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Repairing Ceiling Water Damage: Six Things to Know

Tuesday, May 12th, 2020

Ceiling water damage is common yet frequently more complex than damage occurring at floor level. In single-story houses, causes of ceiling damage include leakage from plumbing pipes routed through the attic or chronic roof leakage. In multi-level homes, damage affecting a downstairs ceiling usually originates from an issue in an upper floor—typically a bathroom—involving an overflowing bathtub or a leaking water supply pipe to a bathroom fixture. The trend toward locating laundry rooms on an upper level has also resulted in more ceiling damage downstairs due to washing machine overflows and ruptured washer supply lines.  

Ceiling water damage may manifest as simply a conspicuous stain on the ceiling, sagging ceiling drywall, or water dripping into the room below. Once the water source is identified and stopped, repairing ceiling water damage involves these steps:

  • Most residential ceiling panels are drywall that readily absorbs water. Saturated drywall permanently loses structural integrity even when dried and typically must be replaced. Usually, only the affected section will need to be cut out, rather than removing the entire ceiling.  
  • Once the ceiling is opened up, the interior structure must be thoroughly dried utilizing high-volume air movers. These units may be raised on scaffolds or other supports in the affected room in order to properly direct airflow.
  • In addition to drying, wooden structural components inside the ceiling must be inspected to determine if rotting or other deterioration has occurred. This includes the underside of the floor above in a two-story house as well as wooden ceiling joists. Any affected parts must be replaced.
  • In a single-story house, attic insulation above the ceiling leak may also be saturated and require removal and replacement.
  • After drying is confirmed with moisture meters, the affected area inside the ceiling should be treated with biocides to prevent mold growth.
  • New drywall ceiling material is cut to size, then installed with screws into the ceiling joists. The joint between the new material and the existing ceiling is taped, then covered with joint compound and primed. Usually, the entire ceiling is then repainted.

Five Chores to Prevent Water Damage This Spring

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020
prevent water damage

Spring is the season to prevent water damage. While water can inflict home damage at any time of year, insurance statistics show that spring is a particularly prominent season when it comes to damage originating from outdoor sources. Two factors combine – seasonal heavy rains and snowmelt – and these circumstances can challenge your home’s structure, particularly its resistance to infiltrating water.

To make sure you’re prepared for this seasonal risk factor, here are some spring-specific items to check off:

  • Deal with gutter issues. Gutters should be clear and checked to verify the free flow of water. In heavy rain, a clogged, overflowing gutter cascades water down exterior walls. While walls can resist raindrops and splashes, a continuous flow of water from an overflowing gutter will penetrate the wall structure, causing internal decay and triggering mold growth.
  • Check downspout specs. Gutter downspouts should be long enough to discharge water at least three feet away from the house (five feet is better). This helps prevent spring storm runoff from penetrating into the basement or undermining the foundation.  
  • Get a roof inspection. Seasonal storms and snowmelt reveal defects in any roof. Leakage into the attic deteriorates vital structure, ruins insulation, and spawns toxic mold. If you haven’t had a professional roof inspection in the last few years, schedule one now to keep up with routine wear and tear.
  • Visit the basement. Look for cracks in basement walls that admit seepage from saturated soil during heavy spring rains. If you have a basement sump pump, get annual maintenance, including cleaning the sump basin and pump filter screen. The pump should be tested to verify that it automatically actuates, then discharges water outside an appropriate distance from the house.
  • Assess the grade. Heavy rainwater should flow away from the house and out into the yard. To prevent water damage, including foundation issues or basement flooding, evaluate the grade of landscaping around the house perimeter. To prevent pooling water around the foundation, the ground adjacent to the home should slope gently away from the house at a rate of about six inches over 10 lateral feet.

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. 

How to Prevent Carpet Mold After Water Damage

Tuesday, April 14th, 2020

Carpet mold is a common consequence in the aftermath of water damage. A carpet presents a perfect environment for mold growth. The fibers capture dormant airborne mold spores present in any home. Microscopic bits of cellulose—mold’s favorite food—are also attracted and retained in carpeting by static electricity. Moisture, then, is the only missing element. Once water damage occurs, soaked carpeting will often spawn mold growth in 24 to 48 hours.

Simply allowing carpet to air dry is not enough. Drying a wet carpet does not eliminate the inherent mold potential. Here are some standard steps to prevent carpet mold:

  • Not all wet carpet is an appropriate candidate for cleaning and mold disinfection. If water damage is Category 3 “black water” — raw sewage from a backup or outdoor flooding that inundated the house—the carpet is toxic and typically needs replacement.
  • The process must begin ASAP. The mold clock is ticking as soon as water contacts the carpet.
  • Remove standing or pooling water on the carpet with a wet/dry vacuum.
  • Powerful water extractors pull deeper water out of the carpet and, in some cases, out of the padding beneath, as well. If water damage is Category 1, originating from a clean source like a broken water pipe, professional extraction methods may eliminate the need to pull up the carpet and remove the padding. If Category 1 water has remained in the carpet for more than 24 hours, however, or if the water originated from a contaminated Category 2 or 3 source, the padding may need to be removed and replaced.
  • Steam cleaning—not just hot water extraction—provides superior mold decontamination. Professional carpet steam cleaners inject steam above 212 degrees, high temperatures necessary to kill mold growth. Most pro steam cleaning units can also inject mold disinfectants along with the steam, as well as deodorants.
  • Professional air-moving equipment designed to direct high-volume air across the surface of carpet and floors should be utilized to rapidly dry the carpet after cleaning. To support drying, dehumidifiers should be kept running in the affected room.
  • Moisture meters should be utilized to confirm that the carpet is fully dried.

Dealing With Water Damage During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020
Water Damage During the COVID-19 Outbreak

It’s unfortunate but true: Water damage in a house happens when it happens, including during challenging times such as these. If an incident occurs in your house during the COVID-19 pandemic, how can you deal with it and still comply with regulations to stay safe and not risk the further spread of the virus? Here are some steps to consider if you find yourself confronted with water damage at this particularly inopportune time.

  • First, stop the source of water. If you have an active leak such as a broken water supply line, take steps to stop the flow immediately. Locate the water shut-off valve to the house—it is typically outside, at the point where the main water pipe enters through an exterior wall or down in the basement, if you have one—and turn off the water to the house.
  • Stay out of wet rooms. If you can safely turn off the electricity to affected rooms at the main electrical panel, do so before entering any wet areas. If you can’t shut off the electricity, keep all occupants out of affected rooms.

Make two contacts ASAP for important guidance to help you get through this.

  • Inform your insurance agent. During this pandemic, some homeowners insurance providers are informing policyholders that they are temporarily suspending inspections of certain indoor damage, depending on the severity of the situation. Damage due to water may—or may not—trigger an indoor inspection by your insurance provider until the widespread COVID-19 threat has diminished.
  • Contact a reputable water damage recovery service. Your agent will probably advise you to do this immediately, even without an insurance inspection. Qualified water damage professionals are trained and equipped to respond immediately, even while COVID-19 is an ongoing issue. In fact, some offer specialized decontamination services to sanitize interior spaces that may be contaminated by COVID-19. Professional water damage teams are equipped with full personal protective attire, including respirator masks that meet or exceed the N-95 standard to prevent COVID-19 transmission. All employees are instructed in precautionary measures, including avoiding all physical contact and maintaining appropriate social distancing.

What Is the Worst Type of Home Water Damage?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020
home water damage

 If it’s your home that’s affected, there’s no such thing as good water damage. Even damage from a common source like a broken supply pipe is an emergency requiring professional intervention with proven, specialized techniques and equipment. But, of all potential water damage incidents, what’s the worst-case scenario? If you exclude events like catastrophic outdoor flooding from a hurricane storm surge, many homeowners might agree that a severe sewage backup is about as bad as it gets.  

What’s So Bad About It?

A significant volume of raw sewage—appropriately called “black water”—flowing backward into a home is an indoor toxic waste spill contaminating everything it touches. In addition to issues common with  Category 1 “clean water” damage, sewer backups also impose health hazards associated with bacterial and viral pathogens in sewage, noxious unsafe air, nasty odors, and the fact that saturated porous items—including structural materials like drywall—usually cannot be disinfected and must be disposed of. Often, the home will need to be evacuated until professional remediation is concluded.

Why Does It Happen?

Sewage backups typically result from two causes:

  • A blockage in the sewer line between the house and the street, causing wastewater to reflux back into the home.
  • A widespread event in the municipal sewer system such as inundation by heavy rain, causing city sewage to flow backwards into houses.  

How to Reduce the Risk

To avoid enduring the damage and disgust of a sewage backup, here are two strategies:

Get a sewer line inspection by a licensed plumber. An internal pipe inspection utilizing a video camera may reveal hidden issues that trigger sewage blockages and backups, including:

  • Tree root intrusion, the most common cause of sewage backups.  
  • An ongoing blockage caused by flushing inappropriate items, like paper that is not approved for sewage systems.
  • A collapsing sewer pipe.  

Install a sewer backflow valve. Typically placed in the sewer line just outside the house, this safety device permits sewage flow in only one direction—away from the home. Should the flow reverse for any reason, the backflow valve automatically closes to prevent raw sewage reflux into the house.

Water Damage: What to Do Before Help Arrives

Thursday, January 30th, 2020
water damage

Water damage waits for no one. Once the initiating event occurs, a fast-moving timeline is triggered. Water is naturally invasive and spreads rapidly inside structures. When coming face-to-face with a water damage incident in your house, it’s important to take a deep breath, and then do what needs to be done. Here are some important steps in the sequence.

  • Shut off the source. If the water originates from a broken pipe, ruptured water heater or other common plumbing-related cause, turn off water to the house at the main shutoff valve. Be prepared by knowing in advance the location of the shutoff valve. Test it twice a year to confirm that it turns easily. Contact a plumber if it doesn’t.
  • Be careful. Turn off electricity to affected parts of the house at the main electrical panel if it’s in a dry area and safe to access. If you can’t, call an electrician before entering saturated rooms or stepping into pooling water or danger zones like a flooded basement.
  • Make important calls. Two contacts should be made immediately: your homeowner’s insurance provider and a certified water damage remediation company. If you’re unable to immediately reach the insurance company, most insurers realize that the time-critical nature of these incidents requires fast response by professionals and advise summoning qualified water damage experts before contacting the company.
  • Avoid any contact with raw sewage that may be present in a sewage backup incident. Leave it to professionals.
  • Where possible, manually move standing water out of the house. Open exterior doors and use push brooms or floor squeegees to push pooling water outside. Mop up water or blot it up with towels or other absorbent materials.
  • Remove soaked rugs, saturated padded furniture, wet mattresses and other large absorbent materials from the house.
  • Move important papers, photos, paintings, etc, out of wet rooms and into dry rooms furthest from the water to prevent secondary damage due to water vapor.
  • Open windows and run fans to establish cross-ventilation and exhaust damaging high humidity. If it’s operational, run the HVAC system fan continuously to keep air circulating.

Four Worst In-Home Plumbing Disasters

Thursday, December 19th, 2019
Plumbing Disasters

A plumbing emergency is a special kind of crisis. If leakage is limited to a small pool on the hard surface floor of a single room, without migrating under baseboards or leaking to a lower level, you may be able to handle clean-up yourself. An amount exceeding that—or any amount of toxic sewage—requires the services of water damage recovery professionals.

Here are four plumbing emergency events you’d rather not experience:

Water Supply Line Rupture

Leakage from only a 1/8-inch crack in a typical indoor water supply line can exceed 250 gallons in a day.  Indoor damage may be widespread. Know in advance where and how to turn off the main water valve to the house if a pipe rupture occurs. Apparently “minor” pinhole pipe leaks can be a red flag warning of impending pipe failure. Call a plumber to diagnose and repair all supply line leaks promptly.

Broken Washing Machine Hose

Rubber washing machine supply hoses become brittle over time. Eventually, they are prone to rupture, releasing hundreds of gallons of water, often before you’re aware of it. It’s a good idea to reach behind the machine and turn off the water valves when the unit’s not in use. Even better is to replace rubber washing machine hoses with braided stainless steel lines that are more resilient and reliable.  

Sewage Backup

Sewage reflux into the house is a toxic contamination issue. Category 3 raw sewage, also known as black water, contains biological and chemical contaminants that present an immediate danger to residents. Clean-up and disinfection must be performed by professionals. Residents should avoid any direct contact with sewage and even breathing the air in contaminated rooms may be hazardous.  

Toilet Overflow

It combines a feeling of panic and embarrassment with an often disagreeable clean-up experience. All residents should be familiar with the water shut-off valve usually located behind the tank, near the floor. If a toilet overflow occurs, turn off the valve as quickly as possible to limit spillage. Once or twice a year, test the valve to make sure it still operates easily.

Five Facts About Water Damage Repair

Thursday, November 28th, 2019
water damage repair

Because water damage inside a home isn’t just a single phenomenon, effective water damage repair requires more than just one approach. Today, techniques to achieve successful remediation incorporate a wide spectrum of procedures and technology to get the job done. Here are some examples of what competent professional water damage repair is and what it isn’t.  

  • It’s a multi-faceted project. Repairing water damage involves more than removing visible water from a house with powerful extractors and controlling water vapor with dehumidifiers. It means using techniques to detect the water you don’t see that soaked deeper into the structure, infiltrating wall cavities and penetrating sub-flooring. Certain saturated building materials may be deemed unsalvageable and must be removed and replaced.
  • It’s not a do-it-yourself thing. Water damage repair also isn’t a job for a well-meaing handyman, the local carpet cleaner, or an all-purpose general contractor. Professional water damage remediation by technicians certified by recognized industry organizations is a specialty that combines effective tools and technology with proven methods based on research and verified results.
  • It’s an evolving event. Damage caused by water doesn’t end when the water source stops. As time elapses, water keeps migrating further from the source of the damage. Water on the move penetrates electrical components, seeps into ductwork, ruins insulation and damages vulnerable possessions. Extreme humidity pervades dry areas of the house, inflicting secondary water damage.
  • It’s a matter of mold, too. Mold growth triggered by water damage is considered inevitable unless proven, effective countermeasures are taken within 48 hours. Indoor air must be sampled to detect active mold spores. Procedures to remove verified mold contamination, followed by disinfecting affected areas with EPA-approved biocides, help ensure that water damage is not followed by toxic mold growth.  
  • It’s not over until it’s over. After water damage repair is concluded, multiple moisture level readings and air samples are taken to verify that the house meets industry standards for dryness and decontamination. One or more brief follow-up visits may be scheduled to repeat these tests and confirm successful remediation.