Water Damage Tips

Water Damage Common Mistakes in Baltimore

Opening your front door and stepping in water or standing in your kitchen and watching water pour through your ceiling are not images most homeowners like to imagine, yet water damage is the fastest growing claims category for insurance companies. As with most things being prepared is the best way to avoid costly mistakes and ease an unpleasant situation.

First, before it happens, know what your homeowner’s policy covers. Many policies have exclusions for sewage damage and some newer policies are excluding water damage. Water damage claims average $5,000 – $8,000 and some claims can exceed $30,000. Review your policies and if coverage is not there, have it added.

So, you wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of rushing water. You find the supply line to the toilet has ruptured and water is out into the hallway and cascading onto the first floor. Now what? As soon as possible, turn the water to the supply line off or, if that doesn’t work turn off the main supply line to the house. You do know where the cut off is, don’t you? You’d be surprised how many people don’t.

You know you have coverage and you have turned off the source of the leak. The most common mistake people make at this point is to wait until morning. This is not fine wine; it is not going to improve with age! In fact, the longer it sits the worse it gets. The water will continue to migrate to dry areas and will pick up bacteria and other contaminants as it goes. While you’re not going to get your agent or adjuster in the middle of the night, most companies have a 24 hour claim number and even if they don’t, all carriers require that you take steps to keep it from getting worse. If you wait too long your insurer can deny the claim.

Another common and sometimes costly error is to under estimate what is involved in cleaning up the water. If you have wet walls, ceilings or carpet it is not a good do-it-yourself project. Water likes to hide and the job is often larger than it appears. If not dried properly the formation of mold is a real possibility. Undetected moisture under hardwood floors will cause warping and moisture under cabinets can cause them to swell and break down. As stated earlier, the longer water sits the more damage it does. This is probably a time for professional help.

Of course there are things you can do. If you can safely get to the breaker box (it’s not in a wet area), turn off the power to affected areas. Pick up area rugs and any small items from the floor. Place aluminum foil under table, chair and sofa legs to keep water from wicking up into the wood. Do not spread newspaper over wet area. Yes it will absorb water, but it will also leave newsprint stains on your floors. Wipe water off table tops. Remove photos and artwork that can be affected by high humidity.

If the water you are dealing with is sewage ignore the last paragraph and stay out of the area. There are nasty things such as hepatitis that live in that water and you want to stay out of it. Remember every time you walk through it you are exposing yourself and tracking and cross contaminating other areas of your house.

So to briefly recap:

  • Know what your insurance coverage is
  • Know how to turn off the water supply
  • Know where the breaker box is
  • Know when to call in professional help
  • Act quickly

This is not a pleasant thing to deal with but with a little preparation and knowing a few basis steps, you can save yourself some expensive heartache and soon be back on your (dry) feet!