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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.

Elevated Levels of Mold: Common Health Effects

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

If someone in your home is experiencing specific health concerns, could it be due to elevated levels of mold in the home? First and foremost, any concerning health issues should be discussed with your physician before attributing undiagnosed symptoms to mold.

Mold In The House

Mold spores are present everywhere in nature. Microscopic and airborne, spores readily infiltrate indoor environments and may accumulate to high levels. When exposed to moisture, dormant spores convert to active growing mold that releases mycotoxins, a known trigger of allergic responses in certain individuals.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are no established standards or criteria for unhealthy levels of mold inside a structure. Air samples taken inside a mold-contaminated house may reveal a spore count that is more than 150 times the count in an uncontaminated house. However, symptoms reported by residents of the contaminated home may range from absolutely none to severe, depending on the specific type of mold present, as well as the varying individual sensitivities of the people exposed to it.   

When physical reactions do occur in a home with confirmed high levels of growing mold, symptoms experienced by residents tend to follow certain patterns. Here are some of the typical responses seen in these cases:

Allergy Symptoms

Allergy symptons represent the most frequently reported consequences of mold exposure in enclosed indoor environments.  These symptoms fall into the general category of upper-respiratory issues, including sneezing, coughing, a runny nose and a sore throat. More acute responses to airborne spores may resemble asthma attacks that include coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. Persons who already have some form of obstructive lung disease or those with compromised immune symptoms may exhibit more severe forms of these symptoms such as frequent chest colds and lung infections.

Long-Term Complications

Living in an indoor environment continuously contaminated with high levels of mold spores may be a factor in certain chronic health conditions. Some of the common denominators reported by affected individuals include symptoms such as:

  • Chronic fatigue and lethargy
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Depression
  • Poor sleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory loss

What NOT to Do After Flooding in Your Home

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

If flooding from any source inundates your home, numerous measures need to be taken without delay. The to-do list is extensive and can be, frankly, overwhelming. That’s where professional water damage remediation services play a critical role, arriving on-scene 24/7/365 fully prepared to take control of the situation with proven techniques and specialized equipment.

But what about the things you shouldn’t do? After a flood, several items on the don’t-do list are vital for safety and to minimize damage as well as help expedite recovery. Here are just four:

  • Don’t enter a flooded house with electrical power still connected. The risk of electrocution is high inside a wet, enclosed environment. Even if only a few rooms are affected by water, make sure power to those circuits is shut off at the main breaker panel. If the entire house is flooded—or if access to the breaker panel is unsafe due to presence of water—have a professional electrician disconnect power by removing the meter.
  • Don’t pump out a flooded basement too rapidly. After outdoor flooding, heavy, saturated soil exerts hydrostatic pressure against basement walls. The basement water level acts as a counteracting force to prevent wall cracking and even potential collapse. Water should be pumped out gradually, beginning with one foot per day until the water level stops rising in the basement, then two to three feet per day until the basement is dry.
  • Don’t postpone mold remediation. After widespread indoor water damage, toxic mold contamination is inevitable. Even as water is being extracted from the house and soaked items such as carpeting removed, the mold clock is ticking. The window of opportunity to prevent spread of active mold after contact with water is 48 hours, at most.  Preventive mold treatment must be concurrent with water damage remediation—not a separate, wait-and-see event.
  • Don’t forget to take photos. To ensure adequate compensation for insurance purposes, you need accurate photos of affected areas before substantial water damage remediation or repair takes place. Try to document all aspects of damage to the structure and belongings inside as soon as possible after re-entering the home.

Is Water Always Damage an Emergency?

Thursday, September 26th, 2019

Water damage takes many forms and, while some incidents impose less urgency than others, it is certainly never a welcome event in anyone’s home. That’s why professionals in the field emphasize preventive measures to preempt home water damage in any form.  But if it happens, is water damage always an emergency? 

Here are some criteria to make the distinction between a simply inconvenient event and a real crisis.  

  • Consider the source. Water damage originating from a raw sewage backup or from outdoor flooding that has entered the house is not a nuisance—it’s an emergency.  Known as “black water,” this classification of water damage poses both immediate and long-term health threats and must be handled rapidly by qualified professionals only. Protective garb and breathing protection are required as well as special disinfection treatment and disposal methods. Temporary evacuation of the house may also be required.
  • How much and where? If the event involves a limited amount of clean water from an untainted source pooling on the hard-surface floor of a single room, that’s probably not an emergency. Rapid DIY response with a mop and bucket is likely sufficient. However, if water volume is enough to spread under walls between rooms, soak carpeting or other absorbent materials, or penetrates through the ceiling into living spaces below, the mounting damage potential becomes an emergency that requires a professional response.
  • Can you deal with it without delay?  Most people can’t. That’s why water damage professionals provide emergency service, 24/7/365. Water damage evolves and continuously worsens until effective intervention methods are applied. As the clock ticks and water migrates deeper into a structure, the potential for long-term consequences including mold contamination and structural deterioration mount. Even an initially minor event can soon turn into a bona fide emergency if not properly addressed.  
  • Insurers say yes it’s an emergency.  For homeowner’s insurance purposes, most water damage originating indoors is considered a time-critical emergency. Neglecting to summon qualified water damage remediation services in a timely manner may exacerbate damage, increase recovery costs and jeopardize insurance coverage. Contact your insurance agent if you have any question about emergency status.

Seven Ways a Roof Leak Can Damage Your Home

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

By the time you realize you have a roof leak, the damage may already be done. While an unfinished attic is often not considered a vulnerable part of the house, the fact is, roof leakage into an attic typically proceeds silently and unnoticed. By the time the problem finally becomes obvious in the living spaces below, severe long-term water damage to an attic and its contents may be substantial and the costs of remediation considerable.  

Checking out the roof and attic should be a part of regular home inspections.  Here are some of the consequences that may ensue from unresolved roof leaks:

  • Damaged sub-roof. The wood sheathing that forms the sub-roof in many homes is water-resistant but not waterproof.  Long-term roof leakage affecting the sub-roof may result in swelling, warping and rotting of the wooden sheets.
  • Interior structural deterioration. Wooden joists and rafters inside the attic are usually not waterproofed and are vulnerable to rot from continuous exposure to roof leaks.   
  • Toxic mold growth. Roof leaks provide the crucial missing ingredient—moisture—to spawn widespread mold growth inside the attic. Because microscopic airborne spores can easily migrate through tiny cracks and crevices, attic mold contamination frequently spreads down into living spaces.
  • Degraded attic insulation. The insulating properties of both fiberglass and cellulose loose-fill insulation are severely impaired by moisture. While fiberglass insulation may dry out over an extended period, soaked cellulose loose-fill is usually permanently ruined and must be removed and replaced.
  • Electrical issues. Wiring, junction boxes and the backside of ceiling light fixtures are exposed to water entering the attic through roof leaks. This moisture source not only deteriorates electrical components, but it can also result in short circuits and fire hazard. 
  • Ceiling damage. Water from roof leakage keeps moving downward, eventually soaking the ceiling in living spaces. This may first appear as ceiling stains that progresses to sagging as drywall ceiling panels absorb water like a sponge. In worst case scenarios, ceiling collapse may occur. 
  • No insurance compensation. Homeowner’s insurance policies typically classify long-term ongoing roof leakage as “negligence” and thus may not provide coverage for certain damage including items mentioned above.

Is Your Attic Protected From Water Damage?

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019
Attic water damage

Like the crawl space beneath your home, your overhead attic is a frequent focal point for water damage. Because attics are infrequently visited by occupants of the house, water damage often progresses unseen for a good amount of time. By the time it’s noted, damage from situations like these may be well advanced:

  • Rotted wooden attic structure including rafters, joists and subroof
  • Saturated attic insulation
  • Toxic mold contamination
  • Ceiling deterioration
  • Water intrusion into living spaces below

Damage to attics may result from four water-related causes which in turn call for different remedies:

Roof leaks during rain. Pinpointing roof leaks requires both exterior and interior inspections. Signs of roof leakage into the attic include darkened spots or streaks on the underside of the plywood subroof. However, these interior signs often result from an exterior leak that may be far from the point where water actually drips into the attic. Therefore, locating and repairing roof leaks affecting the attic is generally a job for a qualified roofing contractor.

Leaky plumbing routed through the attic. Any leakage from water supply lines is unacceptable, including tiny pinhole leaks and minor seepage. In addition to providing a continuous source of attic moisture, leakage generally indicates deterioration inside pipes which may result in a sudden pipe rupture that inflicts severe damage to living spaces below. Leaking pipes require immediate attention by a professional plumber.

Continuous high humidity. When attic ventilation is inadequate, extremely hot, humid air accumulates in the enclosed space during daylight hours. As the attic cools after dark, condensation forms, drenching wooden structure, degrading insulation and feeding mold. To break this continuous cycle, make sure all attic vents are open and unobstructed by insulation or other objects. If passive attic ventilation is insufficient to moderate attic temperatures and exhaust humidity, consider installing powered attic vent fans.

Exposed HVAC ductwork. When humid attic air contacts cold ductwork conveying air from the central A/C, condensation soaks the area around the ducts, saturating insulation and triggering mold growth. All ductwork routed through attics should be insulated to prevent condensation as well as inhibit thermal gain or loss.  

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. 

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.

Can Drywall be Sealed and Painted After Water Damage?

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

When indoor water damage strikes, drywall is often among the most conspicuous casualties. A ruptured pipe inside a wall cavity, a roof leak dripping down through the ceiling during heavy rain, water flooding a room and rising to meet the bottom of the walls—any of these scenarios can affect the highly absorbent combination of gypsum core and thin cardboard backing that composes a sheet of drywall. Is it a lost cause?

Maybe, Maybe Not

If wet drywall loses structural stability and sags or becomes deformed —or crumbles or collapses—it’s not a candidate for anything other than replacement. But what about drywall that remains intact, yet displays the discolored blotch that’s often left behind when wet drywall dries? Can you successfully seal and paint that ugly stain out of your life?

Here are some guidelines to painting stained, water-damaged drywall.

  • Rule 1: You can’t paint drywall until it’s completely dry. Ideally, this should be verified with use of a moisture meter to be certain. To adequately dry soaked drywall and prevent mold growth, professional water damage remediation experts utilize equipment such as an industrial dehumidifier running inside the sealed room as well as high-volume fans that continuously move air to accelerate the drying process. Only when the moisture meter reading drops below 1% —usually not before at least three days of intensive drying following the initial contact with water—should painting intact drywall be considered.
  • Once it is tested and confirmed dry, seal the drywall by painting the affected area with a thin application of an oil-based or alcohol-based primer. Allow the first coat to dry completely, then apply a second coat of primer.
  • After the primer has fully dried, you can apply the first coat of latex or whatever other type of paint was originally used. It may be difficult to match the existing color when painting only a small stained area affected by water, so you may have to paint the entire wall or ceiling for consistency’s sake. After the first coat dries thoroughly, apply a finish coat.

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.