Recent Water Damage Posts
Most likely uninsured!
The Man Family Cave
I was supposed to have the project done before my son was born, but before I knew it, there he was at 2 years old, climbing through the cabinets I was about to install as part of my basement remodel. It turns out that when you do it yourself, it takes a little longer! When I finally completed it, my family had a re-vamped basement that we could use for entertaining, playing or just connecting while watching a movie together. I was proud of my work and began to add up all the money I saved by doing it myself. Then I thought about the money I spent just on materials like carpet, drywall, paint, cabinets and tile not to mention the furniture and my son’s toys.
Being a SERVPRO owner, I know that the most common damage in basements is water damage. There are all kinds of sources like broken pipes, water heaters, washing machines, water softener tanks and of course anything that happens upstairs will eventually find its way down to the basement. But I felt really good knowing that if any of those things happened in my revamped basement my insurance would kick in and I could have someone else repair it!
Not So Fast!
Our customer was a young traveling sales rep and was gone from her home for several days at a time. This particular time, she had returned to find that the basement she just recently spent thousands of dollars to have finished sustained a water damage. There was a drain in the laundry area that backed up after a heavy rain and it was estimated that only about an inch or two of water got into the basement, but it made its way all over. By the time she returned home to find her wet basement and called us out, the water had already wicked up the walls about 14 inches!
No worries though! Insurance was there to cover the loss and everything was returned to preloss condition with little-to-no financial harm to the customer, right? I wish I could say that was the case. However, our customer discovered that this source of loss was only covered by a special coverage attached to a homeowner’s policy. Good news – she had that coverage. Bad news – there was limit of only $5000!!! For this job we had to cut out drywall 2ft from the floor, tear out carpet, remove baseboards, steam clean, apply a sanitizer and install drying equipment just to get the basement clean and dry. There was also a small bar that had to be removed and 4 rooms of furniture that sustained water damage plus the cost of repairing everything that had to be removed. I’m sure you can see that $5000 left our customer woefully underinsured.
The next day I began to think about my own basement and a particular drain right in front of the washing machine. I knew that I had drain back-up coverage, but I never really looked at my policy in detail to see how much. My basement wouldn’t be nearly as expensive to repair as our recent customer's if the same thing happened, but I also knew that it would take more than $5000. The next day I called my agent and found out that that I did indeed only have $5000 of coverage, so I asked to increase it. At that time, for an extra $50/year I could increase my coverage by $20,000 with my carrier. What a bargain!
All Things In Moderation
I’m not saying to run out and buy a bunch of insurance for drain back up if you don’t need it. I’m not saying go buy $50,000 or $100,000 of drain back up coverage if you do need some. However, I highly recommend taking a quick inventory of what you have in your basement and maybe do some online shopping to see what it might cost to replace those items if they were damaged by either rain water or sewage backing up from a sump pump or drain. Think about the materials that were used to finish your basement. Tile can withstand water damage especially when installed on concrete. Carpet may survive a sump pump or water heater failure, but it has to be disposed of if the water originated from a sewer drain. Cabinets may survive a sump pump failure, but not if the water sits long enough to cause warping. My advice is to work with your insurance agent to determine the right coverage for you and your situation. If you need this special coverage, you will be happy you have it if you sustain this kind of loss. If you need higher limits because you have more to lose it will cost a little more, but you will be relieved that you have it if you ever need it. Make sure you review your policy or call your agent today before it’s too late.
The last thing you want is to find out it’s going to cost more than you have to put your home back “Like it never even happened.”
An ounce of prevention . . .
The 3 day outlook shows lows in the single digits with negative wind chills. Pipe bursts can cause the most damage of any water source we deal with. Sometimes there can be multiple pipe bursts in the same property and many times they burst when no one is there or when everyone is asleep. We have even seen times when a copper pipe pops out of joint allowing a 1/2 water line to run wide open! Imagine the damage that can cause! So what can be done to prevent this type of damage?
5 tips to keep your pipes warm
Below are some simple tips to keep pipes from freezing at your home or business:
- Open any cabinetry that houses plumbing on exterior walls to help keep the pipes from freezing!
- Wrap pipes that are at risk, like in a garage or attic, in the foam insulation sleeves designed for pipes.
- Keep your thermostat no lower than 60-65 degrees if you are away for a day or more. Many people think 55 degrees is sufficient, but we have seen many troubles arise with thermostats set that low.
- Use pipe heating wires when appropriate. Make sure they are installed according to instructions.
- Use hose bib covers outside to prevent cold air from entering around the pipe and freezing it.
My pipes have frozen! Now what!
As we get deeper into winter, one of our most common calls is water damage from frozen or burst pipes. As temperatures drop outside, it is important to ready your home for the changes that are coming so that your home and its contents don’t face this messy and unfortunate outcome.
How can you prevent frozen or burst pipes? A special consideration is plumbing that supplies outdoor spigots. Often times these pipes freeze inside wall cavities. A good solution is to cut a hole in the drywall and then cover it with a vent cover (a return vent for HVAC can be used for this) so that heat from the room gets into the wall cavity where the pipe is. Similarly, it’s a good idea to keep cabinet doors that hide pipes (under kitchen/bathroom sinks) open to facilitate warm air flow.
On the outside, it is imperative that hoses are disconnected from spigots. Even if water is turned off to the spigot and it is a “freeze proof” spigot, leaving a hose connected will trap water and freezing can still cause it to crack. A final step would be to attach a Styrofoam insulation cover over the spigot. This covers the entire spigot and fits tight to the house with a foam gasket which will prevent cold air from getting in and around the pipe. (These can only be installed with the hose detached).
Keeping pipes insulated are very important. Any exposed pipe is subject to freezing at the right temperature. Keep your garage door closed in winter to maintain heat inside the home. Frequently inspect your pipes for any cracks and leaks and repair as soon as possible. You don’t want to find out at 2am on a frigid February morning that your tiny crack caused the basement to flood and ruin all your furniture.
Keep your thermostat at the same temperature, day and night, and never lower than 60 degrees. This is not the time to be worrying about your utility bill. Maintain a proper heat level in the home to avoid disastrous surprises.
But what if after all this, your pipes freeze anyway?
Firstly, KEEP the faucet open. As the ice starts to melt, water will flow and any running water will help melt the ice in the pipe. You can apply direct heat to a frozen area using a heating pad wrapped around the pipe, a hair dryer, or towels soaked in hot water.
A space heater can be used, as long as it kept away from flammable materials and you are there to supervise its use. Heat should be applied until full water pressure is restored.
If you cannot find the frozen area, or if you cannot reach it or thaw the pipe, called a licensed plumber.
NEVER use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove or other open flame device…or you will be calling SERVPRO for fire damage cleanup instead of water damage cleanup!
Hopefully, these tips were beneficial and will help you get off on the right foot for 2020. However, should you be struck with burst pipes, a flooded basement or anything in between, call us here at SERVPRO and we’ll make it "Like it never even happened."
Knowledge comes with increased Service
Running the office at SERVPRO is a pretty interesting job. The scenario changes day to day; you literally have no idea what the next phone call will bring.
With our extended winter and several rain storms so far this spring, the bulk of our work lately has been water damage mitigation. I know my fair share about water damage (I thought) just from processing the jobs, taking the calls and speaking with the technicians that complete the work and take the pictures of job sites.
When the Water Certification Class came around, my boss, Kevin suggested that I take the course. I thought….me? Why would I need to be certified in Water Damage mitigation if I’m not a technician? I just work in the office. Well, after taking the class, I now know why he wanted me to.
Getting Down To Business
For most people the thought of learning the ins-and-outs of water damage mitigation may be mind-numbingly boring. However, the folks that work for SERVPRO are a different breed. I sat in a class of about 30 people, most of them new technicians for several SERVPRO franchises across Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. This group was stoked to learn the “right way” to get these jobs done. They were full of enthusiasm and questions. What I thought would be the longest three days of my life, flew by.
I learned how to address each situation upon entering the premises, to make sure to do no further harm, and to spot safety issues at the start. I learned how to STOP the “bleeding” and start the healing for each homeowner. I learned what things are the most important, and which things can be addressed a little later. I learned the technical aspects of which product to use, which dehumidifier works for each specific situation and why you don’t direct an air mover onto a surface that contains mold (it could contaminate adjoining areas). But beyond that, what I realized is that these trainers that journeyed from our corporate office in Tennessee to teach us…was not just how to clean up a backed up sewer or overflowing washing machine….but how to put people back to “whole”. How to help a distraught customer who sees his belongings floating in river water. How to empathize with someone who just bought new furniture and now sees it soaking in water from an upstairs bathroom leak.
A New Excitement
I realized that SERVPRO isn’t just about cleaning up the job and moving onto the next one. They really are about putting the customer at ease and assuring them that everything WILL be all right….and the phrase "Like it never even happened," isn’t just a slogan. I realized that these people in the class with me were EAGER to learn how to do this, so that they too would be “hero ready” when the time comes.
I think I did pretty well on the test (we won’t know for a few weeks), but what I took away from the class was not just a possible certification in Water Damage Mitigation, but a better understanding and lesson in compassion for our fellow man. I just run the office at SERVPRO of Cheviot and Cleves, but I think that’s a lesson that we all could learn.