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5 Home Flood Prevention Tips

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020
home flood prevention

Home flood prevention is a common concern among homeowners and insurers alike. Statistics show losses due to residential fires have notably declined in recent years. Meanwhile, damage from indoor flooding has surged. This increase could be for many reasons: aging plumbing, an increasing number of appliances connected to water lines, even a growing trend toward installing washing machines on upper floors of homes.

That’s why effective home flood prevention is now a front-and-center issue. Here are 5 ways not to become the next statistic:

1.There’s no such thing as a ‘minor’ leak

Adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward any plumbing leaks, drips or other evidence of seepage from pipes, connections, or fixtures, no matter how small. Frequently these are harbingers of major indoor flooding events. Have any plumbing issues inspected immediately by a qualified plumber.

2. Basements are ground zero for indoor flooding

Install a basement sump pump. Water supply lines are frequently routed there. Saturated soil during heavy rains can infiltrate and flood the basement. A sump pump automatically activates to pump water out of the basement into the backyard before floodwater accumulates.

3. Know how to shut off water to the house

Be sure you know where the main water shutoff valve is and how it operates (some are rotary valves, some are lever-operated). Check the valve for proper operation twice a year and call a plumber if it’s difficult to turn. Also, shut off the valve if you’re going away.

4. Install a sewer backflow valve

A sewage backup into a home is water damage of the worst kind. Toxic contamination makes the water damage recovery process very complex. A sewer backflow valve allows the sewage flow in one direction only—away from the house.

5. Replace aging washing machine supply hoses

Do it now. Rubber hoses become brittle and may rupture. This can cause catastrophic water damage without warning. Replace them with braided stainless steel lines that provide greater reliability and longer life.

Three Steps After a Washing Machine Leak

Thursday, March 5th, 2020
washing machine leak

A typical household washing machine uses from 4,500 to over 13,000 gallons of water in an average year. If nothing goes wrong, all that water cleans the family’s clothes, then passes into the household drain system without incident. If not, here are some typical washing machine leak scenarios and what to do if it happens.

Ruptured Supply Hose

Hoses connecting the unit to the hot and cold faucets on the wall behind are frequently rubber. Over time, the hose becomes brittle and may rupture. A broken washer supply hose can release 650 gallons of water per hour into your home. Indoor water damage due to ruptured washing machine hoses can exceed $10,000 if nobody’s home when it happens.

What to do: Studies show a washing machine supply hose lasts an average of 8.7 years. Don’t press your luck. Replace risky rubber supply hoses now with more reliable braided stainless steel lines.

If a rupture occurs, turn off both water supply faucets on the wall to stop the flow. Flooding from these cases typically requires professional water damage recovery services.

Leaky Pump

The internal water pump removes water from the machine tub after each cycle. Pump leaks generally appear as intermittent pooling on the floor beneath and around the machine. In most cases, leakage is intermittent, occurring only when the unit is running.

What to do: Turn the washer off and unplug it from the wall. Turn off water at the supply faucets on the all. Mop up the water and call for professional appliance service.  

Clogged Drain Pipe

A flexible hose connects the washer to an open PVC drain pipe on the wall behind the unit that conveys wastewater into the house sewer system. A blockage in this pipe typically causes overflow out of the top of the pipe when the washer drain cycle empties the tub.

What to do: Shut off the unit. Mop up the water around and behind the unit. Clearing a clogged washer drain pipe requires a professional plumber. Don’t run the washer again until the plumber has resolved the issue.

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Black Mold

Thursday, October 17th, 2019
black mold

Though there are approximately 20,000 species of mold, only about five are commonly found inside structures. One of these species, Stachybotrys chartarum, is also known as “black mold.” It’s not the most common type encountered inside houses, but black mold has a reputation for triggering particularly problematic symptoms in certain people exposed to it. Here are five questions and answers about Stachybotrys chartarum to clear up some confusion surrounding it.

  • Is black mold always black?  No, it may also appear dark green or gray. Conversely, other types of more common mold that may appear black are not the Stachybotrys chartarum species.
  • Does black mold occur more frequently inside houses than other mold?  Actually, the reverse is probably true. Stachybotrys chartarum tends to require more moisture to proliferate than most other common mold types. Therefore, it is most likely to be found only in more chronically wet indoor settings.
  • Is there something about black mold that makes it especially toxic to humans?  For individuals with a sensitivity to mycotoxins contained in airborne mold spores, black mold is associated with a wider range of reported physical symptoms than other types of mold. However, the severity of reactions to black mold spores also depends upon the extent of contamination inside the home as well as the duration of exposure. Individuals who are not sensitive to mold mycotoxins may not experience symptoms from black mold exposure.
  • Is black mold contamination more difficult to remove than other types?  No, the same basic mold removal techniques are involved: First, eliminate the source of moisture that triggers active mold growth. Then, test to confirm the type of mold present on the premises. Locate all active mold growth and physically remove it. Disinfect surfaces where mold existed and remove any materials that are permanently contaminated. Follow up with later air sample testing to confirm decontamination.
  • Are physical symptoms caused by black mold permanent? For most people who experience a reaction to mold exposure of any type, including black mold, symptoms will gradually disappear when professional mold remediation techniques are utilized to remove contamination inside the house. 

National Preparedness Month: Teach Your Children Flood Safety

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

Are you ready for National Preparedness Month?  Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), September is the designated month each year to encourage readiness for potential natural disasters. The theme for 2019 is “Prepared, Not Scared.”  

In the U.S., floods typically kill about 100 persons every year, far exceeding the death toll caused by any other natural hazard including tornadoes and hurricanes. To make sure everyone in the family is aware of the potential danger, it’s important to include children when providing information on how to stay safe in the event of a flood. Here are some suggestions from FEMA and the American Red Cross.

  • Explain to kids that flash floods may happen very suddenly with little warning. Or, floods may develop more slowly, such as flooding associated with extended rainy periods or events such as rapidly melting snow.
  • It’s important to note that storms or heavy rain far away may cause streams and rivers nearby to overflow—even when it’s not raining close to home at the moment.
  • Children should avoid all contact with floodwater outdoors and indoors.  Emphasize that floodwater flowing outside may be strong enough to knock down a person and carry them away. Talk about the dangers of chemicals and germs present in floodwater that could make them sick, as well as poisonous snakes and other possible threats such as electrical shocks.
  • Encourage kids to remind parents and other adults not to drive through floodwater even when it appears shallow. “Turn around, don’t drown” is an easy-to-remember slogan for children to pass along to adults and keep the whole family safe.
  • Kids should be fully informed about the family plan in the event of a flood. They should know where the family will go to seek shelter and what each person in the family will do if a flood occurs. Children should also know the names and phone numbers of specified responsible adults to contact in the event of an emergency such as a flood if a parent isn’t available at the time.

Understand Your Homeowners Insurance BEFORE Disaster Strikes

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

Experiencing a major disaster is a hard way to find out that your homeowner’s insurance won’t compensate you for your losses. Assumptions about insurance coverage on a home may prove to be incorrect or out of date just when you need it most. To protect yourself from unpleasant surprises, take these proactive steps:

  • Review your policy now to identify potential holes in coverage.
  • Stay up to date on any new exclusions or other changes that may have been made by the insurer.
  • Contact your agent for straight answers about issues that seem unclear or ambiguous.  
  • Look into available alternatives for specific coverage that isn’t included in standard homeowner’s policies.
  • Keep records of all maintenance and upkeep performed on the home.

Not all disasters are created equal in the eyes of homeowner’s insurance providers. Here’s how coverage breaks down in a typical policy.

  • Fire and lightning damage are usually covered, as well as smoke damage associated with such events.
  • Wind damage to a house including the roof and other structure caused by weather events like tornadoes and hurricanes is generally covered by homeowner’s insurance.
  • Flood damage such as storm surges during hurricanes, as well as widespread floods from overflowing rivers and other outdoor sources is not covered. Flood insurance is available from the National Flood Insurance Program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
  • Earthquake coverage is not standard in most homeowner’s policies. However, it can be added as an endorsement or, alternatively, a separate policy specifically for earthquake damage may be purchased.
  • Indoor disasters like water damage from “sudden and accidental” non-weather-related events such as a ruptured plumbing pipe are usually covered by homeowner’s insurance. An exception is gradual damage resulting from lack of proper maintenance. For example, long-term water damage caused by a chronic leaky water pipe that was not repaired or an ongoing roof leak that was ignored may not be covered.
  • Coverage for sewage backups is not standard in most policies but can be affordably added.
  • Mold contamination that is a direct consequence of sudden indoor events like pipe ruptures is typically covered by homeowner’s insurance.

How to Stop Foundation Water Damage to Your Home

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

Every element of your home’s structure ultimately relies on an intact foundation. A damaged or deteriorating foundation undermines the stability and strength of the entire house. What’s worse, a permanent fix can be exceedingly costly—a major reason why a defective foundation is often a deal-breaker when a home’s up for sale. Ironically, one of the biggest threats to the integrity of that solid concrete structure supporting your house is simply water.

Chronic exposure to water deteriorates concrete foundations and also undermines the soil supporting it. Here are some ways to keep water and foundation separated and avoid highly expensive consequences.

Manage Drainage

Grade landscape so water flows away from the foundation. The slope away from the house should decline by at least 6 inches over a 10-foot distance. For best results, create the graded slope using dense soil such as clay that carries water away instead of absorbing it.

If drainage by grading isn’t adequate, consider adding a french drain around the foundation perimeter. Installed in a gravel-filled trench about two feet deep, a perforated plastic pipe conveys accumulating ground water away from the house to a deeper portion of the yard.

Maintain Gutters

Clogged, overflowing gutters pound water deep into the soil adjacent to the foundation during heavy rain. Chronic moisture from saturated soil infiltrates the pores of a cement foundation as well as seeping through cracks and crevices, causing ongoing deterioration. Keep gutters flowing freely and extend downspouts to discharge water at least three feet (more is better) from the house.

Resolve Plumbing Issues

Water supply lines are frequently routed beneath the slab foundation of a home. Unseen leakage from these pipes can erode supporting soil, causing the foundation to shift and crack. If a hidden plumbing leak is suspected due to unexplained water bill increases or other signs, have it checked out by a qualified plumber.

Install A Sump Pump

In some locales, the continuous pressure of natural ground water rising under the foundation causes deterioration and seepage. A sump pump installed in the foundation or basement floor relieves pressure by collecting water and automatically pumping it outdoors.

Summer Storms Can Bring Summer Damage… Be Prepared

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019

Every year, summer storms cause about 15 billion dollars in property damage. High winds, flooding, hail, tornadoes, lightning: winter seems like a fairly benign season compared to the damage potential present during the summer months. No home in any state can be considered totally safe from these three months of tempestuous weather, driven by rising heat and moisture. From the top of the house to the bottom, here are a few timely suggestions to be prepared:

Secure The Roof

Your roof takes the brunt of summer storms. Schedule an inspection by a roofing professional to check for split or missing shingles, dislodged flashing, leaky skylights and other issues that could cause indoor water damage from a heavy rain. Also, ensure gutters are securely attached and water flows freely through downspouts. A complete roof inspection should include an attic check to look for evidence of leakage or deterioration on the underside of the roof sheathing.

Manage Trees

Overhanging limbs can become an issue in high winds. Thrashing limbs scraping the roof can cause damage even if limbs remain intact. If they break, the weight of a heavy limb impacting the roof can inflict severe damage to the roof structure. Large limbs extending over the house should be cut back. If any tree limbs that are close enough to strike the home are weak, dying or otherwise compromised, consider having these limbs or the whole tree removed.

Divert Drainage

Water pooling close to the home during heavy rain may seep into the structure or undermine a slab foundation. Ensure that your surrounding landscape is graded so that water flows away from the house and into the yard.

Protect The Basement

Water inundation may damage a basement in two ways: Heavy rain saturating the soil can penetrate basement walls and/or rising ground water may infiltrate through a basement floor. A sump pump installed in a basin excavated at the lowest part of the basement collects entering water and automatically pumps it out to prevent flooding. Due to power outages frequently associated with summer storms, a sump pump with battery backup feature is preferable.

What is the Difference Between a Flood Warning and a Flood Watch?

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

Officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) report that fully 98% of counties in the United States have experienced severe flooding at one one time or another in their history. A FEMA fact sheet expresses this risk in more plain and simple terms: “Anywhere it can rain, it can flood.”

To inform you of a potential flood event and necessary flood safety measures, the National Weather Service (NWS) issues bulletins keyed to areas located along specific bodies of water such as rivers or coastal regions, as well as on a county-by-county basis across the entire country. Here are the levels of NWS alerts regarding flooding:

Flood Watch

This is the preliminary alert to make you aware of conditions that could potentially cause flooding. Typically, a flood watch is issued to cover a time frame of 24 to 48 hours. The watch will state that flooding could possibly take place in a designated general area. A flood watch does not mean flooding is already occurring, nor is it a guarantee that it will occur. If your home is in an area covered by a flood watch, it’s a good idea to keep a radio or television tuned in to potential updates in the event you are advised to take additional action.

Flood Warning

This means flooding in your area is already occurring or is imminent. The alert includes vital information such as forecasted conditions, duration that the warning is in effect, evacuation advisories, information about blocked roads and locations of emergency shelters. If a flood warning is issued, follow the information provided in the warning and take immediate action to evacuate the area or move to higher ground.

Flash Flood Warning

These alerts warn of rapidly-developing flash floods that can turn dry conditions into a life-threatening danger zone in a matter of only minutes. You will be advised to move to nearest higher ground without any delay. There may not be time to evacuate to any remote location. Flash flood warnings should never be disregarded, even if it’s not raining at your specific location at that moment.

6 Important Flood Safety Tips Everyone Should Know

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019

In the U.S., more people are killed every year due to floods than the total of all deaths from hurricanes, tornadoes and lightning. Flooding is statistically the most common natural disaster and no locale is totally immune from the potential danger. Because the right time to familiarize yourself with the hazards and make plans to stay safe is before disaster strikes, here are six flood safety tips:

  • Know the risks. Find out if you live in a flood-prone zone. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) provides online flood risk maps for most communities in the U.S. With this information, you can estimate the risk of flooding from local sources and plan evacuation routes if the need ever arises. 
  • Keep informed. If conditions that may trigger flooding occur—such as severe storms or an overflowing river—monitor local radio broadcasts for updates. Keep all occupants of the house informed of the threat and prepared to evacuate, if necessary.
  • Leave if you are advised to. If evacuation is recommended by authorities, leave your home, ASAP.  Staying put in the house will do nothing to prevent the damage if flooding strikes and only exposes occupants to increased dangers.  
  • Stay out of moving water. Don’t walk or wade into moving floodwater during evacuation. Just six inches of water with typical flood current can knock you off your feet. If you encounter flooded roads while driving, stop, turn around or back up, and take a different route.  
  • Don’t come home until it’s safe. Monitor radio broadcasts for updates that indicate it’s safe to return. Flash floods are often a delayed effect that occurs following severe weather events. Just because it stops raining and the sun is out, don’t assume the threat is over.
  • Be aware of dangers at home. If you return to a flooded or wet home, don’t enter the house if electrical power is still active. Contact an electrician to disconnect utility power at the meter. Floodwater is toxic, so avoid direct skin contact. Snakes and other vermin may also be present in a flooded structure.

Floodwaters are Coming – What NOT to Do…

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

Over 75% of Presidential disaster declarations are issued due to flooding. While more dramatic natural calamities may draw more media coverage, inundation by water from one source or another leads the statistics for damage and dislocation in this country. Information about positive steps to take in case of a flood is widely available and applicable to scenarios in most locales. However, now and then it’s helpful to take the reverse approach and pass along advice from various experts about what not to do.

Here are some things to avoid when floodwaters threaten:

  • Being out of touch. If potential flood conditions are present, keep a radio or television on and tuned to a channel that provides current coverage and emergency information.
  • Engaging in denial and delay. If official warnings are issued by authorities, don’t put off taking proactive steps to ensure your safety. Past experience with floods that didn’t materialize doesn’t mean you’ll get lucky again.
  • Not having a plan. Every household should have an evacuation plan including routes (and alternate routes) to get out of the area as well as the location of nearest high ground for emergency escape.
  • Staying home to “save the house.” Occupying a house during a significant flood does little or nothing to prevent water inundation nor limit the extent of damage. What it does do is expose the occupant to unnecessary dangers and often require first responders to rescue the trapped individual if/when things get really bad.
  • Wading into floodwater. Moving floodwater is more powerful than you think, deeper than you expect and usually highly toxic due to raw sewage and chemicals picked up along the way. Stay out of it if at all possible.
  • Coming home too soon. Even if local conditions appear to be moderate, don’t return home before an official announcement that it’s safe. Severe weather remote from your location may still swell rivers and lakes and trigger a flash flood.
  • Entering a wet house with power on. Electrical power may still be live in flooded houses. Fatal electrocutions are a frequent post-flood danger. Contact an electrician to disconnet utility power before entering the house.