Water damage: What you need to know
Water damage can be dangerous, not only to the integrity of your home, but also to your health. It is important to know how to prevent water damage, as well as how to recover from it. Any dwelling has the potential to experience leaks, which could cause damage to your flooring, drywall and belongings; not to mention harmful mold that can take root and cause health issues.
Dangers and risks
The most common sources of water damage are leaks from plumbing supply system failures, with faulty toilets coming in a close second. These issues seem to occur most commonly while the home owner is away, due to the water not being shut off prior to them leaving for an extended period.
There are many negative consequences to water damage. The average repair cost can be over $5,0001, and the cost to dry your floors, walls, and furniture could cost an additional $2,500. In addition to the monetary costs, there are also health concerns involved with water damage. Water encourages the growth of mold that can cause breathing troubles, especially in those with asthma or allergies.
If the water is dirty, it can also contain bacteria and microorganisms that can be harmful to your health. This means that if the water is contaminated, everything that came in contact with it must be disinfected to keep your home safe. The worst-case scenario is black water damage, which implies the water is not just contaminated, but also toxic to humans. Time spent around black water will increase the risk of infection or allergic reactions, so it is recommended you hire a professional to deal with any contaminated water in your home.
In cases of clean water damage, you may choose to initiate repairs yourself. The procedure is simple, but it must be followed carefully to avoid any infection, mold, or further damage.
- Identify the source of the water and shut it off. If you have a leaking pipe or if water is dripping from the ceiling, you need to shut off the water supply causing the leak to stop any further damage.
- Dry any standing water. This can be done with a wet/dry vacuum. Standing water can be absorbed by the floor and walls, leading to structural damage and mildew or mold.
- Dehumidify the area. A dehumidifier will help dry any wood or fabrics which have absorbed water; it will help to dry the air as well. Dehumidifying the area not only helps to decrease the risk of health concerns but also makes it easier to breathe in the affected area.
- Clean the area. Remove and dispose of any damaged materials. This will make repairs easier and will let you take inventory of what needs to be repaired and/or replaced. If the water was contaminated in any way, it is important to hire a professional to take care of this step to avoid exposure to harmful bacteria.
- Finally, repair. Water damage should be repaired in a timely manner so that it doesn’t get worse over time, and so that mold and mildew do not have the chance to grow and spread throughout your home. This includes replacing damaged flooring and furniture and repairing any damage to the walls.
An effective way to protect yourself and your home from water damage is to ensure that your pipes and gutters are cleared out regularly, allowing the water to flow through properly. Staying vigilant for evidence of potential leaks around your home and rectifying situations as soon as possible will help to reduce the risk of a bigger issue down the road. Finally, shutting off your water before leaving your house for an extended period will help protect your property from potential water damage.
Insurance coverage for water damage can be complex, as there are several kinds that go under different names, and the type you are experiencing may not be included in your home insurance policy. Most insurance companies won’t cover gradual water damage, which is water damage that builds slowly, such as from a dripping ceiling. Sudden water damage is usually covered, (a pipe bursts or a sink overflows), as long as you take the right precautionary measures to avoid being cited for negligence. This includes ensuring your home is checked every day if you have left your water on and every few days if you have shut your water off. Check with your insurance broker on their requirements for how often your home needs to be checked on related to your policy.
There are several types of added water damage protection you can add to your home policy:
- Sewer Backup Insurance – provides coverage for loss or damage caused by the sudden and accidental backing up or escape of water or sewage from a sewer, sump pump or septic system, as well as for the malfunction of your sump pump. Any damage caused by a sewer problems, blocked gutters, or septic backup will be covered under this type of water damage protection. This is usually an inexpensive option to have and is very worth the price considering the health risks of sewer water.
- Overland Flood Insurance – provides protection from loss or damage related to water entering your property, from the sudden accumulation or run-off of surface waters – including torrential rainfall or spring thaw – and from overflows from any body of fresh water. Flooding caused by any event that causes water to build up, such as storms, ice blockage, or snow, will be covered under Overland Flood Insurance. The price of this type of insurance is determined by the risk level of your area. The more risk of overland flooding you face, the more it is going to cost.
For more information or to discuss additional coverage options, contact a TW Insurance broker at 1-888-338-2685.
1. Chubb Homeowners’ Water Risk Survey