Flood vs. Water Damage

Many people who experience a water loss never know what’s covered until it’s too late.  Many are completely unaware that water damage losses are completely different than flood losses. There basically are two insurance policies that deal with a homeowner’s damage due to water — a flood insurance policy and a homeowners insurance policy. Losses not covered by one of these policies may be covered by the other. Knowing the losses to which your home could be exposed will help you decide whether to buy one or both of these insurance coverage.

While insurance policies may differ in the coverage provided from homeowner to homeowner, there often are basic features common to all policies. You should ask your insurance agent or insurance company about the specifics of your insurance policy.

FLOOD INSURANCE

As the name implies, a standard flood insurance policy, which is written by the National Flood Insurance Program, provides coverage up to the policy limit for damage caused by flood. The dictionary defines “flood” as a rising and overflowing of a body of water onto normally dry land. For insurance purposes, the word “rising” in this definition is the key to distinguishing flood damage from water damage. Generally, damage caused by water that has been on the ground at some point before damaging your home is considered to be flood damage. A handful of examples of flood damage include:

  • A nearby river overflows its banks and washes into your home.
  • A heavy rain seeps into your basement because the soil can’t absorb the water quickly enough
  • A heavy rain or flash flood causes the hill behind your house to collapse into a mud slide that oozes into your home.

Flood damage to your home can be insured only with a flood insurance policy — no other insurance will cover flood damage. Flood insurance is available through your insurance agent, insurance company or local Federal Emergency Management Office (FEMA). To determine if your home is located in a flood plain, contact your county planning office. If you are living in a flood plain, flood insurance may be an excellent purchase.

HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE

A homeowners insurance policy doesn’t provide coverage for flood damage, but it does provide coverage for many types of water damage to your home. Just the opposite from flood damage, for insurance purposes, water damage is considered to occur when water damages your home before the water comes in contact with the ground. A few examples of water damage include:

  • A hailstorm smashes your window, permitting hail and rain free access into your home.
  • A heavy rain soaks through the roof, allowing water to drip through your attic or ceiling.
  • A broken water pipe spews water into your home.

Even if flood or water damage is not covered by your homeowners insurance policy, losses from theft, fire or explosion resulting from water damage is covered. For example, if a nearby creek overflows and floods your home, and looters steal some of your furnishings after you evacuate, the theft would be covered by your homeowners insurance because it is a direct result of the water damage. However, the flood damage would be covered only if you have flood insurance.

It’s important to note that flood insurance and homeowners insurance do not duplicate coverage for water damage. Instead, they complement each other.  It is up to you to talk to your insurance agent or insurance company about flood insurance and homeowners insurance, and then decide which insurance coverage you need to protect your home, its contents and your family.

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Mold Solutions & Inspections, LLC.  1650 Market Street, Suite 3600, Philadelphia Pa. 19103

When Water Restoration Companies Cheat

When Water Restoration Companies Cheat

On a recent inspection to a home in Broomall Pennsylvania, I was asked to look at a property that had a major water loss. The restoration was done by a franchise competitor of ours, but the owners had concerns which weren’t answered by the company their insurance adjuster urged them to use. Water Damage Restoration is the process of restoring a property back to pre-loss condition after sustaining any level of water damage. This requires removal of materials or items which are beyond restoring and “drying out” others including the structure. In this case, the restorative company came in and within hours were finished by basically just setting up a considerable amount of equipment for 5 days. Remember, every company, including us at Mold Solutions & Inspections, get paid for each piece of equipment on a daily basis. So the larger the area of loss, the more equipment will be needed, and hence more charges. But in this case, the picture (which shows a non-probing moisture meter) in close proximity to the loss, the restoration company clearly didn’t do their job. The meter shows the highest level possible behind the plaster and the concerns of the home owner were warranted. You must be sure that when you hire a disaster restoration company, that they follow through with all of their responsibilities, and also know you can hire whichever contractor you desire and the insurance company can not do a thing. This claim was luckily reopened and we performed the restoration properly and the structure was completely dried when we were finished. visit our website at biowashing.com for more information.

Ways To Prevent A Sewer Back Up

While floods are probably best known for causing extensive water damage to homes and businesses, they can also cause sewage from sanitary sewer lines to back up into houses through drain pipes. These backups not only cause damage that is difficult and expensive to repair, but also create health hazards.  Avoiding such losses can be as easy as following a few steps listed below: 

  • Dispose of Grease Properly: Cooking oil should be poured into a heat-resistant container and disposed of properly, after it cools off, not in the drain. Washing grease down the drain with hot water can cause significant problems. As the grease cools off, it will solidify either in the drain, the property owner’s line, or in the main sewer causing the line to constrict and eventually clog.
  • Dispose of Paper Products Properly: Paper towels, disposable (and cloth) diapers, and feminine products can cause many problems in the property owner’s lateral as well as in the city main because they do not deteriorate quickly, as bathroom tissue does.
  • Replace your line with new plastic pipe: One way to prevent tree roots from entering your line is to replace your line and tap with new plastic pipe. If you still have problems with tree roots growing in your lateral, you may have to have roots cut periodically.
  • Illegal Plumbing Connections: Do not connect French drains, sump pumps and other flood control systems to your sanitary sewer. It is illegal, and debris and silt will clog your line. Consult a plumber to correct any illegal connections.
  • Install a Backwater Prevention Valve: A backwater valve is a fixture installed into a sewer line, and sometimes into a drain line, in the basement of your home or business to prevent sewer backflows. A properly installed and maintained backwater valve allows sewage to go out, but not to come back in. Property owners are responsible for the installation and maintenance of backwater valves. The cost to install one depends on the type of plumbing in your home or business and the difficulty of installation. Check with a qualified plumber.

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Damage Snow Can Cause

Damage Snow Can Cause

This photo shows the interior of a second floor bedroom where a downspout is completely frozen and the roof is holding a significant amount of snow and ice.

Buckled Floors

Buckled Floors

What does hardwood floors look like after a water loss? It is a question we get quite often, so here’s a picture of a water loss on the second floor of a home which destroyed most of the flooring. The hardwood in this photo is beyond any sanding and had to be removed.

Preventing A Snow Caused Roof Collapse

How much snow is too much for your roof to handle?  Here’s a guidance of understanding what it may hold and some tips on what to do if you are in the danger zone.

  • Melting snow tends to more quickly run off of steep sloped roofs with slopes greater than 3 in. of slope in 12 in. of horizontal distance, particularly the steeper ones that are typically found on houses in northern climates.
  • Ice and snow tend to more readily accumulate on low slope and flat roofs over porches, lanais or parts of a home that are next to a taller section of the house, especially during high winds.

 

Estimate how much weight your roof can support

 

  • Unless the roof structure is damaged or decayed, most residential roofs regardless of the location of the house should be able to support 20 lbs per square foot of snow before they become stressed.
  • In some areas of New England and in mountainous areas throughout the United States, snow loads used in home design may be considerably higher and the roofs may be able to resist a greater depth of snow.
  • If you live in an area known for lots of snow, you can probably check with your building department to find out if higher loads were used at the time your home was built.

 

Estimate how much the snow on your roof weighs using these guidelines from IBHS:

 

Fresh snow: 10-12 in. of new snow is equal to one in. of water, or about 5 lbs per square foot of roof space, so you could have up to 4 ft. of new snow before the roof will become stressed.

 

Packed snow: 3-5 in. of old snow is equal to one inch of water, or about 5 lbs per square foot of roof space, so anything more than 2 ft. of old snow could be too much for your roof to handle.

 

Total accumulated weight: two ft. of old snow and two ft. of new snow could weigh as much as 60 lbs per square foot of roof space, which is beyond the typical snow load capacity of most roofs.

 

Ice: one in. of ice equals one ft. of fresh snow.

 

Snow removal may be necessary to avoid roof collapse

 

If you are in the “danger zone” according to chart above or if the loads you estimate based on the thickness of the various types of snow and ice exceed 20-25 psf, you should consider removing snow from your roof.

 

For safe removal that won’t endanger you or damage your roof, use a snow rake with a long extension arm that will allow you to remove the snow while standing on the ground or hire a snow removal contractor.

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Mold & Landlords

Even if your state or city doesn’t have specific mold laws, your landlord may still be liable for a mold problem in your rental. Here’s an overview of the issues. To learn more about the landlord’s duty to repair, see the Nolo section Repairs and Maintenance, which includes articles on getting your landlord to make repairs, and your options such as rent withholding, under state law.

Mold Caused by a Landlord’s Failure to Fix Leaks

 Landlords in all states but Arkansas are responsible for maintaining fit and habitable housing and repairing rental property, and this extends to fixing leaking pipes, windows, and roofs — the causes of most mold. If the landlord doesn’t take care of leaks and mold grows as a result, you may be able to hold the landlord responsible if you can convince a judge or jury that the mold has caused a health problem.

Mold Caused by Tenant Behavior

 The liability picture changes when mold grows as the result of your own behavior, such as keeping the apartment tightly shut, creating high humidity, or failing to maintain necessary cleanliness. When a tenant’s own negligence is the sole cause of injury, the landlord is not liable.

Mold Clauses in Leases

Some landlords include clauses in the lease that purport to relieve them from any liability resulting from mold growth. At least one court (in Tennessee) has refused to enforce such a clause, ruling that to do so would be against public policy. More cases from other parts of the country are sure to arise as mold litigation makes its way through the courts.

A smart landlord will try to prevent the conditions that lead to the growth of mold — and tenants should be the landlord’s partner in this effort. This approach requires maintaining the structural integrity of the property (the roof, plumbing, and windows), which is the landlord’s job. You can help by preventing mold problems in your home in the first place and promptly reporting problems that need the landlord’s attention.

Remember to check your local laws in regards to your rights and possible legal actions when it comes to mold in a rental unit.  But also be mindful of the things that you, as a renter, have to do in the maintenance of the property as well.  If you’re looking into a rental home, you can request or hire your own mold inspector to check the property prior to signing any long term lease.  For more information, visit our website at http://biowashing.com

    Even though we’re still in the midst of a brutal winter, preparing yourself for spring maintenance is essential.  This winter has most likely caused some damage to your home, and below is a checklist of some of the items you should be doing.  Remember to always to be safe and consult a contractor for some of these issues.

  • Inspect your roof. Whether you have shingles, tin or even concrete tiles, your roof is your home’s first line of defense against water damage. Now is the time to inspect and repair any water damage. If you delay, you could find yourself facing water damage inside your home, too.
  • Clean your gutters. Gutters direct rain away from your roof and home, protecting both in the process. Clogged gutters, meanwhile, open your home to water damage—and there’s a good chance you won’t notice the damage until you need an expensive repair.
  • Clean or replace your HVAC filters. You need to do this more often than once a year. A dirty filter forces your HVAC system to work harder, which in turn drains your wallet. It could also shorten the life of your blower motor.
  • Clean your dryer vent. Not all lint is caught in the lint trap; some makes its way into the dryer vent. A clear vent will save you money by reducing the time your dryer has to run. A plugged vent not only wastes money, but could also cause a house fire.
  • Check the washing machine fill hose. Look for cracks that could become leaks. A leaky hose under pressure can cause major damage in a short period of time.
  • Clean and repair your screens. Trying to reduce your electric bills this summer? In many parts of the country, you can keep your house cool (at least at night) by opening windows. Gently scrub on a flat surface with soapy water. Also, patch small holes, as needed.
  • Clean decks, driveways, fences and other outside surfaces. A pressure washer makes the work much easier. If you don’t have one, borrow one from a neighbor or rent one from a home center. While you’re cleaning, inspect for damage that needs mending.
  • Fix cracks in your walks, driveway and the outside of your home. Unlike the human body, cracks in asphalt, concrete or stucco don’t heal themselves. Fortunately, most of these repairs are fairly easy if done immediately.
  • Repair any cracked or peeling paint. A good paint job makes your home look nice, while providing a protective barrier from the elements. Touch-up painting is easy to do and inexpensive.
  • Vacuum your refrigerator coils. The coils you’ll find on the bottom or back of your refrigerator conduct the hot air from inside the unit. If they’re coated with dust, they do the job less efficiently and cause your fridge to work harder. That means a higher electric bill for you. Use a vacuum cleaner hose or a brush to clean the coils.
  • Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors. You never know when you’ll need them. Sometimes, it’s a matter of life or death, so take the time to change the batteries now.
  • Prepare your lawn mower for summer. Change the engine oil and sharpen the cutting blade. You’ll lengthen the life of the mower and improve the look of your lawn.
  • Check seals around windows and doors. Winter weather can crack and harden caulk and other weather seals. Inspect them now and repair and replace as needed. You’ll reduce your air-conditioning bill and could prevent water from entering your home and causing damage.
  • Clear vegetation around your AC compressor. To work efficiently, the compressor needs good airflow. Prune any plant growth that could block it.
  • Drain your water heater. Sediment builds up in your water heater tank. Use the spigot near the bottom of the heater to drain it. By doing so, you’ll prolong its life and reduce your electric bill.

You can visit our website at http://biowashing.com