What You Need to Know about Water Damage: the Basics

Water damage is one of those awful things that only property owners have to care about. It’s one of the few ways in which it’s better to be a renter: when a pipe bursts and spills gallons all over the hardwood floor, you can call the property manager and make it their problem. When you own the place, however, the property manager is you. These facts should get you up to speed on the basics of water damage.


There are different categories of water

Not all water leaks are created equal.

  • Category One is safe water, free of bacterial contamination. It’s clear or nearly clear, and comes from human safe lines. Fridges, dishwashers, and indoor plumbing pipes (other than sewage lines) typically contain category one water.
  • Category Two is somewhat unsafe water. Bacteria contamination is a certainty, but not extensive. An overflowing toilet could be category two. Safety gear is required for cleanup.
  • Category Three is very unsafe water. Backed up sewage is the most common reason, but thick mold or water that’s been sitting long enough for bacteria to grow and multiply would also be a cause for this extremely dangerous and contaminated water.

Damage only gets worse with time

The longer water is left to sit, the more severe your damage will be. Leaving damp or standing water invites the growth of bacteria and mold. Water saturated building materials will be weakened and structural damage may occur. As soon as you know water damage is occurring, take steps to stop it and bring in a restoration team ASAP.

Water damage insurance and flood insurance can be different

Some insurance policies only cover some types of water damage. A standard homeowner’s insurance policy could cover burst pipes or a broken appliance, but may not cover a flood scenario. Flood insurance, on the other hand, would only cover water damage that occurred because water outside the house got into it. This means rain, ground water, or flooded ponds and lakes—not a faulty washing machine or overflowing sink.

Be sure to keep on top of the terms of your insurance. Some policies will force you to take a penalty or even deny your claim if you didn’t get preventative maintenance done on your pipes or appliances on a reasonable schedule.

Your insurance company may have specific demands for the estimate

Insurance companies don’t want to pay out. Contact your insurance company ASAP when you notice a leak. They may have specific requirements for the estimate process. Before you bring in restoration teams to offer bids, you should know roughly how much insurance will pay for and what formalities they require for approving estimates.

You don’t have to use your insurance recommended restoration company

Your insurance company will recommend a restoration team in your area, but you don’t have to work with that team. It should not affect your odds of getting your claim approved. You should solicit estimates from 2-3 companies; you may find a better deal than your insurance company offers.

There’s a lot of complexity to water damage, but the basics are simple. This working knowledge should be enough to understand that water damage is a serious situation no matter how minor the leak.


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