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Five Water Damage Questions to Ask Your Insurance Agent

Tuesday, April 21st, 2020
water damage questions

The time to ask water damage questions relating to your homeowners insurance is before you’re ever faced with filing a claim. Certain aspects of water damage coverage aren’t the slam dunk you might expect. Any doubts you have should be cleared up by your agent at the time you purchase the policy or seek to alter coverage. Here are five water damage questions that should be asked and answered before the need arises.

What do “overflow” and “discharge” mean?  These terms commonly found in homeowners’ insurance policies relate to general types of water damage. “Overflow” encompasses events like an overflowing washing machine, toilet, or other plumbing fixture or appliance. Examples of “discharge” include incidents such as broken water pipes or a ruptured water heater.

Is damage due to leaky or ruptured pipes always covered? Not necessarily. Most policies stipulate that the event must be “sudden and accidental.” In other words, if you fail to repair a chronic leak in a pipe that eventually ruptures, coverage may be denied.

Is water damage resulting from a leaky roof covered? It depends. Water damage due to a sudden event like a tree limb falling and damaging the roof during a storm is probably covered. Water damage occurring due to long-term neglect of roof maintenance, however, may not be covered.  

What does the term “flood” refer to in insurance language? For insurance purposes, a flood refers specifically to an inundation of more than one home originating from an outdoor body of water. While a standard homeowners policy typically covers a basement “flooded” by a ruptured indoor pipe, for example, it does not cover damage due to an outdoor “flood” as defined by the insurance company. For that type of flood, you need a policy provided by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) managed by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency).

Is mold contamination covered by homeowners insurance? Yes, but only if the mold resulted from common types of water damage specified in the insurance policy. Attic mold caused by a leaky roof that was ignored for an extended time, for example, isn’t likely to be covered.

Can I Stay Home During Water Damage Restoration?

Thursday, April 16th, 2020
water damage restoration

If your home requires professional water damage restoration services, should you make reservations at a nearby motel or resolve to remain in the house during the process? Damage due to water is unsettling enough, without having to think about temporarily relocating elsewhere while the recovery process is underway. 

Still, there are definitely times when trying to maintain a normal routine inside a house with significant damage is impractical as well as inconvenient. Here are some guidelines to help you make the best decision.

Where did the water originate?

Water directly from a clean source (Category 1) such as a broken water supply line usually presents fewer issues, should you opt to remain in the house. Water from less-than sanitary sources (Category 2) like washer overflows or roof leakage may still permit occupation of the house but may require closing off certain areas for a limited time, making life less convenient. Category 3 water damage—from toxic sources such as a raw sewage backup into the house—may require temporary relocation for your health and safety.

How extensive is the damage?

Category 1 or 2 water affecting only one room or a limited area of the house is usually something most people can live with while restoration is underway. However, widespread water throughout the home, such as occurs due to major flooding, may present electrical and structural issues as the recovery process is ongoing. In that case, you’ll probably be more comfortable and safer elsewhere.

Can you deal with the disruption?

Professional water damage restoration crews are trained to go about their work efficiently, respecting privacy, and causing as little disturbance to residents as possible. However, the fact is, remediating significant water damage requires the use of powered equipment, including water extractors, high-volume air movers, and indoor dehumidifiers, as well as various manual procedures and tasks crews must perform to get the job done. Any of these factors might potentially disrupt normal peace and quiet and put a crimp on daily activities. Just keep it in mind when considering whether to stay or go. 

Does Water Ruin Drywall?

Thursday, March 19th, 2020
water damage

Because drywall is one of the primary building materials in a home, it’s also a frequent target when water damage occurs. Drywall is inexpensive, quickly installed, and easily cut to size, making it an ideal construction material. Typically utilized to construct walls and ceiling in most houses, however, drywall is particularly vulnerable to water damage originating either above or below.

Water and Drywall
Drywall is a rigid panel made of white gypsum mineral rock sandwiched between thick exterior paper. Its main drawback is the fact that it absorbs water readily. This can present significant water-related issues, including the following:

  • Once saturated, drywall tends to retain water and dry very gradually.
  • The absorbent gypsum material draws water up into it like a sponge. Pooling water on the floor that comes into contact with the bottom edge of the panel can be absorbed upwards into the drywall at a rate of one inch per hour as long as the water is still present on the floor.  
  • Wet drywall may lose structural rigidity and sag, bulge, or even collapse completely. Drywall that is distorted by water exposure cannot be restored and must be replaced.
  • If the source of water is polluted by sewage or some other toxic source, the absorbent drywall is typically permanently contaminated and cannot be retained. It must be removed and replaced by new material.
  • Even where there are no structural or contamination issues, the ceiling drywall that has been contacted by water will usually appear conspicuously stained and require repair and repainting.

Mold and Drywall

Water-damaged drywall also creates a very favorable medium for the growth of toxic mold. Because it stays wet for an extended time period and the gypsum is porous, dormant spores will be activated by water exposure and active mold growth will soon infect the panel, both internally and on the external surface of the material. Because treating contaminated drywall is problematic, the most expedient course of action when drywall is infected by mold is usually removal and replacement.

Where Should I Start in Assessing Water Damage

Tuesday, December 24th, 2019
water damage recovery

Professional water damage recovery entails an in-depth inspection of the affected house. Since the water you can actually see is only a small part of the damage, professionals conduct the assessment with the help of a variety of specialized technology to detect and track hidden moisture inside the structure. This involves all spaces in the house, including areas usually out of sight like the attic and crawl space.

Saturated building materials will be evaluated, as well, for drying or replacement.  Water vapor content in the indoor air is also a factor in secondary damage, so that will be tracked, too, throughout the process of water damage recovery.

As a homeowner faced with the immediate consequences of water damage, you can perform a basic assessment of the status quo by taking into account these factors:

  • Has the source of water been eliminated or stopped? If the damage is due to a ruptured pipe, for example, you need to verify that the water to the house has been shut off at the main valve. If not, and you’re unable to do it yourself, a plumber should be summoned immediately.
  • What is the source of the water? Try to determine if the water is relatively clean Category 1 water, such as would come from a broken water supply line. Category 2 water would include discharge or overflows from washing machines or dishwashers or water seeping in from the outdoors. Category 3 is water inundation from outdoor flooding or raw sewage from a sewer backup into the house and is considered toxic.  
  • How far has the water apparently spread? Water begins migrating deeper into the structure immediately. Note any signs of water damage in other rooms or parts of the house removed from the original flooding or water incursion.
  • Safety must also be taken into consideration. Note the condition of the structure, such as saturated drywall in walls or ceilings that are sagging and may collapse. If electricity is still on, wet rooms may be unsafe due to possible electric shock. An electrician should be called to cut off the power to affected areas.

How Can Water Damage Impact Selling Your Home?

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019
Water Damage and Selling Your Home

Water damage can definitely impact a house’s sale. More than one-third of homes in the U.S. have experienced damage from water at some point in their history. Therefore, this issue is frequently encountered in the real estate marketplace.

Damage in the past is not necessarily a deal-breaker. Less important than the fact that an incident occurred is how the homeowners responded. If remediation was promptly performed by certified water damage recovery specialists, past damage is usually not a major issue affecting the value or sellability of a home.

No Secrets

Until all facts are known, however, damage issues are often considered a red flag by many prospective buyers. The following factors play a role:

  • Buyers have legal rights to be informed about issues that may impact the home’s livability or degrade market value. If a seller fails to disclose known damage on the standard pre-sale disclosure form, he could face civil liability.
  • Pre-sale home inspections are required by most lenders and strongly favored by prospective buyers, as well, including those paying cash.
  • Home inspectors are trained to recognize signs of existing damage, as well as evidence of DIY cover-ups to conceal past water damage that was not properly remediated.
  • If existing damage issues are ongoing and have not been resolved, the value of a home may be substantially reduced. Financing may be problematic and buyers may need to pay cash or qualify for a complex loan that provides both funds for water damage remediation as well as the purchase price of the house. 

Mold Matters

Water damage that is not remediated by qualified professionals rapidly leads to mold contamination. In a home with past damage, mold potential is another x-factor that must be resolved. Separate pre-sale inspections focusing on detecting mold contamination are increasingly common.

If a damage incident occurred in the past, home sellers should expect a separate inspection specifically for the purpose of mold detection. This is particularly true if the seller cannot produce proof that proper restoration was performed by qualified water damage specialists.    

Can Electronics be Salvaged After a Flood?

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

Water inundating a home affects everything it comes into contact with to some degree. The quandary for the homeowner trying to sort things out is deciding which items can be saved and which must be discarded. This is particularly true of electronics, as these are usually very vulnerable to water damage and typically costly to replace.

First, be aware of some specific rules dealing with wet electronics:

  • Don’t turn on electronics that are suspected of exposure to water or high levels of water vapor. Leave them off and unplug the unit.
  • Don’t try to dry electronic components in a microwave oven or conventional oven.
  • Don’t open up wet electronic items yourself to let them air-dry. Refer that job to a qualified electronics technician. Your water damage specialist can usually recommend one.

Here are some ways water damage typically will affect electronics:

High Humidity

Water flooding a house raises indoor humidity into the extreme range. Water vapor in the air easily penetrates electronic devices and condenses on circuit boards and other components. As long as the device has not been powered on, a professional technician can usually dry and clean these components in a cost-effective procedure

Rainfall or Splashing Water

Rain may contact electronics inside the house if the roof is damaged in a storm, for example. If standing water is present, splashing may affect electronic components in otherwise dry areas near the water. If direct rain or splashing has contacted an electronic item, professional drying and cleaning can often restore them, as long as there was limited contact with water. However, note that this recovery process must begin ASAP as corrosion affecting circuit boards begins rapidly after water exposure.

Water Submersion

In most cases, electronics totally submerged under water are not recoverable or not worth the high cost of attempting professional salvage. Replacing the unit is usually more financially viable. If data storage devices such as hard drives are involved, these components can be removed from the wet unit and are a good candidate for recovery services that can rescue the data, but this service can run high, as well.

How to Dry Out Cabinets After Water Damage Occurs

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

Cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom are often right in the crosshairs to sustain water damage. Because of the proximity to water sources—plumbing lines leading to a sink, dishwasher floods, overflow from a sink, faucet leaks—cabinets frequently end up affected by water.  Drying cabinets after a water damage incident is a specialized process and not all cabinets can be salvaged in a cost-effective way.

  • Particle board is a common inexpensive cabinet material. Consisting of particles of wood compressed together with glue and resin, particle board is particularly vulnerable to saturation. Water dissolves the glue and may make the material swell and crumble. If water damage is significant, these cabinets may not be salvageable.
  • Plywood and hardwood cabinets withstand water exposure more evenly and for a longer period of time. If dried promptly using proper techniques, these cabinets may be restored without permanent damage.  

Here are some typical steps a water damage professional will utilize to effectively dry out cabinets:

  • Remove all items from the cabinet.
  • Remove excess water pooling inside cabinets. Soak up water with towels and wipe dry the cabinet interior.  
  • Take off cabinet doors. The weight of cabinet doors pulling on saturated wood can cause yet more damage to the unit. Also, removing doors allows maximum airflow into the cabinet interior for faster drying.
  • Utilize drying equipment. Professional air movers that are made to rapidly dry floors, cabinets and other fixtures direct high-volume airflow into the cabinets and speed drying.
  • Reduce humidity. Excess humidity in the indoor environment—common after water damage incidents—hampers drying.  Dehumidifiers should be placed in the affected zone and run continuously.
  • Dry the hidden spaces.  The enclosed area underneath cabinets usually conceals water after a flood. This area is hard to reach but must be accessed to dry affected flooring under the unit as well as the underside of the cabinet.  Water damage professionals typically remove the cabinet kick plate, then utilize air movers and/or warm air injectors to effectively dry the area.  
  • Prevent mold contamination. After cabinets have been fully dried, all surfaces should be treated with biocides formulated to prevent mold growth.

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.

Does Your Furniture Have Water Damage? Do This First…

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

furniture water damage

  • Consider the source of water. If the damage is due to outdoor flooding that has inundated the house or from a sewage back-up, affected furniture should be considered contaminated. Certain items will therefore not be salvageable for this reason.
  • Furniture with stuffing and/or cushions which have absorbed contaminated water must be discarded. Even in cases where Category 1 “clean” water is involved, mold and mildew issues will likely make drying cushions and thick padding very problematic and likely not worth the effort.
  • Furniture constructed of veneered particle board that has been substantially soaked is usually damaged beyond repair due to the absorbency of particle board. These items will need to be discarded.
  • Move salvageable solid wood furniture outdoors. Take out all drawers, open doors and remove back panels if possible.
  • Spray down the furniture with a hose to remove mud and other residue.
  • Don’t allow wooden furniture to dry in the sun. Rapid drying usually causes warping and deformation. Instead, furniture should be moved to a sheltered storage area with good ventilation and allowed to dry slowly.
  • Be prepared for mildew or mold to form on wooden furniture until moisture content drops. Spot treatment with soapy water or wiping down the surface with mineral spirits will usually eliminate it.
  • For damaged items with sentimental value and which are irreplaceable, it may be worthwhile to consult a skilled furniture repair expert for issues such as loosened veneer, joints that have become unglued, discoloration of finish and other consequences of exposure to water.

Minimizing furniture water damage is an important aspect of restoring your home to normal.


When Drying A Water Damaged Space Isn’t A DIY Project…

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

industrial dryerything beyond that limited scope, however, properly drying a water damaged space requires more than do-it-yourself grit and determination. Here are some additional scenarios where professional service is indicated.

  • If the source is questionable. Only Category 1 water, straight from a broken household supply line or other sanitary source should be considered DIY-friendly. Category 2, typically drain water, an overflowing toilet bowl or washing machine, etc, contains bacterial contamination and requires prompt, professional removal. Category 3—also known as “black water”—refers to a sewage backup or outdoor flooding that has inundated the house. Classified as an acute toxic bio-hazard, clean-up should be handled strictly by experienced technicians only.
  • If water is on the move. Inside a house, water rapidly migrates under walls and through floors away from the point of origin. Drywall, insulation and other building materials absorb and retain water. Damaging wetness can spread far and wide long after the initial event—pipe rupture, flood, whatever—has been resolved. Simply mopping up what you see here and now only removes a partial amount of total moisture from the house.
  • If you’re not equipped. Effective, efficient water damage recovery requires specialized equipment purpose-built for the task. This ranges from powerful extractors to pull water out of carpets and flooring, high volume pumps to remove standing water, ventilation fans, moisture detection meters, industrial strength dehumidifiers and other stuff that probably isn’t out in your garage. Reputable, certified water damage recovery firms make substantial investments in the latest hardware and technology to do the job right.