Bryan Peele

The Magicians Behind The Curtains Of New York Hotels


A glass attendant’s glove at the Baccarat Hotel. Credit Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

I’ve previously shared about Baccarat Hotel, my home away from home in New York. Last week, The New York Times published a great piece about glass attendants at the Baccarat, along with other “magicians behind the curtain” at some of New York’s most outstanding hotels.

Find out about the people who take care of the details that impact the whole experience from Café Carlyle to the Peninsula New York in “They Maintain a Hotel’s Patina of Opulence” on

Iconhouse: Why Hire An Image Consultant?


Edited by guest estate manager Martha Lockie.

Estate Managers Coalition member ICONHOUSE is the new image consultancy that brings you a luxury styling experience and takes inspiration from the latest fashion, music, art and luxury trends worldwide.


They work with a chic society of discerning style-setters around the globe who enjoy first class service.  ICONHOUSE provides bespoke benefits that include access to exclusive private trunk shows and the most sought after designer products.  Whether you are seeking a new seasonal wardrobe, a renovation of your existing wardrobe or an elegant gown or classic tux for the red carpet, ICONHOUSE brings you beautiful, ready-to-wear haute couture at its finest.

Get to know more about their services and find out the most common fashion mistake women make in our Q&A with ICONHOUSE founders Tanya Gill and Sara Ell.

What are the stressors you notice most during the holiday/award season?

There are so many events that clients are invited to attend or host during this busy time, that it can be overwhelming to choose the appropriate seasonal attire. We are experienced in distinguishing exactly what is going to look great in each situation: holiday parties, galas, family occasions and vacations. For awards season there are so many options from designers around the world. We curate the best options and have the premium resources to logistically transport everything to one location for a fitting. We take the stress out of the entire process; from what jewelry compliments the dress to the finest details like monogrammed cuff links.

Exactly how does ICONHOUSE help clients through the holiday/award season?

We set up a meeting with the client or their assistant to understand the scope of their needs. Then we go through the schedule with the client and assign complete looks with accessories for each event. We will shop for new pieces or we can utilize what is in the closet that could possibly be updated and tailored. These looks, once approved, can be bagged, stored or shipped; ready in an instant!  ICONHOUSE’S high level clientele appreciate our sharp attention to detail, extensive knowledge and relationships with designers in every project we take on.

Can you help someone without meeting them in person?  How would you go about it?

 We can help clients without meeting them by Skype and video conferencing if need be. It helps to have visuals of them and sizes, to research and get an idea of their style and what they’re looking for so we can pull together options. The client can take a look at these and let us know their desires and choices.  We can also fly in for fittings or arrange a tailor.

 Is there a common fashion mistake most women make?  How do you rectify it?

Some women are overly influenced by celebrity images to the extent that they don’t realize a look that they love on Beyoncé might not look the same on their body type or are not age appropriate for them.  We can steer each woman to a happy compromise!

Does your image consulting extend beyond the wardrobe?

Yes, we can advise on hair, makeup and skincare. We have wonderful relationships with tried and trusted experts in many locations.

What are the specific areas you image consult in?

Women / Men / Teens/ Children / Ready to wear / Couture / Custom /Vintage / Clothing renovation

Red carpet gowns / Suits / Tuxedos / Shoes / Handbags / Fine and costume jewelry

Swimwear / Vacation clothes / Luggage / Workout clothes / Wedding attire

Tanya Gill and Sara Ell are statement-makers, skilled at bringing out the best features and most unique aspects of each client through trends in culture – in a modern and authentic fashion.  If you have any other questions regarding ICONHOUSE services or would like to schedule a consultation, please contact them at

Dear Mr. Woodley: Butler Q&A (Estate Manager’s Dress Code)



“Dear Mr. Woodley” is the column of Estate Managers Coalition resident butler, Crispin Woodley, who will answer your questions about all things “butler-esque.”

From proper introductions to thieving guests – to handling undermining children – to how to let Madam know that her outfit is simply inappropriate, Mr. Woodley advises with the knowledge and flare of European etiquette and protocol which only a fine butler understands.

Edited by guest estate manager Martha Lockie.

Dear Mr. Woodley,

I have a butler/estate manager friend who works on a large property in Beverly Hills. I saw her out and about town the other day and assumed it was her day off given the attire she donned. She was wearing a white, off-the-shoulder concert tee-shirt, black jeans with holes at the knees, short black biker boots…and….ahhh…she wreaked of Patchouli oil!

I said hello, asked how she had been and what she was up to. All was well; she was doing some quick errands for her principal who was back at the estate.

I was shocked – she dressed as if she was about to go to a Gwen Stefani concert at the Forum and she smelled like a hippie at Woodstock.

Mr. Woodley, please help me understand what she must be thinking and what type of principal she works for, who let’s her dress this way!?


Confused from the valley.

street style black ripped jeans white t shirt

Dear Confused,

This is an interesting question and the answer has many different components. The true art of butler service in a home is founded on discretion, and a reputable estate manager will follow the same guidelines. “Discretion,” makes service professionals to think of being close-mouthed about the details of their principal’s home and personal life. Yes, this is a fraction of butler service, but how a butler dresses; their manners and the boundaries they establish are a part of discretion as well.

The Mr. and Mrs. are at the apex of the home’s hierarchy, thus none of their staff should outshine them. This means that no butler takes any attention away from him or her, whether it is positive or negative.

Practicing restraint requires a hefty dose of self-esteem, an inner resource of character and wisdom. A well-trained butler has a solid sense of self without needing or seeking acknowledgment on a job well done or a compliment on their appearance (neither a reprimand). A high-quality butler is practiced at the art of being inconspicuous yet at the same time, indispensable.

The butler and estate manager are representatives of the family, often the first person an outsider comes into contact with before meeting the principals. Because one never gets a second chance to make a first impression, it is always important to look one’s best. Here are some guidelines for establishing a positive presence in the home so that no unnecessary attention is given:

  1. Depending on the formality of the home – wear a suit or business casual attire. This means a classic look, understated and definitely no holes (get classic style here).
  2. Women, please never wear perfume and men no cologne (but do be freshly bathed)!! This includes using very strongly scented shampoo, conditioner, deodorant or lotion. Nothing should take away from Madame’s perfume or Mister’s cologne, as they are the kings and queens of the castle. Also, scent is such a personal taste and your employer may not like your perfume or worse, they may be allergic to it. It is best not to aggravate them.
  3. Leave the jewelry at home and wear it on your day off; simple earrings, a dainty necklace or a watch or are fine. But big bling-bling chains, rings, fancy diamonds that scream, “Look at me,” or anything nicer than what your employer’s wear is far too “conspicuous.”
  4. Plain face, light makeup and hair pulled back is tastefully appropriate for women. Clean-shaven and hair trimmed to a conservative (yet fashionable) length is suitable for men.
  5. Nothing too revealing, too short, too exposing (women) or too tight (women and men).

The butler is one of the few remaining gentilities we have left in the reputable home.

Even if your principal behaves casually and allows you to dress in a very casual manner, don’t do it! It will come back to haunt you, I promise. Sooner or later your employer will feel his or her generosity has been taken for granted and you’ve given them a reason to dismiss you. A butler lives by a code of integrity and discretion; aggravating, inciting jealousy or being obsequious has no place in the world of private service.

Thomas Warner Wine Cellars: How To Protect Your Estate’s Vintage Assets


Edited by guest estate manager Martha Lockie featuring Estate Managers Coalition member Thomas Warner Wine Cellars

For clients seeking a unique and elegant way of accommodating significant wine collections, many top international sommeliers refer Thomas Warner Wine Cellars (TWWC) to design, fabricate and install their wine cellars. This ensures that the special vintages are housed securely in a climate-controlled environment and displayed in a visually stunning manner, complimenting the architecture of your principal’s home.

I sat down with Tom Warner, Founder of TWWC to ask the questions that every estate manager should when performing their due diligence prior to installing a wine cellar.

Thomas Warner Wine Cellars

What type of wood do you use to build your wine cellars? 

We use a wide variety of hardwoods, including mahogany, walnut and oak, which can be stained and finished in different tones, including opaque. We also fabricate with metal, including bronze, stainless steel and blackened steel. For highlighted features such as framed displays, counter tops and freestanding islands, we often use other metals such as pewter, copper or nickel. Stone and colored glass can be used as well.

Is there one material that is better or worse for controlling the temperature than another? 

No, all materials perform equally in a fully climate-controlled room.

Do you have a favorite and why? I feel all materials in our palette have applications when they reflect the architectural style of the home and highlight the content of the collection.

What is the least amount of space needed to build a wine cellar?

I have built in small utility closets approximately 3′ wide x 18″ deep x 7′ tall, holding as few as 200 bottles.

What is the largest wine cellar TWWC has designed?

The largest cellar housed about 20,000 bottles; the size of the room to house that collection measured approximately 16′ x 50,’ with 12′ high ceilings.

Thomas Warner Wine Cellars

Above is a photo of the Colgin Winery in Napa, built by Tom Warner. It holds about 18,000 bottles and measures 12′ x 75,’ with 14′ ceilings.

Do you build according to how the wine will be organized (i.e. whites with whites, year by year)? Is this a preference of the principal or will the client leave this up to you?

All clients organize their collections differently and most often by varietal, such as chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, cabernet, syrah, etc. I often see additional organization by nation of origin or region. For instance, the French portion of a collection may be organized and displayed separately for Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Rhone Valley and Loire.

What is the perfect temperature for a wine cellar? 

Most cellars are held at 55 degrees and 70% relative humidity for aging the collection. Occasionally clients separate their white wines and age them at 53 degrees and 70% humidity. Champagnes are most often aged at 55%.

What types of wines will stand straight up and what types will lie down?

The information we receive from most of our sommeliers and other wine experts suggests that wine should be stored prone. Some can be displayed at a slight angle, as long as the cork is still immersed in liquid and the air bubble stays in the shoulder of the bottle. Occasionally, large bottles or other special wines are stood up for display in the cellar and should be rotated regularly. These decisions are usually made between the client and their sommelier or cellar manager.

Can you give me an example of a unique home you had to match a new wine cellar to?  Perhaps a modern home that is mostly glass and white?

Recently, I completed a cellar for a very historical home in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. This particular mansion with classic architecture on the outside had one floor that was highly contemporary and accommodated the wine cellar. Since the glass-faced wine cellar was adjacent to a gallery of art, I chose to design and fabricate the entire cellar in statuary bronze. The result was quite dramatic.

Marble and concrete?

Over the years, I have found that conditions in long-term storage sometimes create a pH balance that makes the air a bit acidic. Over time, this can cause marble to become pitted, as the calcium breaks down in these conditions. Therefore, I tend to discourage marble. More dense limestone, as well as concrete, slate, and granites, tend to be preferable stone materials.

We know that wine bottles should never be moved in order to clean or dust them off, how do you advise the wine cellar be cleaned and how often?

Generally, I find that wine cellars are not cleaned, except for the floor, windows and perhaps the lenses on the lighting fixtures. With climate controlled systems the air is filtered and continually circulates through the cooling system. Since wine cellars are closed and climate-controlled, little or no dust gathers.

When you go into a home where you are redesigning an established wine cellar, what are some problems you see with the way some companies have built or designed the cellar? 

The main issues we usually see are sub-optimal cooling systems, lack of humidity control, vapor gain into the wine cellar, un-insulated heat sources and other poorly functioning materials affecting the quality of the envelope. Most often, I recommend removal of the existing wine racking and other materials, especially unfinished wood. This ensures that any mildew spores that may have been deposited are not allowed to grow. A mildew outbreak can destroy the paper labels on the wine, causing significant devaluation of the collection. I provide a carefully curated wine room checklist to be reviewed with the client and their building team before constructing the new wine cellar.

When lighting a wine cellar, is there a special type of lighting you use or recommend that does not generate too much heat? 

I usually recommend LED lighting, which generates very little heat.

Do the fixtures need to be kept a certain distance away from the bottles?

Most of the lighting consultants and wine makers I have worked with suggest that LED lighting placed a few inches away from the bottles at a fairly low wattage, has no negative effect on the collection. The lighting decision, cellar materials and specifications are ultimately left to the client and their sommelier.

Do very old vintages need to be kept in a particular place in the wine cellar?

Occasionally, wine makers, sommeliers and well known collectors may suggest that older vintages be placed in the lower 4′ of the cellar, as warm air rises. However, we utilize a combination of several temperature sensors placed throughout the cellar to assure even temperature and humidity distribution. I recommend an AiroCide unit that utilizes internal ultra-violet light to kill mildew spores. A small fan continuously pulls air through the unit and washes the interior climate about once a day.

At the end of my visit with Tom, I was thoroughly convinced of the need to consult TWWC from the beginning of the project to ensure that the cellar is built properly. Our estates reflect the fine tastes of the families we serve and estate managers strive for nothing but the best. When there are so many crucial details to consider, we rely on professionals like Tom Warner to help us deliver the highest quality products and services.

Thomas Warner Wine Cellars offers a complimentary consultation to evaluate and make recommendations that will enhance your estate’s present wine collection and add significant value to the home. Thomas Warner Wine Cellars can then create a full-color drawing and personalized design for EMC family members.

Contact Tom Warner at or call him at 415.883.8120 to begin creating a bespoke design that reflects the architectural style of your principal’s home.


An Estate Manager’s Secret Weapon: Garde Robe Couture Wardrobe Management


Edited by guest estate manager Martha Lockie.

Couture clothing requires more care and consideration than any paparazzi photo would suggest.  Celebrities, the prosperous and fashion’s crème de la crème invest significant sums in their wardrobes, however many do not have the closet or storeroom space to house them – or they own multiple estates and waste time schlepping them across the world and back, risking damage and loss.  Keeping these collections safe, clean and organized is the job of Doug Greenberg, owner of Estate Managers Coalition member Garde Robe.   

High-end wardrobe storage service and garment care is an anomaly. Did you ever wonder where Oscar del la Renta’s complete archive of ready-to-wear collections is kept? Or if that “Hollywood Starlet’s” closet isn’t large enough to house all her couture gowns, then where does she keep them? Those in the luxury lifestyle circle have found a haven in Garde Robe’s services.

They not only provide clean, climate controlled storage lofts in clandestine locations around the world, they also offer a Luggage-Free Valet service, an exclusive Cyber Closet and together with AIG, have conceived a tailor-made Wearable Collections Coverage insurance policy.


In cities like New York where closet space is limited, having another closet away from home is an old idea; but now – fashionistas worldwide have discovered the secret too good to keep: Garde Robe storage lofts. Trend setters, couture collectors and design houses now have a safe and secure place to store their expensive designer labels.  Garde Robe utilizes museum quality and preservation techniques to cultivate a temperature controlled environment free of mold, clothes eating moths and insects, moisture and other force majeure. A Garde Robe specialist will visit your principal’s home and pick up their clothing for storage – it’s best to have it dry-cleaned first or Garde Robe will arrange for cleaning. The initial pick up and consultation are complimentary! Back at the loft the collection is inspected, cataloged, professionally photographed, sterilized and arranged as per requested by the owner (color, season, style, etc.). Security is tight, lips are sealed and non-disclosure agreements are signed.

Garde Robes Luggage Free Valet Service is a must for any jet setter. Your principal selects his or her desired Gucci, Saint Laurant, Alexander McQueen, Prada, Chanel, Tom Ford, Balenciaga, Givenchy, Hermes bags, Jimmy Choo shoes, et al, via Garde Robes Cyber Closet app. The designer wear is packed (properly) and whisked off to their destination where it is magically unpacked and ready to wear before their arrival. Voilà!

wardrobe edit

The Cyber Closet digital management system keeps garments organized and easy to view on a secure website or as an iPad app. Cyber Closet is a bespoke tool enabling the style savvy to log where the garment is stored (home closet, 2nd – 3rd home, or at the Garde Robe loft. They can create outfits with the Virtual Stylist and make important notes such as the last date and event they wore the ensemble to so that they are sure not to make a faux pas! Cyber Closet also makes it easy to switch out seasonal wear with a Seasonal Wardrobe Storage service.

Eventually Greenberg became concerned for the collections of his clients who were turning down Garde Robe’s in-house insurance coverage and relying on their homeowners insurance to protect their assets. Apparel insurance is a niche business, it is often never thought of as an option and companies offering this unique coverage are hard to find. Greenberg looked to American International Group Inc. (AIG) for a solution. In 2015 AIG launched their unique “wearable collections coverage” available to clients of AIG’s private client group. Owners of this policy have protection on all clothing stored in Garde Robe facilities and also clothing that is in transit. This is a great caveat for those principals who have had (or don’t want) terrifying experiences with lost luggage while flying, dry-cleaning nightmares or household disasters including mold, floods and fire.

Style mavens, designers, wardrobe artists, professional organizers and bon vivants galore! Garde Robe couture wardrobe management is a fabulous means to organize, store and move treasured fashion from place to place at a moments notice. Their hallmark is that they have never lost or damaged an article of clothing – ever! Memberships start at $350/month. Additional services offered by Garde Robe which complement their memberships are: historical fashion research – appraisals – professional photography & cataloging – consignment & charitable donations – in-home seamstress services for fittings and alterations – fashion styling & personal shopping – closet organizing – luggage packing and expert garment care.

Find out more about Estate Managers Coalition memeber Garde Robe’s services on



Pirch NYC

For anyone who hasn’t had the opportunity to visit Pirch in New York‘s SoHo, we  strongly encourage you to see their three-level showroom, which hosted our most recent Estate Managers Coalition meeting.

Pirch offers kitchen, bathroom, outdoor living furniture and fixtures. They feature Sub Zero, Wolf, Viking, Miele, Gaggenau and Monogram appliances. The second floor offers an interactive bath experience.

Thanks to Manhattan Magazine for their participation in the evening as well as our sponsors L’Olivier Floral Atelier, Neuhaus Chocolates, Cake & Co. and our photographer Brett Deutsch.

See more photos from the event on

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estate managers coalition nyc pirch

estate managers coalition nyc estate managers coalition nyc pirch  estate managers coalition nyc pirch


Top 5 Things You Must Know When Hiring A Private Chef


This valuable infographic is provided by Estate Managers Coalition member, The Private Chef Network.

PCN is a non-profit company supporting the Los Angeles private chef community.  PCN creates partnerships between private chefs and local hunger relief charities and promotes education and professional chef standards.  Chef Nate Romo of PCN gives suggestions to estate managers on how to go about hiring a private chef for his or her principal. Thanks, Chef Nate!
Top 5 Things You Must Know When Hiring A Private Chef

Dear Mr. Woodley: Butler Q&A


“Dear Mr. Woodley” is the column of Estate Managers Coalition resident butler, Crispin Woodley, who will answer your questions about all things “butler-esque.”

From proper introductions to thieving guests – to handling undermining children – to how to let Madam know that her outfit is simply inappropriate, Mr. Woodley advises with the knowledge and flare of European etiquette and protocol which only a fine butler understands.

Dear Mr. Woodley,

I attended a birthday party the other night and was introduced to a friend of the hosts. Immediately the host’s friend asked me what line of work I was in and I told him that I owned a concierge company catering to the personal service industry.  He quickly rummaged around in his front pants pocket and pulled out a crumpled business card, handing it to me single-handedly, face down. This struck me as very odd and I wanted to ask your advice on the proper handling of business cards. 
Deirdre Fisk, Rhapsody Concierge Services
emc avjet event
Dear Ms. Fisk:

The entire episode you described is very troubling. First, it is incredibly rude to ask someone you have just met what he or she does for a living, and handing out a business card at a social function is taboo.  It implies pretense and shows oneself to have a very shallow personality.  There are so many topics to discuss: travel, where you live and why you love it, how you both know the host or hostess, etc. (warning: stay away from politics, religion, money and children – really – don’t talk about your kids).

Can you ask someone what line of work they are in later in the conversation?  Yes, if you have made a definite connection with the person and are genuinely interested.   If you both find it beneficial to pursue a business relationship, just exchange phone numbers with a promise to get in touch soon and then go about mingling with the other guests. But please, do not hand out a business card at a social function!

Second, the actual handing and receiving of the business card in question was in poor taste.  A business card – to the owner –  should be very sacred and treated as such.  Always keep your business cards in a tasteful case and not thrown haphazardly in a pocket or purse. Take good care of them – after all – they represent you.  When presenting someone your business card, do so with two hands! Position the proper side of the card facing your new acquaintance, so that they are able to read it without flipping it this way and that.  They should take the card in both of their hands and look at it, turning it over to see the back as well.  Then a polite comment about the business card is suggested, such as: “I like your choice of logo, how did you choose it?”  Or, “I see you are a member of the Estate Manager’s Coalition – I am as well!”  After this, please do not place their card in your pocket or purse, rather put it in the same case where you keep your business cards or a separate case meant just for your contacts.

When you get home you may import your confrères information into your contacts by hand – or scan it with your Smartphone and store in an editable database that may also be transferred to your contacts – retaining the image of the card – very easy! Here is an article on seven tested business card apps.

business cards


What Every Estate Manager Should Know About Air Duct Cleaning


Post by guest estate manager Martha Locke featuring Estate Managers Coalition member Fresh Aire Duct Cleaning.

Summer is winding down and I had the thought that this must be the perfect time to do some essential duct cleaning.  The windows have been left open for a few months – many estates do not use screens – animals are darting inside and out bringing all sorts of impurities with them, the breeze has been blowing throughout the home, spreading allergens, etc.

Not knowing anything about indoor air quality, I asked Diane Leriche at Fresh Aire Duct Cleaning to school me!  If I am armed with the right information I will be able to keep the air in my principal’s estate fresh and clean, ensure the fine furnishings and artwork are not being damaged and make sure the family and their pets are staying healthy.

fresh aire duct cleaning

I found out that there is no set time of the year to clean air ducts – anytime is a good time.  Pet dander gets pulled into the system and builds up all year long.  Germs and bacteria thrive in a dirty air environment and circulate throughout the home every time the system is used.   That said, Fresh Aire advises having air ducts cleaned well before the summer heat is in full force, especially if your principal cranks the AC during the summer months.  (FYI – many people wait too late and attempt to schedule duct cleaning during the summer heat, making it difficult to get the appointment they want – due to so many requests!)

Fresh Aire cleans anywhere the air blows.  First, all systems must be turned off during the cleaning (temperature controlled systems can be reset after cleaning by your air conditioning contractor).  The HVAC unit is opened up and all the parts are cleaned.  Fresh Aire then moves throughout the estate, covering each work area in order to protect the home and prevent the cleaned areas from being re-contaminated.

fresh aire duct cleaning

The ductwork is located behind the walls and the tubing is similar to a tree with branches. Then the vents in each room are removed so that the inside of the ducts are easily accessed.

The vent is cleaned and then a high-powered air wash brushing system is used to scrub down each “branch.”

This brush is on a flexible cable and is snaked down the duct line back and forth to remove all the old dirt.  During the brushing step, the dirt is sucked out of the system by use of a high-powered negative air vacuum system.  When this is completed, the entire system will blow fresh and clean once again.

Rodents and other vermin can be difficult to remove from a home as they use the duct system to travel, hide and escape being caught.

Fresh Aire combats this problem by using a camera to inspect inside the ducts prior to cleaning.  Also, rodents have been known to damage the inside of the duct system and this needs to be assessed prior to beginning any cleaning.  With the camera they are also able to document the extent of contamination so they understand exactly what they are dealing with.
air duct
Per an allergy doctor, should the family you work for have allergies, asthma or other health sensitivities, the system should be cleaned once a year.  Otherwise, it is best to clean the system every two to four years.  This will ensure clean air quality and prevent excessive dust and dirt from blowing out of the vents and circulating throughout the house.  Pets also suffer from the same sensitivities as their owners so a clean air duct system is important for their health as well.

Another very important benefit to keeping air ducts clean is that a dust free environment is vital in preserving your principal’s art collection and fine furnishings.  Additionally, a clean HVAC unit does not have to work as hard as a dirty system, resulting in home savings in energy bills.  As an estate manager, protecting our principal’s valuables and saving them money at the same time is an important part of our role.

Fresh Aire Duct Cleaning

Fresh Aire Duct Cleaning is a family owned business, founded in 1979 by Daniel and Diane Leriche.  Their expertise includes all types of HVAC duct systems, dryers, exhausts and ventilating systems.  They are referred by hundreds of contractors, have earned the reputation of being the Vendor Choice for Estate Homes and take pride in delivering the finest service possible in a professional, friendly and efficient manner. 

Allied Restoration Services: 4 Questions to Ask a Dry Down Company


Tim Bauer, Allied Restoration Service Inc.’s Director of Customer Relations, helps break down the process of dealing with property damage and the insurance company in this post.

Allied Restoration Services, Inc. are licensed insurance restoration professionals experienced in addressing the environmental issues damaged property may cause.  This is especially helpful when an estate manager is attempting to present a claim to their insurance company for the damage.

allied restorations

Post by guest Estate Managers Coalition corporate member Allied Restoration Services.

Recently, we found ourselves in the home of a prominent American Composer. His back house had started to smell like mold, so he called out a company referred by his plumber to try and help. They were relieved to let someone else take over the headache. The company opened up the house and started working, setting up fans and dehumidifiers.
We were called out to inspect after the insurance company had denied coverage and the mold was getting worse. It turns out that the company they called out had blown mold spores all over the house due to improper set up and racked up a $15,000 bill that was not paid for by the carrier. The contractor was threatening legal action for the unpaid balance.
The Estate Manager’s first question to us was: What did we do wrong?”

We buy insurance hoping to never use it. When we finally do, the claims process can be tedious and finding someone you can trust is a challenge. To protect yourself when you do, we suggest asking a mitigation contractor these 5 questions before the job starts:

1.What happens if my claim gets denied?

Although a contractor cannot make a determination of coverage, they should have a good idea whether or not your loss will be covered. By asking this question, you find out what the company’s policy will be if it isn’t. Are they going to send you to collections or threaten legal action?

As in the case of the composer, many mitigation companies will threaten legal action if these bills are not paid.  At Allied Restoration, any time we have a sense that we are on a claim that has the potential to be denied, we go over estimated costs up front to prepare the homeowner before proceeding.

2. Is there a less destructive approach?

Damage mitigation should resemble surgery more than demolition. Wherever possible and reasonable, high end items like hard flooring, cabinets and countertops should be preserved. On the other hand, equipment should not be used to save finish items that are beyond saving.  If a wall is wet, a strategic decision should be made on which side to dry from based on the contents of the room and if there are any wall coverings or hard to match finishes.

One of our video testimonials, Nancy O’Dell had a pipe leak in her bathroom that dripped into her formal dining room. Instead of opening a priceless wooden ceiling, we found a way to access it from the bathroom. The tile floor was about a tenth of the price and there isn’t a craftsman alive that would have been able to recreate Nancy’s beautiful ceiling. Mitigation should be more creative than destructive.

3. What will you do if you find mold?

We’ve all heard horror stories stemming from mold. Mold must be remediated wisely for a few reasons:
a) most policies have limited amounts of mold coverage.
b) mold can be a sign of long term damage which could mean a denial of a claim.
c) mold can spread with improper handling.

When we find mold at Allied Restoration, our policy is to immediately contain it using plastic or tape, and interface with the insurance broker and/or adjuster and advise the property owner about next steps.

4. What is your experience with my insurance company?

You want to make sure that you are dealing with a company who knows how to bill your carrier for their services as well as knows what the carrier is likely (and unlikely) to cover.
Many mitigation companies who rely on plumber referrals have a adversarial relationship with insurance companies. Mitigation companies pay plumbers upwards of $750-$1,500 for referring and they have to make that back somewhere by leaving behind too much or more expensive equipment than needed.
Will your insurance company pay for all that? Maybe. If the insurance company refuses to pay for the excess equipment, the contractor could come after you for the unpaid portion.
There is an actual science to drying down a home called psychometrics. At Allied Restoration, we always use the latest calculations to figure out what and how much equipment to leave.

How can I find a good company?

The best thing you can do is to ask a trusted advisor for a recommendation of a restoration company. Oftentimes, that is your insurance broker or a business manager. A responsible insurance broker should always want to play an active role in your claim and controlling the vendors involved is a big way to make sure things go seamlessly.
Shameless plug incoming: one of your greatest resources for finding someone you can trust is the Estate Managers Coalition! Take advantage of the incredible resources and vendors available to you.
If you ever have a flood or fire in your home, as a member of EMC, Allied Restoration is always glad to come out and give you an unpaid consultation, even if you’ve hired another company to do the work.