How can I tell if I have water damage?
While it may seem obvious, not all water damage takes the form of a big flood or a burst pipe shooting water out of the walls or ceiling. The most significant damages from water can often go undetected or seem harmless until it is too late to perform simple repairs. The most common signs are crinkling or bubbling of wallpaper or paint. You may also notice water marks (usually a slight grayish-brown discoloration) near a roof or walls where pipes may be located. Left untreated, the damage will only worsen every day as either mold forms or water slowly erodes the materials it touches. It is imperative to take action when you see signs of water damage by stopping the source of water flow and repairing any damages it has already caused.
When is water damage severe enough to hire someone or file a claim?
If you notice signs of water damage, you should always call a qualified professional to inspect your walls for damage and stop the leak. If the damage is minor enough that you can repair out of pocket (ie, a small patch of drywall), it may not be necessary to file an insurance claim. If you have experienced major damage that requires expensive repairs, document all the damage and call an certified public adjuster to make sure you are treated fairly during the claims process.
How can I tell if the water damage is harmful or if I should leave my house during repairs?
There are three classification levels of water damage; “clean water”, “grey water” and “black water” referring to the sources and possible toxicities of the water causing damage. Clean water usually refers to water from a source that does not pose a threat to humans, like broken sink pipes or water supply lines. Grey water is that which could contain traces of chemical, biological or physical contaminants that could cause discomfort or illness, often from sump pump failures or discharge from appliances like washing machines. Black water is unsanitary and full of very harmful bacteria or fungi and can cause severe illness, usually from sewage or standing flood water. If you experience clean water damage, you may not have many health concerns to worry about, but if you have contaminated water damage, call a professional immediately and seek medical attention if anyone was exposed and exhibits any symptoms of illness or discomfort.
How long should I wait before I file an insurance claim?
Each insurance policy is different, so read your policy to see what the limitations on water damages are for you. Some policies require you to report a loss or damage within a certain number of weeks or days from the damage occurring, and won’t accept claims filed after that period is up. Always know your policy and if you notice significant damage, document and call a professional to assess the situation as soon as possible.