12 Dec 2017

The various types of water damage are wide-ranging, everything from water stains due to a small leak to complete destruction.  There may be gradual damage, or a sudden catastrophe.  The key thing to keep in mind is that as long as excess moisture is present there will be ongoing problems and further destruction.  When water damage restoration experts are called in immediately they can prevent that secondary water damage.

The Causes of Water Damage

The causes of water damage are as varied as the source of the water.  But most people are surprised to learn that far more property damage claims come from plumbing and other leaks than storms and flooding.  According to Wikipedia, just over 13% of the average homes water usage is actually leaks.  That works out to some 10,000 gallons per year!  Where it lingers there will be some sort of harm.

The most common plumbing and appliance causes include

  • burst washing machine hoses,
  • toilet and tub overflows,
  • dishwashers,
  • kitchen and bathroom sinks,
  • ice makers,
  • water softeners, and

Common building-related leaks include

  • plumbing and water heater leaks,
  • damaged shingles or roofing tiles,
  • deteriorated caulking around windows,
  • clogged gutters,
  • damaged or inadequate flashing,
  • cracks in the basement or foundation,
  • condensation on windows and patio doors, and
  • condensation on building surfaces due to improper or damaged insulation or vapor barriers.

The Damage Itself

So, what are the effects of water that lingers?

Metals rust, but just about anything porous will also be damaged by water or excess moisture.  This type of damage usually begins with bacteria and mold growth that can become a health hazard in only 24-48 hours.  After drying, minor water stains can be sealed then painted over, but in the worse case it’s necessary to tear-down and reconstruct entire rooms.  Other types of water damage include

  • Wood (such as floorboards, trim, and even structural framing) swelling, warping, and splitting.  Given time it even rots.
  • Plywood, paneling, and laminate flooring delaminating.
  • Drywall (commonly called gypsum board, sheet rock, or wall board) swelling, sagging, and crumbling.
  • Vinyl flooring bubbling and peeling.
  • Electronics and appliances shorting out if turned back on before specialist cleaning and drying.

Due to health hazards the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) urges discarding all materials that haven’t been thoroughly cleaned and completely dried within 48 hours.  That includes

  • carpet and padding,
  • ceiling tiles,
  • clothing,
  • drapery,
  • drywall,
  • furniture,
  • hardwood flooring, and
  • plywood sub-flooring.

Mitigation Measures

Most water damage isn’t immediate.  So much, sometimes even all, of those water damage repairs can be avoided.  But it takes prompt and proper action that usually calls for the expertise, experience, and equipment of cleaning and restoration specialists.

After stopping the source of water restoration begins in earnest.  Tools and techniques include specialized vacuum water extraction from surfaces and the use of dehumidifiers together with blowers to create an optimal drying environment.  It’s necessary to lift or completely remove carpet and padding.  It’s common to make ventilation holes at the top and bottom of interior walls (that will later be covered by baseboards and molding) to ventilate the insides of wall cavities.  Most materials that are wet or even damp must be properly cleaned and disinfected ,or replaced.  Those include wood, ceiling tiles, cardboard, wallpaper, carpet, drywall, fabric, and some types of insulation.

Home Insurance

The original causes of water damage are central in determining if costs are covered by insurance.

You, restoration contractors, your insurance company, and FEMA all have different definitions of “flood.”  When it comes to insurance things can be complicated, but as a general rule of thumb a water damage claim can be filed on a homeowner’s policy if only your home was affected (such as by a ruptured water heater).  But if the problem affected other nearby homes (such as by heavy rain or rising water) you need a special flood policy to cover water damage restoration costs.

Keep in mind that the water damage coverage in a homeowner’s or business policy is not a warranty nor a substitute for proper maintenance.  Most types of water damage are covered provided they were “sudden and accidental.”  Claims for gradual damage such as from a leaky roof are likely to be denied as they could have been prevented with reasonable care and attention.

Policies often specifically exclude other causes, such as a sewer or drain backup, as well as specific damage such as mold.