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How Much Water Damage Can Leaky Gutters Cause?

Thursday, June 4th, 2020
leaky gutters

Every year during the rainy season, your home’s gutter and downspout system effectively prevents costly water damage by safely collecting and diverting thousands of gallons of roof runoff.

Except, that is, when it doesn’t. Damage due to clogged or leaking gutters as well as downspout problems is unsightly, destructive, and, typically, expensive to repair. Here are some examples of how gutter and downspout issues can trigger home water damage from the roof to the basement. 

Exterior Wall Damage

A clogged gutter filled with stagnant water becomes very heavy, bending its mounting brackets and often permanently damaging the fascia board around the roof where the gutter attaches to the house. The gutter itself may also sag and segments may disconnect due to the extreme weight.

Overflow from clogged gutters often runs down the outside of the exterior wall. This causes damage in several ways:

  • Unsightly staining of wood or vinyl siding on exterior walls as well as permanent discoloration of brick and mortar.
  • Exterior walls are generally rain- and splash-resistant, but not designed to resist a continuous cascade from a clogged, overflowing gutter during heavy rain. Water infiltrating behind the siding causes internal damage, including rot and mold growth concealed within the wall structure.    

Foundation and Basement Issues

Overflow impacting the ground directly beneath clogged gutters typically penetrates deeply into the soil and may cause multiple water damage consequences.   

  • Pooling water around the perimeter of the foundation during every rain can eventually undermine the slab and cause cracking or other deterioration.
  • Over-saturated soil exerts excess pressure on basement walls, triggering cracks and leakage into the basement that causes indoor water damage and mold.  
  • Pounding water from clogged gutters frequently excavates a deep rut in the ground directly below, forming continuous pooling that gradually penetrates the foundation or basement.
  • Landscaping beneath chronically overflowing gutters is often uprooted and destroyed.  

Downspout Issues

Where gutter downspouts are too short, roof runoff may be discharged too close to the house. As absorption deep into the soil occurs, foundation and basement water damage may result. 

How Much Trouble Can an Overflowing Toilet Cause?

Thursday, May 21st, 2020
overflowing toilet

The sight of an overflowing toilet spilling out onto your bathroom floor is a special kind of helplessness. While water damage may occur from clean sources such as a broken toilet supply line, water from a toilet bowl overflow is usually contaminated by the contents of the bowl and must be considered toxic.

Even worse damage may occur when the bathroom is on a second floor, as many are.  A prolonged overflow may discharge enough water that it saturates the bathroom, soaks the inner space between floors, trickles down through wall cavities, penetrates the ceiling, and drips down into the room below.

A few preventive measures can help make the distressing and costly experience of an overflowing toilet less likely:

  • A toilet overflow is much more damaging when nobody’s around to see it happening. Don’t leave the bathroom after flushing until the toilet refills the bowl, then shuts off normally.
  • Know the location of the toilet water supply valve and make sure you can operate it. It’s typically located on the wall behind the toilet, near the floor. Because these valves typically becoming sticky and difficult to rotate over time, test the valve a few times a year by turning it off and on.
  • If you can’t stop the freshwater supply to the toilet at the main water supply valve, remove the lid of the toilet tank and lift the float rod that operates the tank fill valve to stop water entering the tank. Use a coat hanger or any other wire to secure the float rod in the upward position and keep the fill valve shut.  

If water released by the overflow is simply a pool limited to the center of the bathroom floor and not contacting walls or flowing under baseboards, DIY cleanup with mops and disinfectant may be sufficient. If water volume exceeds that small amount, contact a qualified professional water damage recovery service.

How to Fix a Water Damaged Floor

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020
water damaged floor

The floor in a home is often the first casualty of indoor water damage. After all, water naturally flows downward and usually ends up pooling on the floor surface and infiltrating beneath, as well. If that water isn’t removed in a very short time frame, damage to flooring is likely. The extent of damage and the likelihood of repairing the floor depends on the length of time it was exposed to water and, even more importantly, the type of flooring involved.  

Do-it-yourself approaches to saving a floor seriously affected by water damage are limited. The most important DIY step is to remove standing water and begin the drying process, ASAP.  

  • Use a floor squeegee, sponge mops, or even brooms to push as much water as possible out the nearest exterior door. If you have a wet/dry vacuum, utilize it to remove pooling water fast, but take care using electrical devices in a wet environment.
  • Direct fans to blow air across the surface of the floor after pooling water is removed. This may reduce water infiltration beneath the surface. Also, open windows to release humidity from the room.  

Here’s how different types of flooring are affected by water damage.

  • Vinyl tiles are more water-resistant than other flooring. However, prolonged exposure may seep beneath tiles, causing the glue to release. Wet subfloors beneath vinyl also do not dry quickly and may be subject to rot and mold growth. Sections of tile may have to be removed, the subfloor dried, and new tiles laid.  
  • Laminate wood flooring consists of a thin top layer of wood with thicker pressed particle board beneath. Particle board readily absorbs water and disintegrates, therefore soaked laminate flooring is frequently ruined beyond repair.
  • Natural hardwood floors absorb water during prolonged exposure. This can cause swelling, cupping, and buckling of wooden planks. Discoloration may also occur. Prompt action by water damage professionals with powerful water extractors, air movers, and dehumidifiers may mitigate hardwood damage. If recovery work is timely and successful, after drying hardwood floors, they may be sanded and refinished to restore a flat surface and natural coloration.

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.

High Home Water Pressure Can Mean More Water Damage

Tuesday, May 5th, 2020
high home water pressure

The water pressure inside your home can be a contributing factor in the risk of water damage as well as the severity of it. High water pressure stresses all indoor plumbing components—both the pipes as well as appliances such as washing machines connected to the pipes—and may make damaging incidents more likely. Where water pressure soars excessively high, a minor pinhole leak in a water supply line or seepage at a joint may turn into a major pipe rupture and inflict extensive water damage in a house.

How High Is Too High?

To reduce plumbing wear and tear as well as the risk of indoor water damage, most plumbers recommend that indoor pressure should not exceed 65 p.s.i. Unfortunately, water pressure in the main municipal water line your house is connected to may commonly exceed 100 p.s.i. and sometimes rise as high as 200 p.s.i. in some locales. A ruptured indoor pipe at that pressure will be especially damaging.

Is Your Pressure Too High?

You can purchase a water pressure tester at any of the large retail home centers or many hardware stores. This simple gauge has a fitting exactly like a garden hose that connects to an outdoor faucet or washing machine bib. Follow instructions to get a proper pressure reading.

What Can Be Done About It?

A city-installed pressure reduction valve (PRV) is often located at the house water meter to limit incoming water pressure to levels that lessen the risk of extensive water damage. If it’s not doing the job, here are two options:

  • The city-installed PRV may require adjustment to maintain pressure at specified levels or it may be defective and need replacement. Contact your local municipal water department for information.
  • If no PRV is present at the meter—or if the standard city water pressure specification is higher than you prefer—a plumber can install a manually-adjustable regulator in your water supply line, somewhere just after the water meter and before the line enters the house. This enables indoor water pressure to be fine-tuned to a more exact specification.

Water Damage: Basement, Attic, & Crawl Space Concerns

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020
water damage

While water damage is unwelcome anywhere it occurs in a house, the causes and effects often differ according to where it happens. While water tends to spread rapidly inside a house, certain parts of a home are simply more likely to be the origin, either due to the orientation of a particular space or the presence of certain contributing factors. Here are three specific areas often impacted by damage from water, as well as what’s typically involved in recovery:

Basement

Because water tends to flow downward to the lowest point, a home’s basement is typically ground zero for damage. Other factors include ruptured plumbing supply lines routed through the basement, sewage backups, and groundwater seepage through cracks in the foundation or basement walls.

A flooded basement holds water effectively and must usually be pumped out, then dried using high-volume ventilation. Mold remediation techniques are also required to inhibit contamination. Installation of a sump pump is advisable to prevent future flooding. Caution: due to electrocution hazard, never wade into a flooded basement. Contact an electrician to shut off all power first.

Attic

Usually the result of a leaky roof, attic damage from water may proceed unnoticed for some time. Ceiling stains and/or dripping into rooms below are often the first indication.

The saturated ceiling drywall must be replaced. Wet fiberglass attic insulation must usually be removed for drying, then treated to prevent mold. Saturated cellulose insulation cannot be effectively dried and must be replaced. Water in an attic may also infiltrate HVAC ductwork routed there, triggering mold contamination inside ducts.

Crawl Space

Water damage affecting a crawl space typically originates from heavy rain outdoors or a ruptured indoor pipe. A crawl space may remain wet due to a lack of ventilation and evaporation. This promotes mold growth as well as deterioration of wooden structures, including the subfloor. Moisture also creates a habitat for pests and vermin.

Outdoor water intrusion into a crawl space requires sealing entry points to keep out flooding. Grading the surrounding landscape to divert water is also helpful. Keeping a chronically wet crawl space dry may also require continuous fan ventilation.

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.

Five Tips for Assessing Water Damage

Thursday, April 9th, 2020
assessing water damage

After the source of water is stopped, accurately assessing water damage is one of the first priorities to begin the restoration process. Not all water damage is created equal when it comes to the origin of water or the amount affecting a particular structure. A full survey of the premises is necessary to accurately evaluate the condition of the home, determine appropriate remediation techniques, as well as calculate an estimated timeline for completion.

Here are some of the factors to consider when assessing water damage:

  • Identify the type of water. Water from a clean source like a broken pipe is considered Category 1 and is generally responsive to standard techniques if the recovery process is initiated within 24 hours. Category 2 water—usually an overflowing appliance or another source of soapy water or slight bacterial contamination—presents more complications. Category 3 water is raw sewage and requires intensive toxic clean-up methods utilizing specialized equipment.
  • Determine the extent. Unless the water is limited to a small pool on a hard-surface floor, it has probably spread elsewhere. The required inspection includes determining the presence of water seeping into or under walls or through the flooring into ceilings below. Moisture meters, infrared cameras, and other techniques are utilized by water damage pros when assessing water damage in unseen areas.
  • Establish the timing. The elapsed time since the water damage incident occurred is relevant. Time is a factor in the likely spread of water inside the house. Moreover, if more than 24 hours have elapsed since the incident, you can assume that toxic mold growth may be an issue in affected parts of the home.
  • Look out for structural changes. Water is readily absorbed by certain building materials such as drywall. If you see sagging ceilings or bulging walls, you can assume that these structural elements are no longer reliable and will have to be replaced in most cases.  
  • Be aware of hazards. Water infiltrating a structure may also contact electrical circuits, HVAC components, and other water-sensitive home systems. Note this damage and also take precautions to avoid possible electrical dangers.