How to Handle Water Damage

People often worry about fires damaging their homes and commercial buildings. While fires are dangerous and can cause extensive damage to property, they are rare compared to another element that is in the home or building every minute of every day: Water.

Properties suffer water damage more frequently than they do other causes of loss. Water damage emergencies occur 14,000 times a day in American homes and businesses, according to insurance industry data. In comparison, fires occur in fewer than 3,600 homes per day, and burglaries occur 8,200 times a day. The basements in 98 percent of US homes will suffer water damage during their lifetime. The average home water damage insurance claim is almost $7,000. Insured losses from water damage equal $2.5 billion per year; that figure does not include uninsured losses caused by floods and other naturally occurring waters.

Those waters can cause immense damage to buildings and the property within them. Just one to four inches of water causes an average loss of $7,800. The average loss caused by a leaky water heater ranges from $3,600 to $5,800, depending on the source of the leak. The average for leaks from bathroom fixtures exceeds $10,000. Plumbing leaks run an average $17,000. Water can damage walls, floors and ceilings; ruin carpeting, furniture and other home furnishings; destroy electronic equipment; and cause mold to grow. Beyond the mess, inconvenience and expense, dirty water and mold can cause health problems in people exposed to them.

In addition to getting a damage restoration company involved quickly, one insurer recommends the following steps to take If a plumbing fixture, appliance or roof springs a leak:

  • Shut off the main water valve if the water is flowing from a pipe.
  • Turn off electrical power and gas supplies when a major water event occurs.
  • Do not use electrical appliances on wet surfaces.
  • Turn on fans to circulate air.
  • Mop or dry the area quickly.
  • Move wet property to dry locations.
  • Remove wet area rugs, but leave tacked-down carpeting in place.
  • Clean your wet clothes.
  • Wipe excess water off of furniture and other belongings.
  • Be on the look out for sharp debris, snakes, rodents and other critters.

Home and business property insurance policies cover some water damage losses but not all. Most policies will cover losses caused by water that enters through holes in roofs, broken or leaky windows, leaky pipes, and faulty dishwashers and washing machines. Many will not cover loss caused by the backup of water from plugged sewers and drains unless the policyholder has purchased extra coverage. They usually do not cover damage caused by floods, rising tides and rainwater, overflowed rivers, and other natural causes. Insurance available from the National Flood Insurance Program is necessary to cover these losses.

We need water to run our homes and businesses, but it can cause problems. If you have a water damage loss, contact a restoration company as soon as possible, notify your insurance company, and work with them closely. By taking sensible steps, you can prevent unnecessary damage and return to normal quickly.

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