In the United States, water damage is the second most filed insurance claim, accounting for more than $5 billion in reported losses each year.
However, don't let that $5 billion number fool you, as the total cost of water damage is likely much higher on an annual basis, since many water damage situations aren't covered by insurance.
Water damage may result from a number of things: A strong rain may cause your basement to flood. A leaky roof can lead to water damage within a wall cavity. A frozen pipe can turn into a busted one, spraying water everywhere.
Some water damage may also be hidden, like in the case of a leaky fixture. While many homeowners are likely to experience some sort of water damage situation at some point in their lifetime, many don't know what to do when it occurs.
Attempting to remedy the situation via DIY methods or just letting the water dry on its own can often further complicate the matter. With that being said, here's a look at what to do if you've experienced a water damage situation.
Call a professional.
The first step you should take when water damage is detected is to call your insurance agent or trusted restoration contractor. Either route ensures that a professional restoration contractor will be on the scene to quickly address your situation and begin cleanup efforts.
The sooner a professional arrives on the scene, the better when it comes to water damage. That's because not only can standing water be unsafe from a structural and health perspective, but if water or moisture is left to sit, it will almost surely lead to mold growth—and mold growth is an entirely different threat to the structural well-being of your home and the health of its occupants.
Help if you can.
If it's safe for you to do so (and if you're able to do so), turn off the source of the water and also the water main. Also consider turning off electricity at the main electrical panel, if possible.
If you're able, remove valuable items that are near the standing water to safe locations; however, it's important to stay away from—and out of—the standing water. That's because the water could be very contaminated and cause health issues.
The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) defines flood water in three categories: Category 1 water is mostly clean water, Category 2 water is possibly contaminated water, and Category 3 water is highly contaminated water. The higher the category number, the more bleak your situation.
Cooperate with the professionals.
While it's never enjoyable to experience water damage, being uncooperative or terse with the restoration professionals who are working on restoring your property only makes things worse.
Be sure to work with the restoration professionals: talk to them about any valuables damaged in the water, any hazards they may have to face, and any other information that will help them do their jobs.
Remember, restoration professionals are the experts. Cooperating with them only helps the process go much smoother, and possibly even faster.
While removing water and repairing any damage via DIY methods may seem tempting, the lack of know-how and training when it comes to these situations could possibly make matters even worse, or lead to mold growth. That's why it's always best to leave water damage to the professionals who follow and who have been trained on the IICRC S500 Standard for Professional Water Damage Restoration.
Doing so could save you a lot of time—and money—in the long run.
Bill Robinson has years of experience dealing with water damage as the Commercial Solutions VP of Operations. DKI is a nationwide residential and commercial disaster restoration contractor that specializes in water and fire/smoke damage, mold remediation, and contents packout/cleaning.