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Four Main Causes of Home Water Damage

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

The typical home provides a number of opportunities for water damage to strike. Maybe that’s why more than one-third of the homes in the U.S. have already experienced losses due to water damage at one time or another. The average homeowner’s insurance claim for water damage is nearly $7,000—and that doesn’t count claims due to outdoor flooding that isn’t covered by standard insurance.  Water is a destructive force whenever and however it’s turned loose inside a home. From the common to the catastrophic, here are four principle causes of home water damage.

  • Plumbing failures. Broken plumbing pipes wreak the most water damage in houses. The damage potential from plumbing defects exists in everything from supply lines leading to sinks or toilets to washing machine hoses, ice makers, water heaters, etc. Any leakage or seepage from pipes or appliances is a red flag that should not be ignored. Contact a qualified plumber immediately.  
  • Roof issues. Damage from roof leakage is often unseen and limited to the attic—at first. By the time it becomes obvious in living spaces below, substantial structural damage as well as other issues such as mold contamination have already taken their toll. Scheduled roof inspections by a professional and occasional trips to the attic to look for signs of leakage are the best preventive measure to avoid or limit water damage.
  • Ground water intrusion. If you live in an area with a naturally high water table, damage may occur as water rises up through the foundation or crawl space beneath the house. Installation of a sump pump in the basement or crawl space is the best recourse to remove ground water before significant damage occurs. In more difficult cases, underground drainage systems may need to be installed.
  • Weather-related disasters. Know your risk. Check FEMA flood risk maps to determine the potential for flooding in your area. Make sure you carry adequate federal flood insurance to receive compensation for flood water damage (standard insurance policies do not cover it).  If you live in hurricane country, take steps to reinforce the home against wind and a deluge of water.

Preparing Your Home for Fall – These Tips Will Prevent Possible Water Damage

Tuesday, September 10th, 2019
Water damage

While the potential for home water damage is not limited to any particular season, sources of possible damage do shift somewhat as the calendar advances. Fall is a transitional period, a good time to check for damage that might have occurred during severe summer storms as well as prepare for the coming winter season. Getting these things done now is preferable to waiting until the first cold snap strikes, when conditions may be far less favorable. Here are some items to check off while the weather cooperates:

  • Clean the gutters. Gutters clogged by falling autumn leaves will overflow during winter rains or melting snow on the roof. Overflowing gutters may allow water to penetrate exterior siding and leak into walls, triggering internal water damage and mold.  
  • Insulate exposed plumbing. Household water supply lines routed through unconditioned zones like the crawl space or attic should be insulated to prevent freezing and possible rupture during the coming winter. Also, seal any openings to the exterior of the house that may allow frigid outdoor air to contact plumbing.
  • Seasonal roof inspection. Summer sun and storms are particularly hard on roofing. Any roof defects should be identified and resolved now, while good weather lasts. If you don’t feel safe accessing the roof yourself, now’s a good idea to schedule a roof inspection by a qualified roofing contractor to check for any defects that may permit leakage into the attic. 
  • Cut back trees. Large overhanging limbs that may not withstand the weight of winter ice need to be trimmed back to prevent damage to the house. It’s a good idea to have at least a three-foot safety margin around the house where no breaking limbs can strike the roof or walls, allowing water to penetrate. Also, if any trees appear to be diseased or dead, now’s a good time to have them removed.
  • Review hurricane preparations. If you reside in an Atlantic or Gulf state that is at risk for hurricanes or tropical storms, fall is the season to get prepared. Evaluate your home for hurricane readiness and follow proven procedures to minimize damage. 

So There is Moisture in Your Walls…

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

Nothing good comes from the presence of moisture inside wall cavities — the number of damaging consequences that can happen to a home is extensive:

  • Toxic mold growth
  • Rotting wood structure
  • Stained swollen drywall
  • Peeling paint or wallpaper
  • Ruined insulation
  • Insect infestation
  • Continuous odors

Moisture inside a wall is typically a result of some fault or failure in the construction or maintenance of the house. It also will never get better on its own. Instead, things will get progressively worse. Here are reasons why and how wetness can seep into areas where it doesn’t belong.

  • Condensation. Gaps and cracks in exterior walls may allow cold outdoor air to seep into the warmer interior wall space. This cold air will naturally form condensation on surfaces inside the wall cavity, creating a perpetually moist environment trapped inside the wall. Careful review is required to locate and seal external cracks and gaps that allow outdoor air to infiltrate exterior walls.
  • Plumbing leaks. Water supply lines routed through wall cavities may have tiny pinholes due to deterioration and/or seepage at joints. These may leak continuously or intermittently, soaking insulation inside walls, saturating wood structure and drywall. Uninsulated copper cold water pipes may also “sweat” condensation in amounts sufficient to cause damage inside walls, particularly if structural cracks and gaps allow humid outdoor air to infiltrate the wall cavity.
  • Penetrating rainwater. Exterior siding resists showers and splashes, not water flowing continuously down the wall. Clogged gutters overflowing during rain frequently cascade water down exterior walls. Water penetrating siding may also infiltrate the wall void, triggering internal moisture damage.

Drying Out

If external signs aren’t obvious, eliminating suspected moisture inside walls requires determining its exact location. Moisture meters that utilize needle probes can identify presence of moisture inside wall cavities without drilling large holes. Once moisture is pinpointed, the wall can be opened for drying, treating mold contamination, repairing any plumbing leaks and removing saturated insulation, if present. Rotted wood can also be replaced.

Using qualified professional services to identify the cause and make the repairs will be safer and more cost-effective in the long run.

Your Apartment Flooded: Next Steps

Tuesday, May 7th, 2019

Flooding from any source in an apartment is a concern for both the tenant and the property owner. Even though you may be only renting, an apartment’s still your home and the place where your personal possessions are kept. To minimize water damage to your valuables as well as the building’s structure—and to ensure you receive any compensation you are entitled—here are some suggestions in the event of a flooded apartment.

  • Report any incident of water damage and/or flooding to the apartment management or property owner immediately.
  • If a ruptured pipe, toilet overflow or other ongoing event is flooding the apartment and you are unable to get immediate response from maintenance personnel or the property owner, call a plumber yourself and request emergency service to stop the water. Keep records, you will have good grounds to deduct the expense from your rent.
  • Make sure the premise is safe to enter. A flooded or wet indoor environment can pose electrocution hazards if power is still on. Ask management or the property owner to have an electrician verify that power is disconnected at the meter.
  • Take photos of each affected room as well as all damaged possessions as soon as you enter the premise. Don’t wait until after clean-up begins.
  • If you have renter’s insurance, contact your agent to determine whether coverage will apply. Generally, renter’s insurance doesn’t cover flooding from external natural events such as overflowing rivers or severe storms. However, if the indoor flood was caused by a ruptured plumbing pipe or other defect, you may be covered.
  • Toxic mold growth is an inevitable after-effect following flooding or other water damage. If you intend to continue to inhabit the property, ask the property owner to verify that professional mold remediation is included as part of the water damage recovery process.
  • Always report any conditions, no matter how minor, which might lead to flooding or water damage to the apartment management or property owner as soon as they are noted. This would include dripping plumbing pipes, roof leakage during rain, unexplained wet spots on ceiling or walls, sewage issues, etc.

Effective Ways to Prevent Flooding in Your Home’s Garage

Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

flooded homeA typical house sits atop a raised slab or foundation that positions it above the level of accumulating groundwater during inclement weather. The garage, however, is generally several inches lower and nearly even with ground level. In times of heavy rain or snowmelt, garages may experience flooding, from temporary puddles that are a nuisance to several inches of standing water.

Since many garages today are not just a vehicle parking place but also serve as storage space for belongings, valuable items may be at risk from water damage. Likewise, wooden garage structural components may deteriorate due to repeated water contact and toxic mold growth may also be an issue.

Here are some suggestions to keep the garage dry even when its wet outdoors:

  • Maintain the garage door. Make sure the rubber or vinyl weatherstripping along the bottom of the door is intact, pliable and forms an effective seal. If it’s worn or stiff with age, replace it. Also verify that that the garage closes properly and tightly seals against the floor surface. If a gap exists, have a garage door technician make adjustments or repairs as necessary.
  • Seal foundation cracks. Small cracks in the concrete garage foundation are common and may provide a route for water outside to seep into the garage. Sealing small cracks with commercial sealants or even just waterproofing paint may be sufficient to stop minor influx. If there are large cracks, talk to a contractor about more permanent remedies.
  • Install French drains. Also known as perimeter drains, these are basically perforated pipes buried in a narrow trench filled with gravel. The system collects groundwater and effectively conveys it away from the structure. Installing French drains reduces the amount of pooling on the ground adjacent to the garage and helps eliminate water intrusion.
  • Alter the landscape. If the contour of the ground in your yard directs pooling water toward the garage during rain, flooding may be a common event. Talk to a landscaper about re-grading portions to divert water toward another part of the yard and/or create berms or install retaining walls to block the flow.

The Four Degrees of Water Damage and How to Deal With Them

Thursday, December 6th, 2018

water damage cleanupWater damage incidents differ according to the origin of the water, the scope and spread of damage inside the house and the materials affected. In order to properly evaluate water damage as well as develop systematic procedures for fast, effective recovery, the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) along with the insurance industry have developed a standardized method to classify water damage. While there will naturally be variations in some cases, broadly speaking, most water damage events will fit into one of the following four classes:

Class One

These are the smallest events, limited to one room. Spillage is often simply a brief overflow of a sink, or a leaky pipe, and is pooled on a hard, non-absorbent floor. Water has not seeped beneath baseboards and entered wall voids or penetrated into adjoining rooms. Clean-up and drying are usually uncomplicated if the situation is noted and resolved promptly.

Class Two

This class includes water damage that has affected an entire room, contacting absorbent materials that may include wood flooring, saturated drywall, and wooden structural components inside walls. In cases of a flooded basement, this class includes water that does not exceed a depth of 24 inches. Rapid response is required, including professional mold remediation to prevent contamination that is usually triggered within 24 to 48 hours.

Class Three

In this scenario, water damage has affected multiple rooms, Typically, inundation originates from a source such as a ruptured plumbing supply line that has released a large volume of water. Associated events often include collapsed ceilings, damaged electrical components or other structure. Entering and/or working inside a house with Class Three water damage may be hazardous and should only be handled by qualified professionals.

Class Four

In these most severe cases, a house might be declared a total loss. Class Four events include deep inundation of the structure due to weather-related flooding that likely includes toxins such as raw sewage and chemicals. Most of the house has generally been submerged to some extent, often for an extended period of time, and structural integrity has been severely and perhaps permanently compromised.

3 Tips to Prevent Water Damage from Your Washing Machine

Thursday, November 29th, 2018

leaking water machineJust how much water damage can a common residential washing machine inflict? As it turns out, quite a lot. According to the Insurance Institute For Business & Home Safety (IBHS), washing machines consistently rank among the most expensive causes of household water damage. Cost of these unexpected events average over $5,000 after the deductible amount is paid. In addition to structural damage, mold contamination is a frequent secondary consequence of washing machine incidents.

What can you do to avoid the expense and losses? The IBHS recommends three crucial preventive measures to reduce the potential for costly and inconvenient washing machine water damage:

Replace Water Supply Hoses

Many washers are installed with rubber supply hoses connected to hot and cold faucets on the wall behind the unit. Over time, these hoses deteriorate and eventually rupture. A ruptured hose may release hundreds or even thousands of gallons of water before the situation is discovered. Inspect hoses monthly and replace immediately if any signs of deterioration—cracking or blistering hose or seepage at the connection—is noted. Replace hoses every five years even if no deterioration is evident. For maximum safety, replace rubber hoses with braided stainless steel lines that provide greater expected service life.

Turn Off The Water Supply

For greater security against hose ruptures—as well as leakage from defective valves and other components inside the washer—develop the habit of turning off the hot and cold water supply valves after each use of the machine. To simplify this procedure, you can have the rotary screw-type faucets installed on the wall behind the unit replaced with lever-operated valves that can be quickly closed and opened in one easy motion.

Don’t Wash Clothes While You Are Away Or Asleep

Any washing machine water incident can be costly. However, if it occurs after you’ve started the machine and then left the house—or while you’re fast asleep in another room—that event can be truly catastrophic due to the volume of water released. Schedule clothes washing while you’re home and awake in order to react promptly to any events such as pipe ruptures or overflows.

3 Tips to Prevent Leaks Due to Freezing Attic Pipes

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

foam water pipe insulationBecause water always flows downward, freezing attic pipes that rupture are especially damaging to the living spaces below. In many areas of the country where homes are built on a slab foundation, water supply lines are routinely routed through the attic space. Because most attics are unconditioned, a hard freeze that plunges attic temperatures into the mid-20s for any length of time can cause a burst pipe.

A ¼-inch split in a water line caused by freezing can potentially unleash 600 gallons of water per hour when the pipe thaws. The torrent will quickly permeate through openings in ceilings and soak rooms below. Water will also cascade into the interior of wall cavities and flood deep into the structure.

To avoid drastic consequences—expensive water damage and inevitable mold contamination—here are three tips to prevent freezing attic pipes.

  • Insulate exposed pipe. Wherever water supply lines pass through the attic, foam pipe insulation sleeves should be installed on all exposed spans. Simply laying batts of existing fiberglass insulation over the pipes or burying the pipes in loose-fill cellulose insulation is not sufficient. Use foam pipe insulation specifically designed for the purpose. Also make sure all sections of the pipe are insulated–custom cut and form insulation pieces to cover rounded elbows, t-joints and other irregular spans.
  • Use heat tape on problem pipes. If a span of pipe is particularly vulnerable to low temperatures, electric pipe heating tape acts like an electric blanket for pipes to prevent freezing. Controlled by a thermostat to activate only when the attic temperature plunges dangerously low, the tape typically consumes about 5 watts per foot. Therefore, a six-foot span of “problem pipe” would only use about 30 watts when activated in cold temperatures. Because of potential hazards, pipe heat tape must be installed by a professional plumber or electrician only.
  • Consider PEX pipe. PEX is flexible cross-linked polyethylene now commonly installed as household water supply lines instead of rigid copper. Though PEX is not entirely resistant to damage if extremely frigid temperatures strike, its flexibility makes it more freeze-tolerant and less likely to rupture during “normal” winter weather.

Can Water-Damaged Insulation Be Salvaged?

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018

wet insulationInsulation in the attic is often the first victim when roof leaks occur or when plumbing pipes routed through the attic leak. The two most common types of insulation — fiberglass batts and blown-in cellulose loose-fill—are vulnerable to attic water damage in two specific ways:

Loss of insulating value. Wet insulation no longer performs its primary function of inhibiting heat transfer. Saturated insulation typically loses at least 40% of its insulating R-value. While fiberglass is technically waterproof, inside an enclosed attic the thick batt retains moisture which degrades its thermal resistance properties. Cellulose loose-fill, made of pulverized particles of paper and cloth, absorbs a large volume of water and compacts, losing the fluffy characteristics that make it an effective insulator.

Mold growth. Fiberglass insulation traps dust, which typically contains microscopic airborne mold spores. Following exposure to moisture from attic leaks, active mold growth affecting the paper backing of fiberglass batts is common. Cellulose insulation is treated with chemical fire-retardants that also make the material itself fairly mold-resistant. However, the absorbency of cellulose means destructive mold is still a major factor if it becomes wet. Saturated cellulose insulation acts like a wet sponge that continuously transfers moisture to adjacent wooden structure in the attic and to the ceiling drywall below, causing mold growth and destructive decay in these materials.

Can Wet Insulation Be Saved?

  • Fiberglass batts will eventually dry if lifted up and exposed to warmth and sustained air circulation. However, if active mold growth is evident, the material should be removed. Drying a large area of soaked insulation as well as detecting mold is a labor-intensive process. Because fiberglass batts are relatively low-cost, instead of attempting to salvage wet, possibly contaminated material the better option may be removal and replacement with new insulation.
  • Soaked cellulose insulation will retain absorbed water for an extended time and resists drying. During that time, it will also degrade wooden structure and trigger attic mold growth. Wet cellulose is generally not salvageable and needs to be removed, then new material blown-in to replace it.

 

Prevent Exterior Water Damage With These Simple Tips

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

exterior water damageConcerns about potential water damage shouldn’t be limited to your home’s interior. Materials that make up the exterior roof, walls and foundation of the house—wood, masonry, concrete—can be vulnerable to water damage under certain conditions. Also, external water damage often doesn’t stay outdoors: Water seepage originating outside tends to infiltrate indoor spaces, as well. Here are ways of detecting and dealing with exterior water damage before it becomes an interior issue.

  • Have your roof inspected. It’s a job for a professional who knows what to look for and can do so safely. They will check for damaged and missing shingles and defective flashing around vent pipes, chimney and skylights. Up in your attic they’ll inspect the sub-roof for telltale evidence of leakage, too.
  • Check exterior walls for loose siding boards, cracked bricks or masonry and signs that exterior wood sheathing is deformed or damaged due to water.
  • Inspect any openings in exterior walls that admit wires, plumbing pipes or heating and A/C lines. Seal around them with foam or caulk.
  • Look for signs of termite activity in or around exterior walls. Be aware that termites eat drywall as well as wood.
  • Trim back shrubs and/or tree limbs so they don’t touch sides of the house or the roof. Vegetation contacting exterior walls or roof surfaces traps chronic moisture, potentially accelerating deterioration of building materials.
  • Ventilate the attic to prevent ice dams on the roof. Heat rising from living spaces accumulates in the attic, causing uneven snow melt on the roof. Ice dams form, obstructing roof runoff and triggering damaging leaks. Adequate ventilation keeps attic temperatures uniformly cold.
  • Make sure that ground around the perimeter of exterior walls is slightly graded to divert water away from the house and prevent seepage into the foundation or basement.
  • Water cascading out of clogged, overflowing gutters can penetrate siding and cause severe damage inside exterior walls. Keep gutters clear and free flowing. Also, extend gutter downspouts to discharge water at least three feet away from the house.