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Water Damage Basics


Water damage is an umbrella term for a wide range of damage to wood, steel, laminate, plywood, etc. Your insurance may or may not cover water damage, so it's best to check your policy before hiring a contractor to come assess the damage. The key part in your insurance coverage should be 'Sewer and Drain Coverage'. If you don't see this term or addendum you may have to pay for restoration out of pocket.

There are two key distinctions for water damage. If it was caused by bad weather it's considered flood damage, and is usually not covered by the normal homeowners insurance. If this is a major concern for your geographic location you should look into a separate flood insurance policy. The second, and most common form of water damage is generally caused by broken pipes, dishwasher or washing machine hoses and overflows, moisture behind the walls, etc. If you have a minor leak in any of these cases it can cause severe long term damage if it has gone unnoticed.

Dry rot is one of the most common forms of long term leaks, and is defined as wood decay caused by a certain species of fungi that digests parts of the wood. If the wood in your house is exposed to repeated moisture this can be a huge problem. Catching it early enough may allow you the option of dehumidify the wood to see if it's still structurally sound. Otherwise, you will have to replace the damaged piece. If you notice repeated wet spots in your ceiling or walls it's best to check it out immediately. Cutting a hole in the drywall to plug a possible leak is a drastically cheaper solution than having to replace load bearing timber.

There are three main categories of water causing damage.

  • Category 1 Water: This is generally referred to as 'clean water' or water that poses no threat to humans. This is fairly common in households, and stems from your normal water lines to washing machines, faucets, etc.
  • Category 2 Water: This may contain varying degrees of contaminants, and may cause harm when consumed. Referred to as grey water, it can carry harmful micro organisms, and usually stems from the failure of a sump pump.
  • Category 3 Water: This contains extremely harmful bacteria or fungi, and is considered completely unsanitary. Referred to as black water, it can stem from sewage backup or grey water left to stagnant.
  • You can generally classify your water damage into one of these three categories. Obviously, the cost associated with restoring your damaged area is going to vary widely depending on the area afflicted, and more importantly the water category.

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