It's the unpleasant kind of situation that as homeowners we hope we'll never face, but sadly, it's likely we will have at least one water damage experience in our lifetime. Mitigating the damage both to the home and the pocketbook depends on the actions taken immediately after the water damage occurs. Here's a look at how to act quickly and responsibly to lessen the ill effects.
Most common types of water damage.
"The most common sources of damage are a broken or leaking pipe inside the wall or underneath the concrete slab of your house," says Joe Colombo President of Gold Coast Flood Restorations. He says the second most common type of water damage "is a clog in the drainage system which will cause a back up of your toilet, shower, or sink. The third type is an appliance leak like from a dishwasher, refrigerator, or washing machine. The last cause is from an environmental condition such as a bad rain storm [that creates] a leak in your roof or water coming in from the outside through a wall or window."
Spotting water damage.
It may seem fairly obvious that water damage has occurred but not always. "For example, in a two-story house that has bathrooms or a laundry room upstairs, oftentimes you'll see a water stain on the ceiling mysteriously appear. You may walk across your floor and feel a hot area underneath your tile. A hot area typically indicates that a pipe that's underneath the slab could be seeping out hot water. There may be some carpet that's mysteriously wet. Anytime you see anything out of the ordinary like that, I would recommend calling a plumber and/or a water damage restoration firm to investigate it and figure out is this just an anomaly or do I have a water problem," says Colombo.
He says a lot of times even something as seemingly unthreatening as a tiny leak can erupt into a huge water problem overnight. "A lot of times you just don't know. There can be a tiny little drip for month and months and then all of a sudden you get a really hot day and the pipes expand and then it actually causes a leak that you can see and then you uncover the problem that's been brewing for a long time. So it's not always clear cut," explains Colombo.
Effects of water damage.
The effects of water damage can be tremendous, damaging areas that aren't even visible. "When the water does damage the home, obviously, it gets everything wet and by everything I mean porous materials such as carpet, the padding underneath your carpet, hardwood floors, drywall, the actual wood-framing structure of the house, and insulation that's inside the walls. All of those things are porous and accept water when it comes in," explains Colombo.
Steps to take to alleviate water damage.
When you first spot a water problem, Colombo says act quickly. Surprisingly many homeowners delay taking action and later create more expenses and necessary clean up.
"The critical thing when that happens is to quickly follow our procedures to remove the water and get the structure drying quickly to evaporate that moisture out of all those porous materials so that they dry back to the normal levels and don't develop a mold problem," says Colombo.
The first step is to get the water up. Next, Colombo says you need to get ventilation into the house. Experts may need to pull up carpet or wood floors and the walls may need to be physically opened or cut into so that the wet insulation that's inside them can begin to dry.
Colombo says once everything is set up for the drying process to begin, an anti-microbial spray should be applied to sanitize the area. This is especially important if the water damage is from an unclean water source such as a sewer drain back-up.
Fans and de-humidifers should then be strategically placed in the area to help expedite the drying phase. "The drying phase with the equipment usually takes between three to five days,"
Delaying can be costly and risky for your health.
"Depending on the environmental conditions, mold can develop in as little as 24 to 48 hours after a water damage event," says Colombo. It varies depending on a lot of circumstances, but mold can develop fairly quickly so a lot of times we will go through the house to investigate some sort of water spot that showed up on the ceiling and we come to find out that it's been leaking for quite a long time and the inside of that ceiling is now all moldy," says Colombo.
The bottom line is don't delay. "As soon as you see something wrong, get it taken care of," says Colombo. He adds, "Don't put it off. Those types of things don't go away and they don't get better by themselves."
Be involved in the claim process.
Be sure to speak with your insurance company to see what if any amount of the damage is covered. Colombo recommends that you be in constant contact with your claim's adjuster and insurance agent. "Be very involved in the claim process," says Colombo. He adds that, in order to get what you are owed for the claim, "You need to have a good company helping you that is experienced in the insurance business."
"My industry, like the plumbing industry, unfortunately, is just plagued with hundreds of crooked companies. It's an industry that is known for ripping off homeowners, so it's very important to consult with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) because companies [that rip people off] have a hard time keeping a good rating and good reputation with the BBB," says Colombo. He adds, "Always check references and with people you know [for recommendations] instead of just going through the Yellow Pages."