Water damage is a common and costly problem affecting any home or building. According to water damage statistics, over 35% of American homeowners have experienced losses because of water damage, and the average insurance payout for water damage is $11,6052. Water damage can result from various sources, such as leaks from pressurized plumbing pipes, plumbing drain pipes, refrigerator icemakers, dishwashers, water heaters, washing machines, or overflows, and more. These types of water damage claims are typically categorized as “plumbing leaks.” However, not all water damage is caused by plumbing issues. Sometimes, water damage can be caused by natural disasters, such as floods, storms, or hurricanes. In that case, it is important to differentiate between water damage claims (plumbing leaks) and flood damage claims.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) defines a flood as a temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres and two or more properties of normally dry land. Flood damage can only be caused by overflow of inland or tidal waters, unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source, mudflow, or collapse of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water due to erosion or undermining caused by waves or currents of water that exceed anticipated cyclical levels resulting in a flood. Flood damage is not covered by standard home insurance policies, and requires a separate flood insurance policy. According to flood damage statistics, 14.6 million U.S. homes are at risk of flooding, and the average flood claim payout from the National Flood Insurance Program is $52,0002.
Whether it is caused by plumbing leaks or floods, water damage can have serious consequences for the structure and contents of a home or building. Water can damage walls, floors, ceilings, furniture, appliances, electronics, and personal belongings. Water can also create health hazards, such as mold, mildew, bacteria, and viruses, that can affect the indoor air quality and cause respiratory problems, allergies, infections, and other illnesses. Therefore, it is important to take prompt action when dealing with water damage and follow the proper steps to restore the property to its pre-damage condition.
The first step to minimize water damage is to find and stop the source of the water. This may require turning off the main water supply, shutting off the electricity, and locating the leak or the point of entry. It is recommended to hire a licensed plumber to properly complete repairs to damaged plumbing fixtures and components and prevent further leaks or bursts.
The next step is to dry and clean the affected areas. This may involve removing excess water, using fans, dehumidifiers, and heaters to speed up the drying process, and applying disinfectants and sanitizers to kill any microorganisms and prevent mold growth. A specialized emergency services company may provide the best professional mitigation, as they have the equipment, expertise, and experience to handle different types of water damage. The drying procedures may depend on the type of water involved, as water is classified into three categories based on the level of contamination: clean water, gray water, and black water. Clean water comes from a source such as leaking faucets or bursed pressurized pipe. Gray water contains contaminants, such as soap, detergent, or food. Black water contains harmful pathogens like sewage, floodwater, or groundwater. The drying process may become more complicated and costly if the water is gray or black, as it poses a higher risk of infection and requires more thorough cleaning and disinfection.
The final step is to repair and rebuild the damaged property. This may involve replacing or restoring damaged materials, such as drywall, insulation, flooring, cabinets, doors, windows, and more. A licensed general contractor may be needed to perform the repairs and build the property back to its pre-loss condition. The general contractor will hire the experts based on their trade (i.e. framers, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, painters, flooring specialists and more).
During the claim-related repairs, some additional code upgrade-related repairs may be needed. Most policies have code upgrade coverage or Ordinance and Law Coverage. This coverage is particularly important for older buildings which may need to upgrade the damaged items to comply with the most recent codes. For example, if the electrical wiring or plumbing system is damaged by water, it may need to be updated to meet the current safety standards and regulations.
A public adjuster may assist the policyholder in dealing with their insurance company. A public adjuster’s role is to help the policyholder understand their rights and responsibilities, assist in filing a claim, and help negotiate a fair and reasonable settlement. They can also help ensure that the policyholder receives the maximum benefits available under their policy.
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