Knowledge is key when it comes to water in your home
This guide has been prepared to help you understand how to properly prevent, or deal with, water damage in your home, following a natural disaster or other moisture-related problem.
Water Damage Categories:
Category 1 - Clean Water
*Hot water tank burst
*Toilet tank burst/rupture
*Water supply line rupture
*Washing machine line break
Category 2 - Grey Water
Discharged Water From:
*Toliet Bowl with urine only
Category 2 includes water damage (Category 1) that has not been cleaned up after 24 hours
Category 3 - Black Water
*Sewage- Water/contaminates from toilet trap.
*Any type of sewage back-up.
*Category 3 greater then 72 hrs from loss
Category 3 includes water damage (Category 1 and 2) that has not been
Water Damage Recovery Guide
Chapter 1 Water damage to a house can occur in many ways. Even the most solidly built and well-maintained home can be damaged by a violent force of nature, such as a flood, hurricane, tornado, or wildfire. In other situations, a water pipe may burst, or a sump pump may malfunction while you’re away on vacation and do serious water damage to your home and possessions. So there’s no way to predict exactly how a water-related emergency might occur. But, it’s a constant possibility and fact-of-life for homeowners. The good news is that you can help reduce the likelihood of your home sustaining serious water damage by taking specific actions following a natural disaster or accident. Our goal is to successfully guide you through each of those actions in an easy-to-follow way. By the time you reach the end of this booklet you’ll be armed with a solid plan of action for most situations in which water damage is a possibility. Unwelcome Moisture is the Enemy The moment unwelcome moisture enters your house through the wrong doorway, so to speak, and isn’t promptly escorted off the premises, you have a potentially serious enemy in your midst. *Within minutes of water intrusion damage can begin. So, you can see why prompt action is so important following a water-related disaster or accident. *Unwelcome moisture doesn’t just ruin your carpeting or stain the walls and ceilings, either. Left uncorrected, it can diminish the value of the property, which is one of your biggest financial assets. Your House is Designed to Manage Water A well-situated, well-built, and well-cared for house is designed to handle every imaginable form of water and moisture. From shedding rain and snow, to controlling indoor humidity, to making hot water, or ice cubes, available on demand, - your house is a marvel of water management technology, designed for your comfort and safety. Regular Inspection Strengthens and Protects Routine maintenance and regular, seasonal inspections are normally all that’s needed to keep your house adequately protected against all but the most catastrophic or severe water event emergencies. In the aftermath of a sudden water-related emergency, your good maintenance habits will help ensure that any damage to your home during such a crisis is minimized. What’s Ahead? In the pages ahead we’ll explore multiple scenarios and lay out specific action plans related to catastrophic, sudden water events. We’ll also help you establish a set of procedures to avoid or to recover from unwanted moisture intrusion into your home. Step-by-step. There’s nothing mysterious or difficult about preventing or recovering from water damage. The key is knowing what to watch for, when to take action, and who to contact.
Chapter 2 How to Handle a Water-Related Catastrophe Safety First! Your home may have been damaged in a regional disaster, like a hurricane or earthquake. Or, it may have been damaged in an accident affecting your household only, such as a broken water pipe or a leaky roof. In either scenario, there are basic steps to take the moment you find your house seriously damaged or destroyed. *Determine whether the house is structurally safe to enter or live in. *If you cannot be certain the building is safe, make immediate arrangements for shelter or alternate lodging. *Call your insurance claims office and inform them what has happened. You will be given an all-essential claim number. Keep it handy. If the house is safe enough to enter: Turn off the power by disabling the main circuit breaker panel, even if the neighborhood power grid is already down. The panel is typically located on the side of the home, in the garage, in the utility room, or in the basement. Shut off natural gas supply lines. The gas shut-off valve is located on the gas supply pipe coming out of the ground near the meter. Fuel line valves are also located at each gas-powered appliance. Turn off the main water supply. The main water supply is typically located in the basement or crawlspace of your home, near the water meter or located on the water meter itself. In warmer climates, the main water supply may also be located outside the home. Turn the valve clockwise to turn off the water supply. This may require pliers or an adjustable wrench. Smart Tip: Locate your shut off valves and keep a wrench handy before an event occurs. Note the most hazardous conditions of the entire house and property: *Check for damaged plumbing connections and pipes or standing water. *Look for broken electrical fixtures or exposed wiring. *Walk the property, watching for and avoiding downed tree limbs or power lines. *See the Damage Inspection Checklist below. Smart tip: Keep children and pets away. Protect Your Assets The sooner you can begin to protect your home and personal belongings from further damage, the more quickly you’ll recover from the disaster or accident. Depending on the extent and type of the damage to your home, here’s what to do next: *Alert your insurance company immediately. *Safety First! Do not put you or your family at risk in the aftermath of any serious water event. *If it is not hazardous to do so, cover any broken windows or doors, damaged walls, or roof areas with plywood, plastic sheeting or tarps to protect against rainwater damage. If you do not feel safe handling this job yourself, get professional help. *If your home is so damaged that it cannot be secured against vandalism, remove your valuables, including those with sentimental value, like photographs, to the home of a trusted friend or family member. If that is not an option, consider renting a storage unit during the restoration. *If the house can be secured, relocate belongings to a safe and dry part of the house. If possible, place water-damaged clothes, rugs, or furniture into a sunny or breezy location. *If there is standing water in the house, sweep as much of it to the outdoors as possible. *Carpeting that‘s been wet for less than two days may be able to be salvaged by using a wet-vac or commercial carpet cleaner. But quick action is critical. The carpet padding, in any case, will almost certainly have to be replaced. *Rugs that are of value should be removed for professional cleaning. *Remove all damaged materials and debris to the outdoors for easy municipal pick-up. *If possible, run the air conditioning and/or dehumidifier, or use blowers or fans to help dry out the interior. *In the aftermath of high water inside your home – especially if the wallboard has been saturated, cutting 4-inch diameter holes through the walls about one-foot above the floor, will help the house dry out. However, in the event of extensive water intrusion into your home, talk to your insurance company about consulting a professional for the best techniques for drying your home thoroughly. Smart Tip: Not Physically Capable? If you are not physically able to undertake the activities required to help protect your assets, be sure to tell your claims adjuster. Damage Inspection Checklist If possible, immediately after eliminating the most hazardous conditions (turning off the power, gas and water), and taking steps to protect and secure your assets and personal belongings, inspect the property more closely. Walk around the house and lot and observe. Your notes, conveyed to the insurance adjuster, will help speed the repair of your home. Use this checklist to help you make observations and notes: Exterior Signs of Damage Any missing or damaged roof shingles? *Is there bent or missing flashing? *Is there gutter damage? *Is the chimney intact or damaged? *Is the stucco stained or cracked and loose? *Is the brick wet or stained? *Are the siding boards intact, warped or loose? *Are there signs of water intrusion through the windows? *Are there signs of water intrusion through basement windows or window wells? Clues in the Attic Is any of the insulation wet or damaged? Are any of the vents damaged or missing? Do you see any daylight through the roof? Do HVAC ducts have condensation or is insulation wet? Are structural elements wet, rotting or warping? Warning Signs in the Basement and Crawl Space Are all of the foundation walls intact? Is the basement or crawl space dry or wet? Are the floors above the basement stained or dry? Is the ductwork dry and intact or stained or damaged? Is the furnace operating or water damaged? Is the water heater tipped over, disconnected from the service line or otherwise damaged? In the aftermath of a regional catastrophic event or a home accident, the more you are prepared to prioritize your next actions the better off you and your family will fare. A simple plan of action, which includes taking immediate safety precautions, protecting your belongings and assets; and, making close observations of the damage that has sustained, will help you and your family bring your lives back to normal as quickly as possible. Quick and immediate action after a water-related catastrophe can minimize and even prevent moisture damage from occurring. The next section will provide you with the clean-up guidelines you will need following a water-related disaster or accident.
Chapter 3 Making Repairs that Prevent Future Moisture Damage Prompt, Proper Repair is the Prime Tool for Prevention You’ve already made an initial damage assessment, taken notes, and alerted your insurance adjuster. The very next steps to avoiding further moisture damage involve getting the proper repairs underway without delay. Correct, timely repairs now will help prevent problems in the future. In some cases your insurer will make contractor hiring recommendations, or will hire the contractor for you. In other situations you may be advised to hire a contractor of your choosing. Either way, the contractor’s quality of workmanship and attention to detail will determine whether your home is properly restored or if it will remain vulnerable to additional damage over time. Protect Your Home Before Hiring Although you want to get repairs started as quickly as possible, you should not hire the first person who pulls up in front of your house offering assistance. Widespread disasters typically lead to acute shortages of qualified contractors. During the aftermath of a regional disaster, it is not unusual for local authorities to soften or suspend the rules and requirements for out-of-state contractors. Be more cautious than ever when selecting a contractor. In case repairs must be delayed while you locate a qualified repair company, be certain you have protected the most vulnerable parts of your house, including a damaged roof, walls, or windows, to prevent additional moisture entry. Use plastic and/or plywood to protect any vulnerable openings to your home. If you hire anyone immediately, get short-term help to protect your house against the elements. Types of Contracting Companies Depending on the extent of the damage to your home you may need to hire one or more of the following types of contracting firms to make the necessary repairs: Restoration Contractors/Emergency Service Providers Listed in the telephone directory variously under the headings “Water Removal Specialists”, “Fire and Flood Restoration” or “RestorationContractors.” These firms specialize in disaster clean up so they tend to respond quickly and have plenty of fans, dehumidifiers and, in some cases, drying and cleaning facilities for water damaged clothing and belongings. Their specialty is securing the damaged building and hauling away debris. Some will hire subcontractors to perform additional minor repairs. Specialty Contractors and Tradespeople Roofers, plumbers, electricians, heating/ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) contractors each specialize in specific aspects of home repair. Most of these types of trades and companies are required to be licensed by the state. Ask the contractor you are hiring if they are licensed. In some areas, local jurisdictions also issue licenses. Home Improvement Contractors The best of these companies, while often small, are experienced at remodeling and retrofitting existing residences. Since they work exclusively with existing homes, these professionals are familiar with the sorts of damage, oversights and mishaps that can occur. A good one will be able to spot problems you may not have noticed yet. Most, but not all states require home improvement contractors to be licensed. Some states require bonding, as well. Check with your state contractor licensing board to make sure you know your state’s laws regarding license and bonding before hiring a home improvement contractor. This is one of the high-risk categories for consumer complaints. Be sure that the company’s license is in the name of the owner and not someone else. General Contractors Some of these types of firms only handle new or commercial construction. But, many also have separate residential remodeling divisions, specializing in large-scale repair or improvements. If your home has sustained extensive damage, this could turn out to be a one-stop-shop suited for your needs. Some general contractors hire restoration companies for water damage repair jobs.
Chapter 4 What to Do if You Discover Moisture Damage An Insidious Leak… It can happen. Sometimes, despite your best efforts - and wholly independent of a natural disaster or water-related accident - your house can develop a small leak, which you don’t notice until the damage has already begun. It might be a hairline crack in the icemaker water line, hidden in the wall. Maybe it’s a fissure in the chimney flashing that admits a tiny droplet of water onto the attic insulation - only during windy rainstorms. Regardless of the source, even a small leak, undetected, can do serious damage to your home. … or Incomplete Disaster Repair … Another common cause of unseen, but chronic moisture, is an incomplete restoration in the aftermath of a disaster or accident. Search and Destroy Mission: The Nose Knows Your own nose is one of the best diagnostic tools around for detecting potential unwanted moisture. In fact your nose will often pick up the first clue that something is amiss. You can use your nose to help uncover hidden leaks or overlooked moisture trapped in the house after a water damage clean-up has taken place. Follow your nose around the house until you can zero in on the general area, if not the actual source of the scent. When wet, most materials give off a tell-tale odor. Does something smell musty and damp, like wet wood? Or like a laundry hamper full of damp towels? Is the carpet padding still damp? Some glues smell sweet when they break down in the presence of moisture. Head for the basement. Is the smell coming from down there? Where is the odor most noticeable? Investigate any “off” smells immediately. The sooner the better, too. Don’t shrug off an odor or try to mask the mustiness with room fresheners. What to Do Next? If you cannot confidently locate the source of the ‘off’ odor yourself and be 100% certain that you can correct the underlying problem, - for example: a clothes hamper full of damp towels is an easily-resolved moisture problem – call a professional. The longer you put it off, the worse the problem may become.