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Repairing Water Damage: 10 Steps to Take after Water Damage in Your House

Sunday Odudu Bio
Man on the floor fixing sink with a wrench
When leaks or flooding happen in your home, the first thing to do is investigate the source to fix it immediately. This will help prevent electrocution or illness caused by molds and fungi.

A home warranty plan can be a lifesaver, especially since water damage affects around 14,000 people in the US daily. It could result from broken pipes, unfit appliances, flooding, leaky roofs, or even burst sewage pipes.

As an expert in renovations and home insurance, I’ll share my top tips for dealing with water damage to help you tackle immediate problems and keep your home and family safe.

Let’s dive in!

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1. Don’t Panic

Stay calm and breathe deeply if you encounter a flooded bathroom, a broken pipe, or water dripping from your roof. This will help you think clearly and react effectively. Be aware of hazards like slippery floors to avoid accidents. Prioritizing your safety is essential in these situations.

For immediate assistance, contact emergency water damage response services.

2. Switch off the Power to Your House

In the US, there are approximately 1,000 deaths per year as a result of electrical injuries. That's why you should switch off the power in your home when you notice any water near your electrical outlet. If you're unfamiliar with your electrical system, consider contacting an electrician.

Here's how to safely switch off the main power:

  • The first step is to ensure that the area is safe to enter.
  • Locate your home's main electrical panel. It's usually in the basement, garage, or outdoors.
  • Flip the main circuit breaker to the "off" position to turn off the power.
  • Avoid standing in water while handling any electrical switches to prevent the risk of electrocution.

3. Identify the Source of the Water Causing Damage

Excess water in your home can originate from damaged sewage lines, faulty faucets, or weak roofs. Some leaks are easily noticeable, but others may be hidden behind walls or above ceilings. Be cautious with black or grey water from sewage, as it can contain harmful bacteria; professional cleanup is advisable in such cases.

If the water damage is due to a burst pipe, leaking roof, or any other source, stop the water flow as soon as possible. This may involve shutting off the main water supply to your house.

Remember to routinely check roofs, ceilings, faucets, and pipes, particularly in bathrooms and kitchens, for signs of water stains or dampness. If you find water seepage, shut off the valves immediately and mark the location to help professionals address it.

4. Clean the Entire Area

Start by addressing any excess moisture. Look for areas with stagnant water, like near your foundation or under furniture, and dry them thoroughly. Before starting any cleanup or restoration efforts, document the extent of the damage by taking photographs or videos. You'll need proof for insurance claims and restoration purposes.

Next, focus on ventilation to avoid mold and mildew, which can start growing within 24 hours in damp conditions. In hard-to-reach areas, promote air circulation with fans and dehumidifiers to lower moisture levels. Use absorbent materials like towels to soak up any residual dampness.

For cleaning, here are some practical solutions:

  • Remove standing water: Use pumps, wet-dry vacuums, or buckets to remove any standing water from the affected area. The sooner you can eliminate standing water, the better chance you have of preventing further damage and mold growth.
  • Dry out the area: Once standing water is removed, focus on drying out the affected area. Open windows, and use fans, dehumidifiers, and heaters to help speed up the drying process.
  • Mild detergents: Mix with water for general cleaning. It's gentle and effective in removing dirt.
  • White vinegar and baking soda: Great for tackling mold and mildew on hard surfaces. These natural options are non-toxic.
  • Commercial mold removers: If you're dealing with severe mold, these products can help. Just be sure to follow the instructions and ventilate the area well.
  • Disinfectants: After cleaning, disinfect the area to prevent bacteria and other organisms from growing.

If your belongings, especially those made of fabric, wood, or paper, have been wet, they might be beyond repair. Consider discarding these items if the damage is severe.

However, for things with sentimental value, you could explore professional restoration services. Anything showing signs of mold, structural damage, or posing health risks should be safely disposed of.

5. Examine the Damage

After cleaning up, carefully check your electronics, furniture, and paper items like books and documents for any harm. This inspection will help you determine what needs to be replaced and what your homeowner's warranty may cover.

Salvage any personal belongings that are not severely damaged by the water. Items such as furniture, clothing, and important documents should be removed from the affected area and dried out if possible.

Organize your belongings into categories based on the extent of the damage to make the insurance claim process smoother. Additionally, inspect your walls, floors, and ceilings for any concealed issues caused by the water. Be aware of the lifespan of certain appliances and infrastructure in your home, as leaks or failures can occur as these items age.

6. Document Your Losses

Document your losses resulting from water wreckage to ensure a smooth insurance claim process. You can do this by taking photos or creating a list specifying damaged items like your HVAC, kitchen appliances, or furniture to check what your insurance covers.

To stay organized, consider making a spreadsheet or list, keeping receipts for immediate repairs or replacements, and backing up your documents digitally. Remember to include dates and describe the extent of damage thoroughly to help with insurance purposes.

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7. File a Report With Your Insurance Company

Notify your insurance company about the water damage as soon as possible. They can provide guidance on the claims process and may recommend restoration companies to assist with cleanup efforts.

If you're dealing with water damage, here's how to handle your insurance claim:

  • Check your coverage: Start by reviewing your insurance policy. Know what it covers regarding water damage.
  • Document everything: Take clear photos of all impaired furniture and objects. Make a list of everything damaged and note their value and condition.
  • File your claim: Contact your insurance company and file your claim. Give them your damage list and the photos as proof.
  • Know your compensation: Depending on your policy, you might get up to 50% of the damage costs back. Understand your policy's specifics so you know what compensation to expect.
  • Keep in touch: After filing your claim, follow up with your insurance company. This keeps your claim on their radar and can help speed up the process.

8. Inspect for Mold

After cleaning and drying out the area, thoroughly inspect for any signs of mold growth. If mold is present, it’s crucial to address it promptly to prevent health issues and further damage.

Start by inspecting common areas prone to mold, like corners and hidden spots behind furniture. Early signs include discoloration, a musty smell, or any visible spotty growths.

Use mold-resistant paint or install moisture-resistant drywall in areas like your bathroom or laundry. If you're unsure about the extent of mold or how to handle it, it's best to call in professionals. They can help with widespread fungus, significant water damage, or hard-to-reach spots.

9. Remove Drywall

Deal with water-damaged drywall methodically and safely by following these key steps:

  • Wear protective gear: Gloves, goggles, and a dust mask are essential. Make sure the area is well-ventilated to avoid inhaling dust or mold.
  • Spot damaged areas: Look for heavy stains, swelling, or crumbling. If the drywall feels soft or shows mold, it’s too far gone and needs removing.
  • Remove carefully: Cut around the affected area with a utility knife, and be mindful of any hidden electrical wiring or plumbing. Only remove what’s necessary to minimize repairs.
  • Dry out the walls: Before putting in new drywall, ensure the walls are completely dry to prevent mold from returning.
  • Know when to call in experts: If there’s extensive damage or you're unsure about electrical or plumbing issues, seek professional help.

10. Decide When to Return Home

Start by checking the structural integrity of your home and ensuring the air is clean and free from mold or mildew. Also, verify that all utilities, including electricity, water, and gas, are safely reconnected and working as they should.

Next, schedule a final walkthrough with a restoration expert. In many cases of significant water damage, professional restoration services may be necessary to fully restore your home. These professionals have the expertise and equipment to handle extensive water damage effectively.

This step ensures that all repairs are up to your standards and thoroughly completed. Check for any dampness or unusual odors, which might indicate lingering issues.

Prevent Water Damage and Protect Your Investment

With nearly one in five homes facing water damage annually, it's wise to master your maintenance skills. Regular inspections of your house, especially in areas like the basement and roof, can help you avoid expensive repairs in the future.

Keep up with your homeowner's insurance and warranty; they're key in dealing with damages and covering costs. Regularly update your policy to match the current value of your belongings.

Finally, remain alert for mold and mildew. Ensure you thoroughly clean and sterilize the affected areas to prevent future growth and maintain a healthy living space.

» Ask these 10 essential questions before purchasing a home warranty

Sunday Odudu Bio
Sunday Odudu, a top 10 writer and an expert in home warranties, has over a decade of experience in sales and public administration. As a seasoned insurance producer and former lead renovation specialist, he has collaborated with start-ups, global corporations, and governmental bodies.