Slightly flooded kitchen floor.

Home Water Damage: How To Prepare For And Repair It

Jamie Johnson8-minute read
August 25, 2022

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As a homeowner, there are few things more frustrating than water damage. Dealing with this problem can be time-consuming and expensive to fix, depending on your homeowners insurance policy.

In 2020, nearly 20% of all homeowners insurance claims came from water and ice damage. Of those claims, damages averaged $11,650 across the U.S. While the dollar amounts may be a burden, they also don’t account for the loss of irreplaceable heirlooms, antiques and other priceless items in your home.

In order to protect everything under your roof, let’s take a look at how you can identify and prevent water damage.

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How Bad Is Water Damage To A House?

Whether you’re dealing with a leaking washing machine, burst pipes, or a flooded basement, water damage is a serious problem for homeowners. Water spreads quickly, and it can damage your building structure, appliances, and anything else susceptible to water damage.

Even a small amount of water damage can cause mold to grow in your home. Mold can cause serious long-term health problems for anyone living in the house. If you have any water damage, mold can start to grow in your home within 24 to 48 hours, so it’s essential to act immediately.

Signs Of Water Damage

The best way to prevent water damage is to recognize the signs and take action right away. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to ignore water damage and let it continue to get worse. Here are the biggest signs of water damage you need to watch out for.

Pooling Water

If you notice water pooling in certain areas of your home, this could be a sign of water damage. If you clean up a puddle, check to see if it appears again – this could be a warning sign. For instance, if you notice that water keeps pooling underneath your refrigerator, this could indicate a leak.

Warped Or Discolored Spots

Water damage isn’t always plainly visible, it can also be under many surfaces in your home. Watch out for a bubbling or cracking ceiling, cracked or warped tiles and spots that are soft or discolored as these can all be indicators of unwanted water in your home.

Moldy Or Musty Smell

Mold is a particularly nasty byproduct of water damage. Not only can it lead to additional property damage, mold can also make you and your family very ill. If you notice a moldy, musty or mildewy smell, you’ll want to find the source and take care of it immediately.

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Things To Consider When Preparing To Address Water Damage

Once you notice signs of water damage, it’s important to take a moment to assess the situation. You may be tempted to try to fix the problem on your own, but it may be necessary to hire a professional. The way you address water damage in your home depends on the following factors.

Amount Of Water

If you notice a small to moderate amount of water in your home, you should be able to manage this on your own. However, if your basement completely floods and the amount of water is excessive, you’ll need to contact a professional.

For instance, if you live in an area recovering from a large flood or natural disaster, don’t try to repair the damage on your own. Leave this one to the professionals and follow instructions from local disaster relief authorities.

Source Of Water

Before you try to fix the water damage on your own, you need to figure out where it’s coming from. If you have a flooding issue in your home, there are three main types of water you’ll have to deal with: 

  • Clean water: Clean water usually comes from rain or leaky pipes, and it doesn’t have any harmful bacteria growing in it.
  • Gray water: Gray water comes from sources like dishwashers or washing machines and may be slightly contaminated.
  • Black water: Black water comes from sewers or flooding from a nearby body of water. This kind of water can harbor infectious organisms and health hazards and will need to be handled by a professional.

Clean water and gray water are safe to clean up on your own, assuming you take the necessary precautions and use safety gear. However, you’ll need to bring in a professional to deal with black water.

If you’re unsure about the type of water you’re dealing with, it’s best to play it safe and call in a professional.

Level Of Damage

Finally, you’ll need to consider the level of water damage you’re experiencing. Light water damage can usually be taken care of by the homeowner. But in some cases, the water damage will be too extensive to handle on your own.

For instance, if you’re dealing with flooding on one of the upper levels in your home, water can seep through the floor and damage the ceiling below. This creates a dangerous situation that is typically beyond the ability for the average homeowner to repair.

If the flooding is deep, you should consider the potential damage to your electrical and HVAC systems. If any electrical equipment is submerged in water, it’s most likely ruined. Furthermore, submerged electrical lines and outlets can be extremely dangerous as water is a strong conductor that could lead to electrocution.

In many situations the damage to your home may be beyond your ability to fix and you’ll want to contact a professional to repair them. If you’re looking for professional assistance, compare quotes from top-rated Water Damage Restoration Companies in your area with Home Advisor.

Fixing Water Damage: How To Clean Up In 5 Steps

If you have water damage in your home, the first step is to figure out whether you can manage the cleanup yourself or need a home water remediation service. If you’re wondering how to repair water damage, here are five steps you can take.

1. Prioritize Safety First

Anytime you’re dealing with water damage, safety should be your first priority. Start by turning off all water and electrical sources in your home. To turn off the electricity, you may need to have a licensed electrician remove your home’s electrical meter from its socket to ensure that all electricity has been disconnected.

If you’re going to be wading into the water, it’s a good idea to wear some sort of protective clothing to keep your skin from becoming irritated. The water may look clean, but you still can’t be sure it hasn’t been contaminated in some way.

2. Remove The Water

Next, it’s important to remove any pooled water from the damaged area of your home. If you’re dealing with a small amount of water, you may be able to use a wet vacuum to remove it. If you’ve experienced more significant flooding, you may need to rent a water pump to get the water out of your home.

If your basement is flooded, you shouldn’t remove all of the water at once. Instead, pump out about a third of the water per day. If you remove too much at once, the water in the ground surrounding your basement can cause the floors to buckle and the walls to collapse from the sudden pressure loss.

3. Dry Out The Space

Because mold can start to grow in as little as 24 hours, you want to dry out the area as quickly as possible. If the water damage is minimal, setting up fans can help. But if it’s more extensive, you may want to rent a large dehumidifier.

4. Disinfect The Damaged Area

Once your home is dried out, everything that came into contact with flood water will need to be disinfected. Any items that came into contact with sewage – particularly absorbent items like furniture, rugs and carpet – should be discarded since disinfecting them may not remove all harmful bacteria and parasites.

5. Figure Out What Can Be Salvaged

Once you’ve finished cleaning up the water damage, you need to determine which items in your home can be salvaged. If you’ve experienced a flood, you may find that many of your items won’t be salvageable.

Water can permanently damage certain items, so you may have to part with some of your valuables. You’ll also have to replace any damaged carpeting, drywall, and insulation.

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Preventing Future Water Damage: How To Protect Your Home In 6 Steps

1. Keep Your Gutters And Downspouts Clear

It’s a good idea to clean your gutters and downspouts at least once or twice a year to prevent water damage. If your gutters aren’t clear, it’s harder for them to move water off your roof and away from the foundation. Instead, the water can spill over the sides of the gutters and compromise your home’s foundation.

2. Regularly Clean Your Drains

It’s also important to regularly clean the drains under your sink so that wastewater doesn’t leak into your cabinets. And make sure to put a strainer in the kitchen sink to catch any food and debris you don’t want going down the drain.

3. Promptly Fix Any Minor Water Leaks

If you find a leak in your home, fix it right away to avoid any further water damage. If you put this off, the leak could worsen and result in more severe damage. Even if the leak doesn’t get worse, mold could start to grow if you don’t fix it.

4. Inspect Your Roof

Over time, your roof can become damaged, and the shingles can become cracked or fall off. It’s important to regularly inspect your roof to see if it needs to be repaired or replaced. However, climbing on the roof can be dangerous, so you may want to enlist a professional for this job.

5. Inspect Your Sump Pump

A sump pump is a device that’s used to remove any water that accumulates, and it’s usually found in the basement. You never want to wait until a storm to discover that your sump pump isn’t working. You’ll want to check the sump pump at least once a year and possibly more if you live in an area that experiences a lot of storms.

6. Monitor Your Water Bill For Spikes

You also want to keep an eye on your water bill to watch for any significant increases. If it suddenly goes up by a lot, this could indicate there’s a leak in your home.

The Bottom Line

Unfortunately, you may find that most of your stuff won’t be salvageable from flood damage. Water can permanently damage certain materials pretty easily, so you may have to part with the majority of personal items that were in the flooded or water-damaged area.

Some things may be able to be thoroughly dried out and cleaned. Soaked upholstered furniture may not be able to be restored, but you might be able to save wood furniture that hasn’t been sitting in the water for too long.

You may also need to remove any damaged carpeting, drywall, insulation, or other similar materials and replace them.

Ultimately, the level of damage will determine whether you need to hire a professional or not. Dealing with a substantial flood or water damage can be a scary and stressful time for a homeowner, and you may be bracing yourself for a blow to your finances.

Bringing in an expert can help mitigate a lot of uncertainty. However, if you’re able to do at least a little bit of the cleanup and restoration yourself, in conjunction with a professional, you may be able to save yourself some money.

If you don’t have the cash saved to deal with the damage, a good alternative to a high-interest personal loan could be a cash-out refinance, which will let you leverage the equity on your house to maintain or even increase its value when repairs are needed.

Why not start the process to get a cash-out refinance today?

Need extra cash for home improvement?

Use your home equity for a cash-out refinance.

NMLS #3030

Jamie Johnson

Jamie Johnson is a Kansas City-based freelance writer who writes about a variety of personal finance topics, including loans, building credit, and paying down debt. She currently writes for clients like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Insider, and Bankrate.