After wind damage, non-weather-related water damage is the second most common insurance claim.
If you come home to flooding not otherwise caused by weather, it can be an overwhelming situation. This article discusses some of the common sources of accidental flooding inside your home, steps to take to repair the damage as well as insurance coverage issues.
What is Non-Weather Related Water Damage?
Non-weather-related water damage can be caused by a burst pipe, or a failed appliance such as a water heater, air conditioning unit, dishwasher, or washing machine. It can also be caused by sewage backups. In the case of condominium living, water damage can even be caused by your upstairs neighbor.
Next Steps: Identify the Source of the Water
Interior flooding could have any number of sources as mentioned above. In order to effectively manage the catastrophe, you will need to figure out the source of the water.
Accidental Kitchen Flooding
Common kitchen sources could be the dishwasher, the sink or even your refrigerator if you have an ice maker with a water line. If you have a dishwasher leak, the shut off valve is usually located under the kitchen sink on the same side as the dishwasher. For the refrigerator, the shut off valve is usually behind the refrigerator where the water line connects to the wall. If you are unsure, you can always turn off the main water line to your home.
Accidental Bathroom Flooding
If the flooding is coming from the bathroom, there are multiple sources of potential problems. Bathroom flooding could be coming from under the sink, the toilet, the shower or any combination of sources. Again, turn off the main water line to the house to stop the flow of water.
If you identify the toilet as the problem, refrain from prolonged contact with the water as it could be contaminated sewer water.
Other Causes of Accidental Flooding
Washing Machine Leaks
Whether it’s a user error such as too much soap or a manufacturer’s defect, a flooding washing machine can deposit a lot of water on your floors very quickly.
If the washing machine is running, try to turn it off. Your next step is to stop more water from emptying on to your floor. Shut off the flow shut off the water at the source. The valve is usually located behind the washing machine.
If you can do so safely, unplug the washing machine from the wall. Standing water and electricity don’t mix, so don’t attempt to unplug the machine until you’re sure it’s safe.
Air Conditioner Leaks
The two most common causes of air conditioner leads are a clogged condensation drain or frozen coils. Both you can fix yourself.
- For a clogged drainpipe, flush out the pipe with clean water or a diluted bleach solution. If that doesn’t work you can use a wet vac to blow the clog out. Run your air conditioner for a few days, and if the condensation stays in the pan, then your problem is fixed.
- For frozen coils, turn the air conditioner off, let the coils defrost, and then try again.
If neither of these is the source of your leak, then you’ll need to bring in a professional.
Try to leave your air conditioner off or run it on fan instead of cool and try to keep the water contained until the professionals arrive.
Water Heater Leaks
Another source of accidental flooding could be your water heater. A water heater can hold 23 to 56 gallons of water which can cause whole home flooding if it fails.
You will need to shut off the main water line to the house, or the cold-water line to the water heater. If the water heater continues to leak, you may then have to drain the water heater.
This can be done by a plumber and will take about an hour to drain all the water. If you want to try to do it yourself, you can check out the step by step guide on our water heater leaks article.
Prevent Further Damage
Once you have determined the source of your accidental flooding and stopped any active leaks, you will need to take swift action to prevent further damage. Once water comes into contact with surfaces, such as walls, floors, and cabinets, it can create an environment where mold can grow.
While you may have your own shop-vac for small spills, accidental flooding inside your home is generally not something you want to tackle on your own, especially if it’s severe enough to require filing an insurance claim.
Professional Water Mitigation
If your leak is big enough that you’ll need to file an insurance claim, then it’s important to contact a professional water mitigation company to remove the water from your home and dry it out.
- TIP: Contact your insurance carrier to see if there’s a water mitigation company they prefer to work with. This can save you from disputes and other headaches down the line, and make sure your claim is processed quickly.
A water mitigation company will have the necessary equipment to remove any standing water as well as dry out the walls, floors, and cabinets. These companies are also equipped to detect hidden water damage behind walls and under floors. If there is any hidden damage, you’ll want to include it upfront when you file your leak claim. Finding the damage later makes it more costly and more difficult to get your insurance company to cover.
Depending on the extent of the accidental flooding, walls, floors, or cabinets may need to be removed. This can significantly increase the cost of repairs. However, a properly dried out home will prevent or stop any mold growth. As part of this process, a water mitigation company may treat the surfaces with industrial-strength disinfectants to address any mold issues.
In addition to taking steps to prevent further damage, you may want to call your insurance company to report the problem. Calling sooner, rather than later, can make a difference in a coverage determination since most insurance policies require homeowners to notify the insurer in a timely manner. Failure to do so can jeopardize your insurance claim.
Your insurance policy will also require you to prevent further damage to the home. Do not wait for the insurance company to advise you of this. Delay in taking necessary steps to prevent further damage can also negatively affect your insurance claim. In order to maximize your chances of recovery, document with photos the damages and any repairs made. Also, keep all receipts and invoices for all services provided.
Will My Non-Weather Related Water Damage be Covered?
There are several factors that determine if the accidental flooding is covered by your insurance.
The first one is the language of your policy. Insurance policies contain information about what is covered and what is excluded from coverage. One of the key pieces of information is that the flooding is in fact “accidental”. This usually means it was unexpected and not the result of your own actions or inactions.
An example of a potentially excluded cause of in-home flooding is if the cause is due to failure to maintain your home. Pipes last a long time but will eventually need to be replaced. If the flooding was due to corrosion, this will not likely be a covered loss.
Similarly, if the accidental flooding was the result of a faulty appliance, this will not likely be covered. An insurance policy may pay for the cost to clean up the water, but not for the faulty appliance.
Lastly, some insurance policies will limit recovery for accidental flooding due to a sewer backup, particularly if it was caused by a city sewer line outside of your property limits.
Accidental flooding is catastrophic and complicated. Take it one step at a time, make smart decisions and you can get your home back to normal. Knowing what your policy says will help prevent unpleasant surprises.
Sources: Signature Air Conditioning