that is the issue, we can’t see that until we start seeing running water,” Martinez said.

Denton said a licensed plumber has invested much time to get recognized by the state and is not going to cut corners.

“They are not going to put that license in jeopardy by doing something improper,” he said.

An unlicensed contractor or handyman also will not be on the hook.

“You have no recourse in the event that something is done improper,” Denton said.

However, the state’s registry of plumbers does not allow Texas residents to determine if a plumber is licensed but also allows customers to examine their disciplinary history.

This is one post-freeze challenge. The other? Filing a claim and having it addressed.

“I am concerned for people of Texas because they are really going to see what kind of policy they bought and they are really going to see what their carriers made of,” said storm attorney Rene Sigman of Merlin Law.

Sigman suggests knowing your policy and quickly file a claim as pipe bursts can have a time deadline of 48 hours.

One public insurance adjuster told KPRC 2 Investigates, do not throw anything out as that is the proof of the damage sustained. In the cases involving wet carpet, keep a piece of it. S

Sigman said everything needs to be documented to get dollars flowing back into your home.

“You might call that number on your policy and nobody answers you, document it,” Sigman said.

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