Water damage is one of the most common types of damage suffered by homes in the US, accounting for nearly a quarter of all homeowners’ insurance claims. According to the Insurance Information Institute, an average water damage claim costs over $10,000, bringing the total yearly loss to homeowners to billions of dollars.
Because even a relatively small amount of water has the potential to devastate a house, homeowners are advised to have insurance that covers water damage. A typical homeowner’s insurance policy will cover clean water damage that results from defects such as bad plumbing or a leaky roof; however, coverage for sewage damage usually requires an additional rider. Additionally, flooding caused by an outside source—everything from an overflowing river to excessive runoff—must be addressed by a separate flood insurance policy through a private provider or the government-run National Flood Insurance Program.
Regular inspections and maintenance can drastically reduce the possibility of water intrusion in a home. Periodically check for leaks, cracks, or water stains in bathrooms, kitchens, and basements. Consider installing a water usage monitoring device or water sensors in your home. Change the hoses and check the seals on appliances that use water. Temperature extremes can cause plumbing parts such as seals and wax rings to wear out faster than normal. If you live in an area with very hot or very cold weather, be diligent about plumbing inspections. On the home’s exterior, keep the gutters clean and make sure that runoff flowing away from the house is not impeded by debris. Ensure that outside walls and foundations have not developed cracks that could allow water to seep inside. Also, locate and label the main water shutoff valve.
It is also wise to create an emergency file with copies of critical documents, including your insurance policy and your agent’s contact information; an inventory of your possessions with photos and any other documentation; and receipts from major purchases. Store the copies at home in a waterproof container, and place the originals in a safe-deposit box or other secure location.
When water intrusion happens suddenly, first try to determine the source of the water. If the water is coming from a broken pipe inside the house, shut off the water supply at the main valve before calling a contractor. Help should be on its way soon; companies offering emergency service won’t take long to send out a specialist who will survey the damage and offer a written estimate of the expected costs of water extraction and drying.
In the meantime, be very careful about your safety. If you have any concerns about the structural integrity of your home, stay outside. Do not turn on appliances or electrical devices, such as televisions or stereo systems, if they are wet. If a room’s ceiling is wet, do not turn on the overhead light or ceiling fan. Stay out of rooms with wet ceilings that are sagging. If possible, hang up any wet fabrics. To help prevent stains on wet carpet, pick up any rugs, books, or stacks of paper on the floor.
After removing the standing water, the technician will examine the area to determine if there are any spaces where there may be trapped water, and he or she will then identify the best tools to promote quick and thorough drying of the space.
Even though the water has been removed, surfaces may still be damp. Keep in mind that materials such as drywall and wood are porous, so even if water can’t be seen from the outside, it could still exist below the surface layer. If dampness persists, toxic mold may develop, especially on cellulose-based building materials. Under the right conditions, a mold colony can begin in as little as 48 hours. In addition to the danger of mold growth, retained water can cause significant damage, such as warping, swelling, and cracking, to building materials.
To make the drying process quicker and more efficient, water damage specialists use powerful fans and dehumidifiers to completely dry any wet or damp areas—even those that are hard to reach. These large fans and industrial-grade dehumidifiers work much more quickly than the average fans and dehumidifiers found in a home improvement store, so there is less time for mold growth and damage to materials to begin. During the drying process, the technicians will monitor affected areas with moisture meters. Depending on the type of water damage that has occurred, your home and belongings may need to be cleaned. Most water damage specialists have a variety of cleaning techniques that they can use, including antibacterial and antimicrobial treatments,
Disasters can be expensive, but trying to save as many of your belongings as possible with effective cleaning measures will save money in the long run, and there is a better chance that heirlooms and irreplaceable items will be able to be saved. Most water damage restoration companies will be able to remove and properly dispose of items that cannot be saved. Since standing water, wet fabrics, and other materials often take on an unpleasant odor, technicians can use air-scrubbing machines, fogging equipment, and deodorizers to remove the smells.
The ultimate goal of water damage repair is to return your home to its original condition. If the damage your home sustained is relatively severe, you may need to take advantage of restoration services in addition to drying and cleaning services. Restoration services could involve moving your belongings into a storage facility so that construction can take place. It may be necessary to replace and repaint drywall or repair, reinstall, or completely replace flooring. In cases of extensive damage, complete reconstruction of a room—or multiple rooms—may be required. Most water damage specialists can perform these services too, so you won’t need to seek out and schedule more contractors.
While it is important to begin the drying process as quickly as possible after a water emergency, take the time to hire a reputable water damage restoration company. Restoration services must be done correctly the first time to avoid recurring problems.
While no regulations governing water damage restoration procedures are currently in effect, the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) has set a procedural standard that most companies follow. The IICRC S500 guide outlines reliable practices and precautions that should be followed when performing water damage restoration services.