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Water Damage: How Bad Is It?

Thursday, February 25th, 2021
water damage

Water damage differs from house to house, depending on a number of variables.  One thing that doesn’t vary, however, is the concern and urgency a homeowner experiences when such damage occurs. A certified water damage specialist knows the feeling well, and is also trained and experienced to evaluate the severity of the damage, and then apply appropriate procedures to restore the home to a safe, healthy environment.

After the source of water has been stopped, here are some of the factors a water damage pro will consider to determine the level of damage and the most effective treatment.

Source

The origin of the water is a major element in assessing the extent of the damage. For recovery and restoration purposes, industry professionals categorize the source of water into three types:

  • Type 1 water is “clean” water coming directly from a broken pipe or other sanitary origin and present in the house for not more than 24 to 48 hours.
  • Type 2 is “gray” water, mildly contaminated from sources like a washing machine or dishwasher overflow or rainwater leaking through a roof leak. Type 2 also includes Type 1 water damage that has been present for more than 48 hours.
  • Type 3 is “black” water, a raw sewage backup, or an influx of outdoor floodwater. This presents severe health threats and requires advanced decontamination methods to make the indoor environment safe again.  

Extent

The volume and extent of water spreading away from the source impact remediation. Where the quantity of water damage is minor and limited to a single room, recovery is relatively uncomplicated. If the water has spread under walls to other rooms and seeped deeper into the structure, however, more comprehensive recovery techniques are required.

Duration

The clock is ticking. How long has the water been present in the house? Microbial Growth triggered by exposure to water inside a home begins in 24 to 48 hours. Treatment and recovery are simplified if professional water extraction and drying techniques along with approved mitigation procedures are applied before that time frame elapses and microbial growth begins.

Dealing With Frozen Pipe Water Damage

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021
water damage

While water damage to a home is a year-round possibility, in many parts of the country, winter cold imposes a very specific risk: frozen pipes. Water supply lines exposed to unusually low temperatures may freeze. Ice formation inside pipes increases internal pressure that eventually splits the pipe material or causes pipe joints to disconnect. Ruptured household water lines can release several hundred gallons into your home per hour, inflicting extensive water damage. 

Generally, outdoor temperatures must drop below 25 degrees before pipes are at risk of freezing. Duration of cold also matters. The longer outdoor temperatures remain in the danger zone, the greater the likelihood of a frozen pipe and subsequent water damage.

Freezing mainly affects pipes:

  • Routed inside exterior walls.
  • Located in an unheated crawl space, basement, attic, or garage.
  • In cabinets under a sink close to an exterior wall.

When temperatures below 25 degrees are forecast:

  • Prepare in advance by installing pipe insulation on all accessible pipe segments routed through unheated zones.
  • Set furnace thermostat to continuously maintain indoor temperatures of 60 degrees.
  • Open faucets to allow slight dripping that releases internal pressure if ice forms.
  • Leave cabinet doors beneath kitchen and bathroom sinks open to allow household heat to reach pipes.

If you suspect a frozen pipe:

Loss of water pressure at one or more fixtures indicates a frozen pipe. Don’t wait for the pipe to thaw out and cause water damage. Turn off all water to the house at the main shutoff valve immediately and call a plumber.

Should a pipe rupture occur:

  • Shut off water to the house at the main shutoff valve and call a plumber.
  • Avoid flooded rooms where electricity is still on. Turn off circuit breakers to affected rooms before entering.
  • Where possible, use a floor squeegee or a broom to push standing water out of the house through a nearby exterior door.
  • Contact qualified professional water damage recovery services ASAP.

Common Water Damage Risks

Thursday, February 18th, 2021
water damage risks

Statistics show that water damage risks are second only to wind/storm damage. Every day, over 14,000 American homes experience indoor water-related damage. Water damage risks vary according to factors such as the general age and condition of the house, as well as maintenance of household systems like plumbing.

Industry data also reveals that all water damage risks are not created equal. Certainly, if a 300-gallon rare fish aquarium topples over inside a house, the damage will occur to both fish and home. However, statistics repeatedly show that water damage risks from these four causes are far greater:

  • Ruptured pipes. A ruptured half-inch water supply pipe routed to kitchens and bathrooms can release up to 50 gallons per minute. Pipe-related water damage risks may result from long-term deterioration or sudden events like ruptures due to freezing. Even apparently minor pinhole leaks in plumbing pipes should be taken seriously and a professional plumbing service contacted ASAP.
  • Appliance breakage and overflows. Rubber water supply hoses connected to washing machines can rupture after only five years, potentially flooding the homes at a rate of 600 gallons per hour. An overflowing washing machine, meanwhile, typically spills about 15 gallons—enough to damage nearby floors and surrounding walls. Broken water supply lines to dishwashers and refrigerator ice makers are also appliance water damage risks.  
  • HVAC issues. A central air conditioner may generate 20 gallons of condensate daily in hot weather. A clogged, overflowing condensate drain pan located beneath the indoor air handler may spill multi-gallons into the house every time the AC cycles on. Because the drain pan is situated out of sight, considerable damage to the immediate area typically occurs before the problem is noticed.  
  • Sewer backups. Sewage flowing backwards into a house can result from blockages in the home sewer line—tree root intrusion or clogs from flushing inappropriate paper or other items are common causes. A more widespread issue such as floodwater inundating the municipal sewer system is another potential source. Raw sewage is considered Category 3 toxic water and must be remediated only by qualified water damage professionals.

Leaky Basement in the Winter: Five Causes

Tuesday, February 16th, 2021
leaky basement

While a leaky basement is more often associated with severe summer storms, basement leakage during winter has its own set of unique seasonal causes. Consequences associated with a leaky basement include damage to the foundation walls and also the basement floor as seepage gradually deteriorates concrete. Water infiltrating a basement can also affect electrical wiring and major components such as the circuit breaker panel that is frequently installed there. Conditions inside a frequently wet basement also support the growth of mold that may eventually contaminate upstairs living spaces.

Here are some of the frequent causes of a leaky basement specific to the winter season.  

  • Snow accumulation around the foundation. As banks of snow that accumulate against the side of the house melt slowly, the water penetrates into the gap between frozen soil and the foundation of the house. This water may seep through existing cracks in the foundation wall or continue to penetrate underneath the foundation and seep upwards through cracks in the basement floor.    
  • Ice blockage in gutters. While snow melts on warmer portions of the roof, ice present in gutters may block the free flow of water. As blocked gutters overflow, water pounding on the ground below may penetrate deeply into the soil, eventually causing a leaky basement.
  • Frozen pipes. Plumbing pipes typically routed through the basement may freeze in frigid winter weather and leak or totally rupture, flooding the basement.  
  • Sump pump failure.  A basement sump pump discharges infiltrating groundwater through a pipe typically extending into the back yard. In frigid winter weather, ice may form in the discharge pipe, obstructing free flow from the sump pump. This may cause the sump basin in the basement to overflow and the pump itself may be damaged.
  • Window leakage. Basement windows extend partially below ground level into window wells. Water from rain or melting snow may accumulate in basement window wells. If the window well structure or the windows themselves are not properly sealed, a leaky basement is a frequent consequence.

Dealing With Standing Water in Your Yard

Thursday, February 11th, 2021
standing water in your yard

Every lawn needs regular watering, but frequent standing water in a yard is a problem, not a benefit. A yard that remains wet for one or two days after rainfall is normal. However, if persistent puddles or continuously soggy areas of the yard are still noticeable for a longer period following a storm, you may have an issue with standing water. Where parts of a lawn are frequently waterlogged and swampy, a number of drawbacks can be expected:

  • Soil that remains saturated for extended periods can degrade the foundation of the house and trigger chronic seepage
  • into the basement, resulting in indoor water damage and mold contamination.
  • Instead of supporting a healthy lawn, the continuous presence of water actually kills grass. Algae, moss, and other water-loving vegetation are spawned by standing water and these competitive plants destroy grass roots.  
  • Standing water provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other undesirable insects.   

Here are some actions to take to eliminate standing water and restore proper drainage.

  • Fill in depressions. If pooling water is due to existing low spots in the terrain of the yard, these areas should be filled with topsoil, compacted, and then graded level so rainwater will not accumulate. The area may then be reseeded with grass.  
  • Divert water from the foundation. The ground surrounding the home’s foundation should be graded so it slopes away from the house and standing water does not accumulate.  
  • Utilize french drains. A french drain consists of a perforated plastic pipe buried in a trench filled with gravel. In chronic problem areas where pooling frequently accumulates, the french drain continuously collects water in the soil and channels it away to another part of the lawn. Grass may be replanted above the drain.
  • Install a sump pump. Frequent standing water may be a sign of a naturally high level of ground water. Guard against ground water infiltration into the basement by installing a sump pump in the basement floor. Make sure the pump discharge pipe releases water far away from the house. 

Ceiling Water Damage: Ten Fast Facts

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021
ceiling water damage

Ceiling water damage is more than just really, really ugly. No doubt, those dark discolorations on a ceiling quickly become the very first thing you notice every time you walk into an affected room. However, stains are just the visual manifestation of water damage and the potentially more urgent issues that go along with it. Here are 10 fast facts about ceiling water damage, how it happens, and what comes next.

  • Evidence of water damage to a ceiling generally means one of two things: a roof leak or, in a two-story home, leakage originating in the room above the damaged ceiling. Usually, it’s a bathroom.
  • Ceiling panels are made of drywall that readily absorbs water. Once the drywall has been saturated, it becomes heavy and swells or sags.
  • A large area of a ceiling that is wet—or was wet in the past—may be considered structurally unsound and likely to collapse.
  • Wet ceiling panels almost always spawn the growth of mold on and inside the drywall material.
  • If ceiling water damage coincides with heavy rain, roof leakage is the principal suspect.
  • Since roof leakage tends to run laterally along interior attic structural members, the actual location of the roof leak may not be directly above the ceiling damage.
  • Before roof leakage contacts the ceiling, it typically soaks the bed of attic insulation installed just above the ceiling. Wet insulation usually becomes moldy and requires replacement.
  • Common sources of second-floor bathroom leaks that may be the cause of ceiling water damage below include leaky drain plumbing under the bathtub or shower stall, a leak at shower valve connections inside the bathroom wall, cracks in the shower stall or bathtub, leaky water supply lines routed through the bathroom floor, or an isolated event such as a toilet overflow.
  • Where a ceiling light or other electrical device like a ceiling fan is installed, ceiling water damage may cause an electrocution or fire hazard.
  • Unless the damaged portion of ceiling is smaller than a 12-inch square, the best repair option is to replace the entire drywall panel. 

Plumbing Leaks: 10 Fast Facts

Thursday, February 4th, 2021
plumbing leaks

While a variety of malfunctions and mishaps may be a potential cause of home water damage, common plumbing leaks are number one. The network of supply plumbing that distributes water under pressure throughout the house, the drain pipes that carry away wastewater, and the various fixtures and appliances connected to this system present many potential scenarios for plumbing leaks. Here’s a miscellany of fast facts about the causes, effects, and prevention of home plumbing leaks.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that plumbing leaks from all homes in the U.S. total one trillion gallons annually.  
  • Leaks from household water supply lines account for most plumbing-related water damage.
  • Major plumbing leaks due to total pipe ruptures are most often the result of internal pipe corrosion or frozen pipes that burst during frigid winter weather.
  • Inspecting water supply lines regularly for leakage is a good preventive measure. Check supply lines under sinks in kitchens and bathrooms as well as those connected to toilets and to washing machines, dishwashers, and refrigerator ice makers.
  • Pinhole leaks in copper water supply lines often appear insignificant. However, a pinhole can be external evidence of extensive internal pipe corrosion. Pinholes should be considered an advance warning of a potential pipe rupture that could occur at any time.
  • Sink and bathtub drain pipes aren’t under pressure, but can still leak considerable water at joints and seals. Look for drips under sinks and check out any unexplained pooling on floors around bathtubs and showers.
  • A dripping faucet is a leaky faucet. A single faucet dripping once per second due to a leaking internal cartridge wastes over 3,000 gallons per year.  
  • Dark spots on a downstairs ceiling may indicate plumbing leaks in a bathroom upstairs. Typical sources are bathtub/shower supply pipes or drain pipes routed through the bathroom floor.
  • Moisture from hidden or ignored plumbing leaks is a major trigger for toxic mold growth that can infect the entire house.
  • Note any unexplained increases in your water bill. They may be evidence of undiscovered plumbing leaks from a water supply line in a crawl space or other hidden area.

Roof Leaks: Wet Wood Beams

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021
roof leaks

Because most of the structure inside the attic is wooden, including beams, joists, rafters, and other constituents, roof leaks into the attic usually mean wet wood. Wooden attic structure is often untreated—building codes in many locales do not require it—and may be vulnerable to rot if attic water damage occurs from sources like roof leaks, plumbing pipes, or even high levels of condensation.

A Wet Attic At Risk

Wood rot is a natural fungal process associated with prolonged moisture contact. However, even untreated wood may resist a limited amount of water exposure for a limited time without permanent damage. Therefore, the most important factor is detecting and repairing attic water damage from roof leaks,  ASAP—before the process of wood rot begins. Here are some signs that that attic wooden structure may be at risk from roof leaks and other water damage:

  • Roof leaks affecting attic beams and other wood initially cause discoloration, gradually darkening wood the water contacts. Streaks, stains, and other discoloration typically appear sometime before wood rot begins. Therefore, these visual signs are a warning to take immediate action to locate and repair roof leaks and/or other water sources inside the attic.
  • Mold growth on wood surfaces inside the attic frequently accompanies the roof leaks which also initiate wood rot. In addition, mold growth penetrates wooden materials, too, accelerating the process of deterioration. Mold contamination inside an attic should be another red flag that wooden structures may be affected by rotting due to water.  

What To Do About Wet Wood

  • First, the location of roof leaks into the attic must be pinpointed and repaired. Then, wooden components of the roof and attic must be examined for visual evidence of wood rot.  
  • Wood rot is a permanent condition. Once any individual wooden constituent has been affected by wood rot, it is no longer structurally sound and not repairable. Therefore, attic beams and other wood structures affected by rot must be replaced.
  • After rotted wood is removed, new replacement wood and existing wooden structures can be treated with a wood preservative that prevents wood rot fungus.

How Safe Is the Water in Your Water Damaged Home

Thursday, January 28th, 2021
water damaged home

Home water damage presents a threat to more than just the house structure and contents. In many cases, home water damage can also be a health hazard to occupants of the house. Water from indoor sources, or water entering from the outdoors, can rapidly become a potential contributor to physical reactions ranging from simple irritation to severe illness.  

Here’s a summary of hazards presented by water damage in the home.

Water from broken or leaking plumbing lines.

Water originating directly from a ruptured or disconnected household water supply line—known as Category 1—is initially sanitary and presents the least hazard if clean-up and drying occur promptly. This includes water lines leading to fixtures like faucets, sinks, dishwashers, washing machines, etc.

Water present for an extended time period.

If Category 1 water is present for 48 hours, active mold contamination becomes likely. Toxic airborne mold spores may cause physical symptoms and illness if inhaled. The extended time period also spawns the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms. As time elapses, toxins present in building materials like glues and solvents may become dissolved into the water, as well.

Water from unclean indoor sources.

Examples of mildly polluted sources of home water damage include soapy water from overflowing washing machines or dishwashers, toilet overflows, rain entering living spaces through roof leaks, or water inundation due to a malfunctioning sump pump. This Category 2 water could cause irritation and possible illness. Occupants should avoid direct contact with this water and also avoid affected areas of the house. Professional water damage recovery personnel will wear some personal protective equipment (PPE) around this water.

External toxic water sources.

Two sources of home water damage are always considered Category 3 toxic water, also known as “Black Water:”

  • Raw sewage backup into the house
  • Outdoor flooding entering the house

These sources containing both bacterial and chemical toxins are extremely hazardous and must be handled only by qualified water damage professionals equipped for the job. Occupants may need to be temporarily evacuated to avoid potentially serious illness from exposure to Category 3 home water damage.

Dealing With Water Damage in Winter

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021
water damage in winter

While summer may bring damaging rain, winter’s the season of home water damage related to frigid weather. During one recent winter, 49 of the 50 states experienced freezing temperatures at some point. Home water damage in winter routinely totals over $1 billion nationwide.

Here are two areas where home water damage frequently occurs in winter, as well as strategies to deal with it. 

The Pipes

Sustained temperatures below 25 degrees can initiate ice formation inside pipes that may eventually rupture the pipe. This may release hundreds or thousands of gallons of water into a house. To prevent home water damage due to frozen pipes:

  • Insulate all pipes located outside the heated enclosure of the home, for example, pipes routed through the crawl space and/or attic. Seal the openings in exterior walls that allow frigid outdoor air to infiltrate the structure and contact pipes.
  • If you’re leaving town during possible freezing weather, consider turning off the water supply to the house at the main valve.
  • If you have reason to believe a pipe has frozen, turn off the water at the main valve and call a plumber immediately.

The Roof

Ice and snow can trigger home water damage in two ways:

  • Ice dams forming along the lower edge of the roof prevent melting snow from draining into gutters. Standing water on the roof rapidly penetrates shingles and leaks into the attic. Ice dams are related to heat accumulation in the upper portion of the attic, melting snow at the roof peak more rapidly while the lower roof remains frozen. Prevent ice dams by eliminating heat infiltration into the attic. Verify that attic insulation is intact and meets current specs. Seal the cracks and gaps in ceilings to prevent heat transfer into the attic.
  • Snow accumulation on a roof can be heavy enough to damage the roof structure and trigger leakage. About 10 inches of snow exerts five pounds per square foot on roofing materials. If accumulated snow becomes deep enough, roof leakage due to excess weight may seep into the house and cause indoor water damage.