The Nordby Effect

A Checklist For Rebuilding After Disaster

Posted by David Schroeder on Oct 19, 2017 10:30:00 AM
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The past two weeks have left us speechless. The ravages of wildfire have touched just about every corner of our beloved home. As we come out of our state of shock, there is a natural desire to get back to a state of normalcy. As builders for our community, we believe we play a critical role in helping our community to get back to the life we once knew through rebuilding efforts.

Nordby Signature Homes, Fire Recovery 
We do not claim to be experts in overcoming disaster but we have and continue to seek knowledge for how to approach current and future situations. In our research efforts, we felt it would be helpful to provide an outline of the information we've accumulated so far. As we discover new information, we will provide an update to our readers.  It is our hope you'll find this information helpful and share it with your families, friends, colleagues or anyone who can benefit.

Who to Notify of Loss

Insurance Agent:

  • File claim with insurance carrier.
  • Learn what your insurance does and does not cover.
  • May be able to receive an Additional Living Expenses advance from your carrier to cover daily necessities.
  • Keep ALL receipts .
  • Start writing lists of everything you lost and keep updating as things come to mind.
  • Bank and credit card statements can be used as back-up for purchases that need to be replaced.
  • Ask agent whether or not you need to continue making insurance payments if home/building is a total loss.
  • Do not settle or sign any final paperwork with an insurance carrier until the entire claim is resolved and/or have an attorney review all documents.
  • If underinsured, contact FEMA.
  • If required, ask your agent if your insurance will cover septic system repairs/building code upgrades due to fire.

Mortgage Company:

  • If you have a mortgage, determine whether you need to advise your lender of the loss.
  • Request to defer mortgage payment (lender may defer for 90 days).
  • Continue paying your mortgage and property taxes during the rebuilding process.

County Assessor:

  • Submit an Application to the County Assessor’s Office requesting an adjustment of the assessed value of your home as a result of the fire damage (Calamity Provisions of California Rev. and Tax Code)
  • Click to download the forms for Sonoma County, Napa County and Solano County.

Calamity_Application_Tax_Assessment   Calamity Application 2017 WC Fires - Solano.jpg   Calamity Application 2017 WC Fires - Sonoma County.jpg  


  • Cancel or suspend PG&E service.
  • Cancel or suspend cable service.
  • Cancel or forward landline (Ask for them to wave fee).
  • Cancel or suspend garbage service.
  • Cancel or suspend satellite TV service.
  • Cancel or suspend internet service.
  • Cancel or suspend water service.
  • Cancel or suspend water main backflow inspection/test (notify city, town or county).

General Notification Items:

  • Get a PO Box and forward mail.
  • Notify yard maintenance contractors.
  • Stop water filter/softener service.
  • Cancel or suspend pool service.
  • Cancel or suspend pest control service.
  • Update mailing address with all accounts.
  • Cancel or suspend annual septic inspection/maintenance.

Document Replacement (If destroyed)

  • Driver’s license, auto registration
  • Vehicle titles (pink slips)
  • Bankbooks (checking, savings, etc.)
  • Insurance policies
  • Military discharge papers
  • Passports
  • Birth, death and marriage certificates
  • Divorce papers
  • Social Security or Medicare cards
  • Credit cards
  • Titles to deeds
  • Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, pensions, retirement accounts and annuities
  • Wills and Trusts
  • Medical records
  • Warranties
  • Income tax records
  • Citizenship papers
  • Prepaid burial contract
  • Animal registration papers
  • Mortgage papers

Property Clean-up

  • Do not access property until authorities assure it is safe. 
  • FEMA will most  likely take 30-60 days to implement clean-up plan. 
  • Residential properties will have the option of letting the county/city clean-up the property for free.
  • If using private clean-up, that will be paid by owner (maintain record of costs to submit to insurer).
  • Private clean-up can expedite the process to permit submission but coordinate timeline with architect and builder so you do not waste money paying for private clean-up if the design process will take longer than waiting for County/City to clean-up.
  • Up to 6"-12” of soil may need to be remove form site; this could require importing soil after hazardous cleanup is complete.
  • Clear property of hazardous material and debris
    • Use certified abatement company
    • Do not attempt to clean-up yourself 

Original Design Documents

  • Do original house plans/specifications & related reports exist?
  • Generate a rough budget on original plans.
    • Issue budget to insurance company for review.
      • Break-out code upgrade items.
      • Soft cost to be figured (i.e. architect and other design consultants)
    • Learn how much insurance will contribute.
    • Move forward with new design documents.
  • Do not assume you can re-use existing foundation. Have it inspected/tested by licensed enginer.

New Design Documents

  • Find an architect & builder to start coordinating with on rebuilding plans & procedures 
  • Develop a conceptual plan with architect 
  • Develop budget based on conceptual plan with builder
  • Review plans and budget with architect and builder 
    • Determine whether to continue with plan to submit for permit 
    • Or, if over budget plans will need to be revised and repeat the budget process
  • Proceed with Permit Plan Set
    • Generate soils report or update existing 
    • Develop civil plans (grading & drainage)
    • Develop architectural plans
    • Develop structural plans 
    • T24
    • CalGreen requirements
    • Septic plans (if necessary)
  • Fire Resistant Materials:  California Building Code requires that wood products and other exterior building materials are selected from a Cal-Fire approved list called the Building Materials Listing Program (BML) Visit:

Building Department

  • Napa County will not allow plans to be submitted until proof of clean-up is provided. Santa Rosa will likely follow the same process.
  • Permit and plan check fees likely waived or discounted. Confirm with building department
  • Unknown on how quickly permit process will take – more to follow
    • Normal PRMD process will most likely not be in place for the recovery process
  • There will be limits on adding square foot area to your new plans. Confirm with building department and/or architect prior to conceptual planning
  • Check out for more information on building permit

General Notes

  • FEMA has a recovery center set up at 427 Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa.
  • Do not get wrapped up in completing entire process quickly adding undue stresses and costs to your project. 
  • Home rebuild process on average will most likely take at least 2 years to complete.
  • Be cautious of working with builders/contractors that require payment of advance deposits.
  • Be sure that your builder is licensed in the State of California and properly insured.  


If there is anything we missed, please feel free to share in the comments section below.

*This outline is being provided for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide any legal advice or direction. In preparing this outline, we have sought input from resources and individuals in our community with background experience and knowledge needed to begin the process of rebuilding our communities. We have posted this outline to send to our families, associates, friends and colleagues as a checklist to help begin the rebuilding process, and will continue to update the checklist as new information becomes available. Should you have any legal questions, we strongly urge you to consult with an attorney to discuss your specific legal issues.

Topics: signature homes, rebuilding after disaster