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How to Avoid Mold Caused by Water Damage

WRITTEN BY: Amelia Ciffone

UPDATED: MAY 24, 2022 | 3 MIN READ

Imagine this scenario, you walk into your house after a long day at work and discover water flooding over your countertops, streaming down your kitchen cabinets, and forming a lake 3-inches deep across your floor. As shocking as that is, the water itself can be the least of the problems you face from this catastrophe. If your walls and cabinets are not thoroughly dried out, mold can invade your home after just a few days.

When faced with sudden and accidental water damage, do you know what to do? Understanding what steps to take will help get your house back to normal–fast.

To Prevent Mold, Get the Water Out!

The first thing to do is to stop the leak. This may require turning off your main water line or contacting a plumber (learn more here). 

Once that’s done, your next job is to get the water out. 

Choosing a Water Mitigation Company

For major leaks that will require an insurance claim, your best bet is to contact a water mitigation company. But which one? An online search will turn up dozens. It can be overwhelming. 

Option 1 – Ask Your Insurance Company

If you need a water mitigation company, chances are you need them fast. It can be difficult to thoroughly review a potential contractor on such short notice. 

That’s where your insurance carrier can help. 

They deal with claims like yours all the time, and they may have a relationship with a local specialist who can protect your home. These particular mitigation companies give insurance companies special rates. This can save you from payment disputes and other headaches down the line, and make sure your claim is processed quickly. 

You already need to contact your insurance company ASAP if you plan to file a claim. 

While you’re on the phone, be sure to ask if there’s a water dry-out company they prefer to work with. It’s in the insurance company’s best insurance that your house does not sustain any more damage, so it’s in their best interest to make sure the water goes away!

Option 2 – Use Your Social Network

If you’ve had problems with your insurance carrier in the past, you may not want them to choose your water mitigation company. A remediation company that has a relationship with your carrier could be focused on resolving your claim cheaply instead of doing a good job with the cleanup. They may view your insurance company as the client instead of you.

If that’s the case, your best bet is to get a recommendation from a neighbor or friend. You can also search online to find a company with good reviews. 

You’ll still need to call your insurance company to report your claim, and they may send out a representative to inspect the work you have done.

What Will The Water Mitigation Company Do?

Since a water mitigation company’s business is all about emergencies, they should be able to arrive at your home within a few hours–no matter when you call. A water mitigation company will bring specialized equipment and trained technicians to dry out the water. 

Most specialists are not trained to determine the cause of the water damage, but they can likely make an educated guess based on the location of the wettest areas. However, a plumber or leak detection company is usually needed to find and fix the cause of the water loss. Stopping the cause of water loss is important to prevent more damage since even a small leak can lead to mold growth. Drying out your home may take a few days since building materials such as floors and cabinets may have also been damaged. 

It is the water mitigation company’s job to remove standing water as well as dry out those building materials. This is important because mold grows on those surfaces. The water mitigation company may leave fans around the damaged areas and are loud and very inconvenient. However, it is important to let the machines do their job. 

A few sleepless nights are worth avoiding the spread of mold caused by the water damage. If the damage is extensive, you can also see if your insurance company will put you up in a hotel for a few nights. If your home is un-liveable, alternate housing may be provided if you purchased coverage for Additional Living Expenses (ALE) as part of your policy.

Kill the Mold If You Find It

Once the water mitigation company has completed the dry out of your home, the company may recommend mold testing to determine if mold removal is necessary. 

Mold testing is generally done by a different company and in many states, a license is required to perform this job. Mold testing is painless but can save you from spending more money down the road to remove mold you did not know was there. 

What Will the Mold-Testing Company Do?

A mold testing company will send one or two technicians who will take samples of the inside air in your home as well as swab surfaces in the areas of the water damage as well as obtain control samples in areas where there was no water. 

These samples are sent to a lab to determine the amount and kind of spores in the air and on the surfaces. Unfortunately, there are all kinds of harmless mold spores floating in the air all around us, so no one will have a zero spore count. However, an elevated mold spore count will mean that you may need to file a mold claim

If there are elevated mold spores in your home, the mold testing company will develop a very specific plan to remove the mold from your home.  

What Happens During Mold Removal?

Mold removal will be done by a mold remediation company. This may be the same company that did your water mitigation, or it could be a different company. It is very important to follow the mold removal plan. This usually entails the removal of loose furniture and creating a containment barrier in the affected area. 

There will be several rounds of industrial-grade mold removal and disinfectant treatments. Depending on the location of the mold, the mold removal may require cabinets, flooring or even walls to be removed. As a homeowner, this can be jarring, but rest assured that it is for the greater good; for your health and your wallet. If soft surfaces are affected, such as upholstered furniture or curtains, these will be cleaned if possible. If it is not possible to remove the mold from these items, then you may need to dispose of them in order to prevent the spread of mold to other surfaces.

When the mold removal is complete your house will be water-free and mold-free. It is a process and will take patience and cooperation.  However, understanding what needs to be done and why is half of the battle. Being paralyzed with fear or indecision can be detrimental.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Ignore Mold!

The most important thing you can do to avoid the spread of mold caused by water damage is don’t ignore it! Mold can be toxic to your health and affect those with compromised immune systems or breathing difficulties. Even though mold growth led to the development of penicillin, do not think mold is no big deal. But having a plan and being armed with information can save your home from mold.

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