Water Damage – Cleanup, Restoration and Prevention
Water damage can be a homeowner’s worst nightmare. Not only is your home rendered unlivable for the foreseeable future, but you’ve got a massive cleanup and restoration process to deal with.
And restoration isn’t cheap. Between 2012 and 2016, the average insurance claim for home water damage and freezing pipes was $9,633. That’s a good chunk of change. Especially when you account for the fact that some types of damage aren’t even covered by insurance.
Water damage can have many different causes, and the steps to mitigate the damage done vary from situation to situation. In most cases, you’re going to be seeking professional water restoration services. Thankfully, there are some preventative measures you can take to avoid having to deal with the nightmare of water damage.
What Causes Water Damage?
Water plays a huge role in our day-to-day lives. It’s in our bathrooms, our kitchens, our appliances and water heaters. There’s also weather and climate to consider, which can dump huge amounts of water into on us suddenly and unexpectedly.
Any source of water can potentially cause damage to your home. Outside of your pipes and plumbing fixtures, most parts of your home shouldn’t be exposed to water for too long.
Some common causes of water damage are:
–Burst pipes (from freezing or pressure issues)
-Malfunctioning appliances or water heaters
-Structural damage like roof leaks
-Weather events (floods, hurricanes, etc.)
Every situation involving water damage is unique. A slow leaking pipe behind a wall might only require a few one-hour visits from a plumber and contractor. Two feet of water after an intense rainstorm could mean temporary relocation and a lengthy restoration process.
The Water Damage Removal and Restoration Process
Taking care of water damage is not an easy process. It involves draining water, drying the structure, cleaning surfaces, removing contamination and finally, restoration. It could take several days or weeks to get your home back to the way it was.
It most cases, you’re going to want to get your insurance company involved. Your damage may or may not be covered depending on the situation. The most important thing is to not panic. Stay calm, keep a level head and seek out professional help. Here are the common steps in the restoration process:
Seek Safety After Water Damage
In a severe water damage event, your first priority is safety. Make sure everyone is out of the house and accounted for. That goes for pets as well as people. Once everybody’s safe, shut off the water main and electricity.
The next thing you want to do is consider the source of water. Clean water from rain or your plumbing system is generally safe (though it will start to harbor mold once it’s been standing).
Sewage and floodwater are extreme health hazards and are known as black water. If your home is flooded with black water, stay outside and wait for professional help to arrive.
Call Your Insurance Company
If you have homeowners’ insurance, call them as soon as you notice possible water damage. Most policies won’t cover damage that results from long-standing issues that haven’t been addressed by the homeowner.That slow, dripping leak that you’ve been putting off getting fixed? Insurance probably won’t help you with that.
But if you’ve had some sort of sudden plumbing or appliance malfunction, chances are insurance will cover the damage. Major storms and hurricanes are also covered by homeowners’ insurance.
If you’ve experienced a massive water leak or flood and are using a professional restoration service, they’ll often get in touch with your insurance company on your behalf and help you with the claims process.
Clearing Out Your Home and Water Removal
One of the top priorities after a weather event or burst pipe floods your home is getting rid of all that standing water. Even clean water from your incoming water pipes can start to breed bacteria and lead to mold growth if it’s left there too long. Not only that, but the longer you wait to remove the water, the more structural damage occurs.
Smaller amounts of water can be removed with a small water pump or a wet vacuum. If you have a much bigger problem on your hands, like several inches to a foot or more of water, you’re going to need professional water removal equipment.
While the water is being removed from the affected areas, you should be bagging up all your belongings from those areas. Some things may be able to be salvaged by drying and disinfecting them. Unfortunately, most items in a flood area will probably end up on the curb.
Drying and Dehumidifying
After all the water has been pumped out of your house, there’s still more work to do. Most materials that make up our homes are porous and can retain moisture. The boards that make up your home’s frame can become warped, drywall can start to sag and black mold can start growing throughout your home.
Drying and dehumidifying is the next step in water damage restoration. Professional equipment like industrial-grade dehumidifiers and moisture monitors are used to restore your home to a safe and dry environment.
Cleaning Up After Water Damage
Once your home’s been returned to a normal moisture level, it’s important to get your home disinfected and sanitized. The water that flooded your house could have brought with it bacteria, mold and other things that can endanger your health.
It’s not just the surfaces in your home that need to be cleaned either. Water damage restoration professionals also use air scrubbers that remove microbes from the air that could later reinfect your home and cause mold growth and sickness down the road.
Water Damage Restoration
After the removal, drying and cleanup steps, the actual restoration process begins. Water damage restoration involves removing and replacing structural elements that have been compromised by the flooding. If the damage was caused by a burst frozen pipe, extra insulation might be installed during the restoration process to prevent it from happening again.
Any porous building material that was exposed to water will most likely be removed. That means laminate flooring and carpeting, drywall (usually two feet above the water line) and insulation. Once all those pieces have been removed, your home might be due to a second round of cleaning if more contaminated areas have been exposed.
If the damage to your home was severe enough, you might be out of the house for quite a bit of time while the rebuilding happens. New flooring is put down, insulation installed and new sheets of drywall are put up.
Preventing Water Damage
You’re probably thinking this all sounds like a long and painful process. It is. Even water damage caused by a small leak can take a long time to clean up and repair. That’s why prevention is so important.
You can prevent many causes of water damage by maintaining your home and watching out for signs of future problems. Here are a few tips for prevention:
Get your roof inspected. It’s easy to forget about your roof, but the truth is that shingles get worn out and your roof ages over time. Damaged roofs can allow small leaks that go completely unnoticed until significant damage has occurred inside your home. Most professionals recommend getting an inspection every spring and fall.
Clean out those gutters. It’s very important to keep your gutters clean of debris. A clogged gutter can water to backup on your roof, leading to leaks or other problems.
Keep and eye on your water heater. Water heaters are another thing that can wear out eventually. Some models have a definite lifespan and there should be an installation date on the side of the unit. A busted water heater can lead to a flooded basement and thousands of dollars in repairs. Not only that, but updating your water heater will make sure you have a more modern, energy efficient model.
Check up on appliances. Washing machines and dishwashers aren’t infallible either. Never overload your appliances and always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for detergents and other cleaning supplies. The hoses in these machines tend to fail in under ten years, so if you have an older model you might want to consider a replacement.
Get a smart home water monitoring system. Water pressure, temperature and flow are all important aspects to your home’s water health. Flo by Moen is a smart home water monitoring system that attaches directly to your water main and can detect leaks as small as a drop per minute, to as big as a burst pipe. It includes a smartphone app that lets you monitor your home’s water health on the go and get up-to-the-minute diagnostics and alerts.
Water damage can be devastating, but if you approach it the right way, you can minimize the damage done and get back to your day-to-day life. And if you take a smart approach to home ownership, you can avoid some of the common disasters that are often preventable.