Has your home flooded, do you have water damage?

Having a flood in your home can be a very stressful time, especially if you have no experience dealing with your insurance company.  Rest assured.  You can take a deep breathe and know that your home will be repaired.  Depending on the severity of the job, you may or may not need to file a claim.  It would be my advice to try and avoid filing a claim if the damage is not too great and you can afford to pay out of pocket.

You also need to analyze the expected cost against your deductible.  If you have a large deductible, then the damages may not surpass your deductible.  In this case, you would want to make sure not to file a claim.  Even if the insurance company doesn’t pay out any money, you still end up with a claim on your home.  Multiple claims can reflect negatively on your policy.

Whats the first thing I should do if I have a flood in my home?

When you have water entering your home, the first step is to stop the water.  You will need to find the source of the water to do this.

Is the water coming from a pressurized line.

This is most important in the case that you have a leak from the pressurized water pipes in your home.  These lines have an unlimited supply of water.  They will keep pumping water into your home until you stop it.  Flood or not, make sure you know where to find your water shut off valves.  Most homes have 2 main water shut off valves.

You should have one where the water line enters the house.  It is usually located below the water spigot closest to the front of the house.  The valve will be a lever that can be turned by hand if functioning properly.  This will be the easiest to use in case of an emergency.  You should test it periodically by shutting it off and turning the hose on closest to it.  If the water shuts off completely then you can rely on this valve to stop the water in case of a flood.  If it does not, then be sure to have it replaced.

The second valve will be at the street where your main line connects to the city water supply.  This one requires tools to shut off.  You will probably need a screw driver to open the cover to the valve.  Then you will need a wrench to shut off the valve.  In the on position, the lever will be parallel to the water line.  You will need to turn it clockwise (in most cases) until it is perpendicular to the water line.  You can also watch the meter at the valve and make sure it has stopped spinning.

This tool will make turning this valve much easier than a typical crescent wrench.  Cobra Slot Head Street Key Wrench 5/8-in x 28-3/4-in Removal Tool

Is the flood coming from a sewer backup?

This type of flood starts when a blockage in your sewer line prevents water from draining out of the house.  The blockage could be in a multitude of locations.  Plumbers and some restoration contractors who offer leak detection have equipment to locate the blockage.

Sewer backups are not going continue to spill water into the house without an outside source.  So, if you have a sewer backup, refrain from using all water sources in the home until the blockage is found and cleared.  Even if the flood water comes out of the toilet, the toilet main line could be connected to the washing machine drain.  Running the washing machine could cause all the water from the washing machine to be forced out the toilet.  If you are worried about people using the water, then shut off the water to the house using the main shut off.  Someone taking a ten minute shower could cause a ton of damage.

Is the flood water coming in through the roof?

This is the toughest type of leak to stop.  Mainly because it requires someone to go up onto the roof during a rainstorm.  This can be very dangerous on steep roofs, but should be handled with caution on any roof.  The next obstacle is locating where the water is getting under the roofing material.  It isn’t always directly above the location in which the water is coming through the ceiling.  An assessment of the roofing material and other possible entry points is necessary.  Most times you don’t have a big hole in the roof from a walling tree.

Common causes for roof leaks are:

  • Slipped tiles.  There is an overlap of 2-4 inches typically and sometimes the tiles can slide down the roof.  This leaves a space in which water can get under the tiles.  Your home will still remain leak free if you have roofing paper in place that has not been compromised.  However, if the roofing paper is damaged in this location or anywhere below this location, water will get into your home.
  • Broken tiles.  Concrete roof tiles are actually quite brittle. They can be broken simply by walking on them improperly.  A broken tile can allow water under the roofing tiles.  You are then relying on the roof paper.  Once the roofing paper fails, you have a leak.
  • Worn out composite shingles or rolled roofing.  There is a life span on this type of material.  The hot weather and the constant sun rays hitting the material can cause the material to degrade.  Over time it is no longer keeping water out of your home and you get a leak.
  • Leaks coming from flashing sealant that is failing.  The vent pipes that go through the roof have been sealed with a rubber gasket or with tar.  Either of these can become brittle and fail over time.  This will allow water into the home causing a flood.
  • Debris build up in valley flashing.  When the valley flashing gets clogged with debris, the water can travel sideways and under the flashing allowing it to flood into your home.  Regular maintenance to keep these valleys free of debris will prevent this type of leak.

So what do I do when the roof is leaking?

First off, if you can catch water with trash cans, buckets, or any other containers, do so.  That will help limit the damages to flooring and other interior spaces.  Second, once the location of the problem is found, a roof cover can be performed.  This will keep any additional water from coming in.  Find a company that can perform a roof cover during the rain.  Make sure it will last long enough for you to get the roof repaired.  If its raining today, it could be raining again tomorrow or a week from today.  Your insurance company will pay for your roof cover if you are going to file a claim.

Now that the flood has been contained, what’s next?

As soon as possible, the next step is to start the clean up and dry down.  It is also at this time that you should be trying to determine whether or not to file a claim.  If you have filed a claim, then you need to hire a contractor or start the restoration yourself right away.  It is your responsibility to take all prudent steps to try and mitigate further damage.  If you are going to hire a contractor, your insurance company can send one of their preferred contractors.  Read here before you decide.

It is your choice though as to who you hire.  Try to have some one out that will help you determine whether or not you should file the claim.

I want to handle the restoration myself.

I’ll continue as though you are handling the restoration yourself.  You will need different equipment based on the type of loss.

For all water damage claims, you will need air movers and dehumidifiers.  You should also set up containment for any area that you are going to dry down.  This will limit the volume of air space that the dehumidifier is trying to pull moisture out of.  In addition, this will help prevent cross contamination from cutting out wet materials.  A minimum thickness of 3 mil plastic should be used to set your containment.  Use zip poles, plastic, and tape to hold up your containment.  You can put a zipper in the plastic to use as an exit.

If you have a sewer backup, or the water came through the roof and contaminants in your attic, then you need to have an airtight containment with HEPA filtration on the inside of the containment.   You should use some mechanical fasteners like staples to make sure your containment doesn’t fall and contaminate your home.  This is vital for the safety of your home as well as your family.  The exhaust vent from the HEPA filtration should exhaust to the exterior of the home whenever possible.  Flat lay ducting is sold to attach to the Air Cleaner to aid in this.

How do I determine how far the water has gone?

You will want 2 pieces of equipment for tracking your drying process.  First, you want a moisture meter that can operate invasive and non-invasive.  For most of the water tracking, you can use the non-invasive mode as to not damage any of the materials that you are testing.  It leaves no marks on the material being measured.  Use tape on the walls to mark areas that you find are wet.  Place the tape 1′ past any area that is wet.  This will ensure that when you start cutting out material, everything that remains is dry.

Next, you will need to be able to measure temperature and relative humidity.  The moisture meter referenced above can actually perform all of these functions.  This could limit you to a single purchase if you don’t already have this stuff.

You will need to measure the relative humidity in the containment area and then right in front of the outlet of the dehumidifier.  You need to make sure that the relative humidity is lower at the machine.  There are other measurements that the insurance company will want if your dry time exceeds 3 days.  They usually don’t bother if you dry everything down on three days.  Make sure you document all of your wet readings, especially if you are cutting out materials before the adjuster sees the property.

I know what got wet in the flood, what do I do?

If the material that is wet can be dried in place without any concerns for trapped water, then this is the best course of action.  For instance, you need to remove wet baseboards if the drywall above the baseboard is wet.  The water will have wicked up from the bottom, so the drywall behind the baseboard is also wet.  However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the drywall is dry behind the baseboard if there is no wet reading above the baseboard.  The water may have not reached that high yet.  You need to make a judgement call on all materials that are wet.

It is my advice to always err on the side of caution.  If you cannot definitively prove that the material is dry behind, then remove the wet material.  Just make sure you show good cause for concern.  If the area surrounding your bathroom vanity is dry, you cannot tear out your vanity just to make sure.  If the drywall leading up to the vanity is wet, then you can assume that the drywall behind is wet.

Everything is cut out, how do I dry out the flood?

You should only have materials remaining that can be dried in place.  You should have cleaned the contained area thoroughly and there should be no contents (belongings) in the area.  We are also assuming that this flood did not reveal or cause any mold damage.  If so, make sure you follow mold protocols.  If no mold present, then you can place equipment in the area to start drying.

You typically can place one dehumidifier per separate room and one fan one each wall that has wet framing.  If you have cabinets that you are drying, then add a few more fans to this area.  Especially if you have plywood that needs drying.  Make sure that the drain hose from the dehumidifier is secured in a sink basin or drain line that is cleared.  Within the containment area, you need to make sure that wall cavities are sealed as well as drain pipes.  Always use an appropriate plug to plug a toilet line in which the toilet has been removed.

You should check daily to take moisture readings to ensure that the equipment you are using is adequate.  If there is not steady drying progress, then you may need to adjust the quantity or positioning of the equipment.

How do I know when the water damage from the flood is dry?

Seek and compare to the dry standard of each material.

Every material you dry down will have a wet area that was hit by the flood and a dry area that is in its normal state.  When the wet areas have reached the moisture levels that exist in the dry standard materials, you are considered dry.   For example, if you are drying wet framing, then compare the previously wet areas to a known dry portion of framing.  This will be the dry standard you are trying to hit.  This is a general rule of thumb.  If you have humidity problems in an area and the supposedly dry areas are still showing wet readings on your meter, then further investigation is probably warranted.