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Water Damage – What Do I Do Now?

By Larry Dillon, Vice President of Haag Construction Consulting

Handling a water damage event is part of everyday life for seasoned property adjusters, but unfortunately, most property owners are completely lost when it comes to knowing the steps to take when unexpected water damage strikes. Water damage or a flood event can happen at the most inopportune of times, catching an unsuspecting property owner completely by surprise. 

I’m reminded of a couple I met many years ago, as a contractor, who had been out until the wee hours of the morning celebrating their fifteenth wedding anniversary. When they arrived home (at around 2:00 AM) they found every ceiling in their home collapsed as the result of a freeze-related pipe break in the ceiling. Without even turning the water off, they quickly closed the front door and left for a local hotel. The horrible sight of the steamy water cascading from every ceiling, wet sheetrock, and 12 inches of saturated insulation lying on top of everything they owned was far more than they could handle. The next morning, they quickly realized that leaving without so much as turning the water off was a BIG mistake! It most certainly made for an anniversary to remember!

Thankfully, most property owners are more responsible than this when disaster strikes, however, knowing the proper steps to take in the midst of an entirely unexpected disaster is not always so easy.

Most insurance policies require property owners to take necessary steps to mitigate further damage, for the simple reason that the longer you wait to begin the cleanup, the more extensive and expensive the damage becomes.

The longer something stays wet the more likely you will be to experience additional damage, including eventual mold problems.

Step One: Turn off the water source! Water damage will continue to worsen as long as the source is providing more moisture. There are many potential ways a property owner could encounter undesirable water-related problems, broken pipes, intrusion through faulty building envelopes, and leaky roofs to name a few. Putting a stop to more water is a critical first step no matter what the source.

Once the source has been addressed, a water removal and mitigation contractor can assist the property owner in cleaning up and drying out quickly. It is important to call for help from a company that can offer a meaningful response 24/7. Most property owners are not readily familiar with these specialized contractors. When a property owner is ankle deep in water, they don’t have time to search for a solution and then wait for a call back. A well prepared property adjuster should always maintain a list of reputable mitigation contractors who can offer a fast, dependable response. An industry-respected company with a strong BBB rating is a must.

The emergency response contractor will arrive on the scene and quickly remove all standing water and saturated building materials. He should test the floors, walls, and structure for moisture content. They may need to move or block up the furniture. A quick recovery will most likely include the use of drying equipment, and the contractor may need to chemically treat wetted areas. They will continuously monitor the project to keep the owner and adjuster fully informed throughout the emergency response and drying process. The right equipment is essential when it comes to completely drying the environment. This includes the complete drying of areas that are normally hidden from view, inside wall and ceiling cavities and other unseen areas. This is critical in preventing future problems related to the water event.

A construction consultant familiar with the process of recovering from the effects of water related damage can be invaluable to both the property owner and the adjuster. The consultant will monitor the contractor’s activities and ensure that the proper steps are being taken to mitigate further damages.

What do I do when water damage strikes? Don’t forget to STOP THE WATER, and then respond quickly and effectively – with the proper expertise and the right equipment.

 

Larry Dillon, P.E., Vice President of Haag Construction Consulting, 06/2016

Mr. Dillon's expertise includes property loss/construction consulting services, including but not limited to development of detailed cost analysis and documentation related to all aspects of commercial, institutional, and industrial insurance claims. He has decades of executive level experience providing service to the national property loss adjusting community. He is a licensed adjuster in Texas.  See his profile here.