Factors That Impact Water Damage Restoration Costs
"Home is where the heart is," conjures images of a snug dwelling full of love and contentment. A nest where one comes home at the end of a workday to enjoy a meal and relax. A place where little ones take their first step, where laughter rings out at a dinner party, where we sleep safe and dreaming. Surrounded by our precious collection of heirlooms and treasures, it’s easy to see how emotional attachment to home runs deep and sentimental, which is why it isn't easy to see it damaged by anything, let alone water. Water damage can turn a home into a money pit, a wreck, needing major water damage restoration. Did you know that one of the most common insurance claims in the United States is water damage restoration?
In fact, between 2014-2018 water damage restoration claims were the second most frequent claims after wind and hail. Often, you can't prevent water damage if you live in an area prone to frequent water incidents like floods and rain, but you can at least reduce the burden it puts on your budget. Having a home insurance policy that covers water damage restoration is one way of doing this. But since there are many types of home insurance policies out there, you need to find one that actually covers water damage restoration. Another important question is, are all types of water damage restoration covered by home insurance policies?
Water damage is 100% restorable but the homeowner has to follow a few steps to get the maximum benefit from their insurance claim. The process starts at emergency contact and moves on to inspection and damage assessment. After that, a team gets involved in water removal and drying or dehumidification of the area for the purpose of cleaning and sanitizing. Once these steps are complete, water damage restoration takes place. Depending on the type of damage, the costs may total up to $7,000 or more. This can be a great loss to any homeowner but thankfully, there are insurance plans that cover most of the water damage restoration.
Let's dive in and discover more about these policies and water damage restoration.
Types of Water Damage Covered by Home Insurance Providers
There are many types of homeowner insurance plans out there. It's good to contact your insurer and ask about everything related to water damage restoration coverage to avoid troubles later on. Some types of water damage covered by most home insurance providers are listed below.
1. Sewer Backup
When water is pushed into the home through sewer pipes, this is called sewer backup. It causes a lot of inconveniences (and embarrassment!) because it usually involves dirty water. It is therefore not only destructive but dangerous to your health. If the dirty water comes into contact with your upholstery, that will likely be the end of it. A sewer backup can cost you thousands of dollars in damage. Where does it come from?
A number of events can lead to a sewer backup. We will discuss these one-by-one in the lines to follow.
Old sewer system
Your sewers may simply require repair or replacement because they are old and no longer functioning.
Extensive tree roots can get into old pipes and sewer lines, leading to blockage of water. The blocked up water would then be redirected back into your house.
Blockage of city sewer main
When the city's main pipes are blocked, sewage from your home cannot flow into them. This could lead to water coming back up into your pipes as it cannot get through the city's main.
How the city system is constructed
If your city sewer system is connected to stormwater drainage, this could cause a problem during heavy rainstorms and floods. Flood water could overflow into the sewer system, displacing the sewage and pushing it back into the home, creating a mess if it is not caught soon enough, and requiring weeks or months of water damage restoration.
Blockage of the home sewer system by debris
Water pipes blocked by debris like tree roots, branches, and other rubbish could lead to sewer backups. Most homeowner policies do not automatically cover sewer backup damage even if they mention water damage restoration. The homeowner has to include it through an endorsement, which can cost $40 to $50.
2. Overflow and Discharge Water Damage Restoration
Overflow water damage occurs when water escapes, or overflows from pipes and appliances in your home, for instance, a bathtub. Discharge happens when appliances release water which then floods the home. A burst pipe is also a type of overflow, and this kind of accidental damage is usually covered in a standard home insurance policy. Note that the damage has to be sudden and accidental and not as a result of gradual wear and tear of pipes or appliances.
3. Flood Water Damage Restoration
This is usually a tricky one to assess when it comes to water damage restoration clauses in an insurance policy. Some types of flood damage are covered by insurance and others are not. Flood damage covered by insurance involves a situation where more than one home is affected. So according to insurance, it's a flood if the level of water outside your home is high enough to get into your house and cause damage. In this case, you would have a flood claim. If only your home is affected, even if it is truly flooded, you may not qualify for a flood claim. Again, the damage has to be sudden and accidental and not caused by a maintenance issue. Flood claims are not generally covered by home insurance policies. This, however, varies from state to state. So, it is advisable to check with your provider and see if this type of water damage restoration is included in your plan.
The above-mentioned types of water damage restoration projects are mostly covered by insurance policies. However, if you think the damage that occurred in your house is not among these, you may find it among other types of damages that are usually not covered by home insurance.
What Kind Of Water Damage Is Not Covered By Home Insurance?
This often depends on the type of policy you have, the source of the damage, and whether it was gradual or accidental. Gradual water damage is usually not covered, so if the damage to your house is not sudden, even if you are covered for water damage restoration, your claim could be denied. This is because the purpose of insurance is to compensate for sudden and unforeseen damage, and it is assumed that gradual damage is not unforeseen and could have been avoided, even if you truly did not know about it.
What is Gradual Damage?
This is damage that occurs slowly over a long period of time. It usually goes unnoticed for a long time because you won't even know the source of the damage. For this reason, by the time it gets noticed, the damage is extensive and the cost of repairs is enough to make a dent in your pocket.
Common examples of water damage in the home include:
Leaking faucets or pipes damaging the ceilings, walls, or floors
Water seeping into the house through cracks in the floor
Water leaking through the roof and soaking the tiles and ceiling
Molds on the walls or ceiling caused by water leakage
Wood rot due to water leakage
Deteriorating electrical wiring
Can Gradual Damage Be Covered In Special Cases?
This depends on the type of coverage, the wording of your policy, and any exclusions it may have. Get the help of an agent or an advisor to explain the nitty-gritty details to determine just what can and cannot be covered.
Exceptions to Gradual Water Damage Exclusions
Although insurance companies exclude gradual damage in their cover, some exceptions can be made in certain types of cases. Some of them include:
Mold Resulting From a Covered Water Damage: If water damage that was covered by insurance leads to mold formation, you could be covered for the resulting cost of mold remediation if you have comprehensive insurance. Of course, this still depends on the wording of your policy and the state. It could also be available by endorsement. A good professional would be able to advise you on how best to make the claim.
Water Damage Caused by Tree Falling on Roof: If additional damage occurs after initial damage that was covered by a claim and is not detected immediately, for example, continued leakage after repairs have been made to a destroyed roof, the insurance company may consent to cover the cost of that water damage restoration Vancouver.
Sudden Water Damage Caused By Gradual Wear And Tear: Sudden flooding caused by an old pipe or household appliance may be covered, although the repairs of the actual pipe or appliance may not be covered in water damage restoration. Just the damage caused by the slow wear and tear of water.
Resulting Damage: This refers to damage that occurs as a result of some other type of problem in your house. For example, a broken pipe may not be covered under your home insurance policy, but the damage caused by the pipe breaking may be covered. Thus, the cost of repairs related to the resulting water damage will be covered while the cost of repairing the pipe won't.
What if My Water Damage Restoration Claim is Denied?
Ensure that you ask for a full explanation. Find out what section of the policy excludes you from compensation and why your claim falls under that section.
The person who informs you about the denial also matters. Different people in the insurance supply chain have different roles. Go directly to the insurance company if you are dealing with a contractor. Ask for a second opinion from another professional or an advocacy organization familiar with insurance in your state to find out if you can pursue a claim further.
Find out if you could have done something to ensure that you were covered, for instance, buying additional coverage for that type of event. If it was not available, find out if other companies offer it, and consider changing your company in case of future events.
How to Avoid Having a Water Damage Restoration Claim Denied?
Keep records of all repairs you do in your home, including the contacts of water damage restoration service professionals you hire. In the event of a claim being disputed due to failure to finish repairs, you can present this as evidence. Perform regular checks and maintenance of your home to detect potential sources of water damage and avoid accidents.
Understand all the aspects of your policy so you can know from the start what your responsibilities are, what is not covered, and if you need to purchase additional insurance.
Increasing My Chances of Getting a Claim Approved: Having your home covered for water damage restoration is not enough. You also need to know what to do so as to get your claim approved. At times the damage we encounter qualifies for coverage, but how we go about dealing with it may get our claim denied. Here are some things you can do to increase your chances of getting your claim approved.
Minimize the Damage As Much As Possible: As soon as water damage occurs, do everything possible to limit its spread and minimize the damage caused. If you have plumbing leakage, turn off the water supply to the house. If your windows broke due to strong winds, board them up. If your roof is leaking, find something to prevent further entry of water. This will show your insurer that you did everything you could to control the situation and reduce damage. However, avoid initiating major repairs before your claim is approved because your insurer may decline to cover the cost of previously finished repairs.
Finally, do not throw away damaged items yet. Keep them as tangible proof of damage. The insurance company will most likely decline to pay for items that were discarded before they could ascertain the damage for themselves.
Keep a Record: Take photos of all areas damaged by the water, including photos of whatever led to the damage. For instance, a fallen tree lying on the roof of the house, a damaged part of an appliance, burst pipes, etc. If possible, take videos as well, taking care not to endanger your life. Videos are even more convincing than photos as they give context to the situation. You can even describe what's happening as you take the video.
Additionally, make a list of all damaged items, including their value and estimated cost of repair and replacement. You can enlist the help of a professional if you're not sure about these. Most importantly, make sure you retain any receipts if you are forced to purchase items to be utilized for quick repairs. Note, however, that cost of replacement is different from the market value. The company only pays for the estimated cost of repairs minus the decrease in value due to age or wear and tear.
Contact your Insurance Provider: Do this as soon as possible. Find out exactly what you need to do to file your claim, and ask them to send you any forms you may need to fill. Have all your details ready to give, like your policy number. If this process proves too complicated for you, get help from an experienced professional.
Get your Facts Right: Depending on your policy, the water damage your home experiences could fall into different categories or clauses. Find out which specific clause covers the damage to ensure you make the right claim and avoid wasting time.
Hire a Public Adjuster: Your insurer usually sends a water claim adjuster to assess the damage to your property. However, you can also hire your own public adjuster, as they will not give a biased report favoring the company.
Do Not Use Insurance Company Vendors: The insurance company usually has 15 days to decide whether to accept your claim or not, and another 5 days to pay you. During this time, they may try to convince you to use their team of restorers. Avoid using them, as their aim will be chiefly to minimize costs as much as possible so that the insurance company pays less.
This may compromise on the quality of work done, leading to future repairs that you will have to pay for yourself. Have a trusted, unbiased professional to do your repairs well. It is also important to ensure payments for repair works are made to you and not to the contractor. This will give you more control over the quality of the work done.
We have seen what types of water damage are covered and those that are not and what we need to do when our property gets damaged by water. How do we go about making a water damage claim?
Filing a Water Damage Restoration Insurance Claim
As soon as you have done everything to ascertain your damage and secure your property, write to your insurance company to officially claim for damage. Provide detailed information and give the necessary evidence. Remember to keep a record of all your communication with the company including people you speak to, dates and times, and the subject matter of your conversations.
One or two days after you have filed your water damage restoration claim, the company will contact you to inform you of what you need to do. Within 15 days, they should start investigating your claim.
For their investigations, the company will send an adjuster to assess the damage. You can also hire a public licensed adjuster to assist with the investigations and ensure that the cost of the damage is not understated. Your adjuster would also be in a better position to negotiate with the company and ensure the process ends well for you. Of course, this is an additional cost, but as it increases your chances of having your claim accepted and being well compensated, it is worth your while. Make sure you are available when the adjuster comes calling so you can answer all the necessary questions.
After this, the company has another 15 days to decide whether or not they will accept your claim. They will inform you in writing if your claim is accepted, and will give you an estimate which may or may not change later. The company will then pay you within 5 business days. In case of a rejection, they will explain to you in writing the reasons why your water damage restoration claim was rejected.
If you have an actual cash value coverage, your insurer will only compensate you for the cost of rebuilding or making replacements. You will receive payment for estimated repair costs minus depreciation (loss of value over time). You will still have to pay for some repairs out of your own pocket, but the reimbursement will cushion you. Note that you will only be paid for the same quality of property that you lost, and if you want to upgrade you will have to cover the cost yourself.
If you have a replacement cost policy, the company will pay for the rebuilding or repair of your home based on current costs. You will be paid for the estimated cost of repairs minus depreciation and the amount you are responsible for paying. Once the restoration is complete, the company will pay for the finished work. Note that you have to finish repairs within a certain amount of time from the date of the damage.
Costs of Water Damage Restoration and Repair
The costs of water damage restoration and repair depending on where the damage occurs, the size of the damaged area, and the materials you will need to replace or restore. They can be roughly categorized into three:
Cost of removing the water and cleaning the property
Building and structural repair costs
Furniture, appliance and equipment replacement costs
Secondary factors that will affect your repair costs include:
Area of residence
Extent of damage
Sources of water damage
Amount of water to be removed
Cost of labor in your area
Cost of materials in your area
Type of materials needed for repairs and replacements; in some cases, you may need to replace damaged material with a completely different type of material.
Sources of Water Damage
Blackwater damage - This is the worst kind of damage. It consists of water from a contaminated source like a sewer. In addition to soaking your house, it also contaminates it with harmful bacteria which could lead to disease if not properly dealt with. Cleanup not only involves removing the water but also disinfecting the affected area. This water also comes with a bad odor, so it has to be thoroughly done to avoid having a leftover smell even after the water is gone. This kind of work could cost roughly $7 a square foot.
Greywater damage - This happens when an appliance like a washing machine breaks down and spills water containing soap and other chemicals. Cleaning up will thus involve the removal of the water and the chemicals as well. This could cost about $4.50 for every square foot.
Clean water damage - This happens when rain or pipe water floods the area. Since the water is neither contaminated nor filled with chemicals, this is the easiest type of water damage to deal with. It roughly costs $3.73 per square foot.
The Type of Water Damage
This refers to what type of property has been damaged. Drywall replacement is the cheapest, costing about $1500. Hardwood floors are quite valuable, and replacing them could cost about $4000 or more. Vinyl floor replacements are cheaper than hardwood, with the cost ranging from $400 to $1000. On average, carpets cost about $980 to $1680.
The extent of Damage: The extent of the area covered by water will also determine the cost of repairs. A small area, say of 150 square feet would cost $500.
Location of Damage: The location of water damage also matters. The harder it is to access, the more costly it will be. For example, a flooded basement would cost $6000 or more if flooded with black water.
Amount of Water: The higher the amount of water requiring removal, the higher the cost will be. Removal and drying out of a few inches of water would cost about $1000, while two feet would cost $2500 and above.
Action taken immediately after water damage can significantly reduce the subsequent repair and replacement costs. Here are some steps you can take to mitigate the effects of the damage:
Prevent water from coming in by turning off any open faucets and switching off the main source of water. Block as many entry points for floodwaters as you can.
Ventilate the house as much as possible to reduce humidity and prevent the growth of molds. Open all cupboards, cabinets, and drawers to prevent them from getting damp.
Turn off the electricity supply until all the water has stopped coming in to avoid an electric fire.
Clean and remove debris.
As mentioned earlier, be careful not to destroy or remove any evidence that could be of use to making your insurance claim.
As you assess the damage, make sure you go over your entire property so as not to miss damage that is covered by your policy. If this happens you would have to cover the costs of repairs yourself. Check other components of your house such as ventilation systems, electrical and heating appliances, and plumbing.
In the event of severe water damage caused by flooding, your house may be too risky to continue living in. Rotting structures could fall on you, short circuits could occur leading to fire, and damp walls could lead to the formation of life-threatening molds. In such a case you would need to look for alternative housing until your house is safe enough for reoccupation. Some home insurance policies cover the cost of alternative housing in such cases. Find out if you are covered for this and make a claim for it to save on that expense.
Hiring a Specialist for Water Damage Restoration and Repairs
If the extent of damage is extensive, you may have to hire specialists from the best water damage restoration company to reconstruct your home. Some examples include:
Post-disaster engineers and architects
Mold- removal specialists
Salvage and debris removal specialists
Specialists on Preventing Water Damage and Early Detection
How to Prevent Water Damage
While it is good to have home insurance in case of water damage, it is even better to take measures to prevent it from occurring or reduce the damage to your home. Some ways you can do this include:
Installing automatic switch-off valves
Installing water leakage detectors
Installing water alarms in less-frequented areas of the house like basements to detect water seepage and flooding
Installing dehumidifiers to remove excess humidity from the air in basements
Routine checks around the house to identify cracks and other weak areas
Regularly upgrading appliances and/or frequently servicing older appliances to repair or replace worn out parts
Conduct an annual roof inspection to check for missing shingles
Inspecting the roof after every heavy storm to check for possible significant damage
Regularly check pipes for corrosion and seal or replace them if necessary
At all costs, every homeowner must ensure that these steps are taken in order to prevent water damage. Any type of damage could prove to be a setback and affect your daily routine, and/or the property value of your home and your precious belongings in it. It is therefore important to be knowledgeable about any type of damage that might occur and be prepared to rectify it to prevent further loss of property and belongings.
In conclusion, having a home insurance policy that covers water damage is essential, even if you don't live in a flood-prone area. And it becomes even more important if you live in an area where flooding is commonplace. Before buying insurance, find out if it covers you for relevant risks to your home and area and inquires about extra coverage you may need to purchase. It helps, in the long run, to calculate all these costs beforehand and also be aware of the restoration costs you might need to pay yourself in case you are not covered by any insurance plan. There are specialists out there who can come to your rescue if the damage is severe. In any case, you must be aware of all the sources of water damage and take some precautionary measures to prevent it. But when you have found out that water damage has occurred, the first step is to have your property inspected thoroughly in order to sanitize it and make it liveable once again.