The Backup Differences

Storm Water Backing Up

In many older houses with basements (mostly pre-1980), there is a perimeter foundation drain outside the exterior wall, at the level of the basement floor, next to the footings at the time the house was built. A pipe was usually installed from the perimeter foundation drain to the street where it was connected to the city storm sewer system.

This can become a problem as the city storm sewer system becomes too small when more development causes more rain runoff. When this happens, the rainwater in the sewer system can get so high that water flows backwards toward the house.

Usually, the installation of an interior perimeter basement drain system connected to a sump pump will take care of the problem. If it doesn’t, the (more expensive) alternative is to dig up and cap the pipe that is running from the house to the street from the perimeter foundation drain. However, this is not always possible; many times, this pipe is also draining sanitary waste from toilets and sinks in the house.

Sewer Water Back Up

If the water is coming up through floor drains or sink drains in the basement, then the problem is often water backing up from the municipal sanitary sewer system. During heavy rains, combined sewer systems can become overwhelmed with water. This can cause sewer water to back up in the system and sometimes into homes.

There are other possible explanations, too. Sewer backups can be caused by individual service lines being plugged by grease, waste, tree roots, breaks in pipes or saturated ground. Sewer mains can also be plugged by vandalism or large items dropped down manholes. This kind of flooding is an enormous problem for homeowners, as it’s largely out of your control and probably means fecal waste backing up into basements. Not only is it disgusting, but it can also be a serious health hazard.

In order to keep your individual lines clear, you can install backflow preventers that help stop sewer water from flowing backward into the house. Proper maintenance of your individual lines – for example, pouring tree root killer down your toilets once a year – can also go a long way in preventing sewage backups. Still, the problem is often out of your control. Sewage in your basement means a major cleanup and a lot of uncertainty about future problems. If it’s something you’ve seen in your home, you’ll have to get your city government involved. At the very least, be aware of the problem and don’t leave anything valuable near your downstairs drains.

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Checking For Water Damage

Your home protects you from the elements, but heavy rains can weaken that protection. With a little maintenance and a lot of vigilance, it’s not hard to stay safe and dry.

Spring rainstorms are a fact of life in many areas of the country, and they help keep things green, even if they keep you inside. But when they get heavy, it’s time to start thinking about the potential impact all that water has on your home. The first step is finding and fixing any immediate problems as soon as it’s safe to do so. Then, you’ll want to take measures to prevent those problems from happening during the next downpour!

Where is all that rain going?
Your roof and gutters form a key line of defense for your home – and in a storm, they’re vulnerable, because so many things can damage them. Trees, hail, and other objects can create weaknesses that might lead to leaks in your roof, so check for missing shingles and other issues. And keep your gutters clear so all that water drains properly.

Are you checking everywhere?
Water dripping from the ceiling is hard to miss. Water in your crawl space, however, can easily go undetected because hardly anyone ever checks there. Don’t forget to look down there after a storm (or have a professional do it) to make sure everything is nice and dry. If you do see moisture, you’ll want to get it out with a sump pump as soon as possible.

And don’t just look up – another place to check is your home’s exterior, whether it’s siding, brick, or another material. Weak spots can be hard to see, so look at various times of the day in different lighting conditions.

Of course, you’ll want to make sure your doors and windows are properly sealed to keep the elements out, too.

What about around your property?
Storm water has to go somewhere, and if your property doesn’t drain well, or if runoff goes toward your foundation, you could have problems. So watch for patterns, and grade property so it drains away from your home if possible. Always be wary of hillsides and tilting trees after heavy storms, because the land might not be stable.

And don’t forget to keep storm drains clear of leaves and other debris. This can prevent flooding both on the streets and your own property.

What should you do during the storm?
During powerful storms, stay inside. This is not the time to check your roof, your exterior, or your property unless there’s an emergency and you know it’s safe to go out. Monitor your interior, making sure no water is getting in. If it is, do what you can to alleviate the situation in the moment, even if it means just placing something under a leak to collect the water. For more serious problems, though, remember that safety is the most important thing. If your basement is flooding, for example, don’t go down there – you could be trapped and even drown.

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What Can Happen

Ignoring the importance of regular maintenance to your gutters and roof could eventually lead to several thousand dollars worth of interior damage.  This damage could result in mold growth, and structural issues within the home.  As seen in the pictures below, a clogged gutter, (filled with just leaves), resulted in severe interior water damage and mold growth, while also compromising the sheathing.  The drywall and insulation needed to be removed, the sheathing had to be treated and the interior was structurally dried, all because of poor maintenance.  Remember, the coming of summer doesn’t just mean a change of weather.  It also is a reminder of several household maintenance items that should be addressed.

Water Damage in Philadelphia

Pictured here is a set of photos from a dishwasher leak that caused major damage in a kitchen.  The cabinets and walls behind the kitchen both had to be removed because of water damage and mold.  The flooring also had to be removed, as the subfloor was soaked through.

Is Ice Damage Covered?

In many parts of the country, winter is accompanied by snow and ice. And ice can cause a lot of headaches for homeowners. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), one in every 55 insured homes has a claim related to water damage or freezing every year. Typical homeowners insurance policies include protection against ice-related damage, but there are some important things to keep in mind.

Hail

Hail can do serious damage to roofs and windows. Most homeowners insurance policies include dwelling coverage, which may help protect your home against specific perils, including hail and other ice-related losses. If hail damages a building on your property that’s not your home, such as a shed or unattached garage, it may be covered by other structures coverage, which is a component of some homeowners insurance policies. It’s important to keep in mind that insurance provides protection up to the limits indicated in a policy and that other policy restrictions or limitations may apply. Your insurance agent can provide you with information to help you choose levels of protection to fit your needs.

Roof Collapse

During the coldest months of the year, ice forming on your roof can cause serious problems. Roof collapse can happen when a roof can’t bear the weight of ice and snow. You may find that insurance may help cover the cost of replacing or repairing a damaged roof that is damaged by a collapse. If your house is uninhabitable after a roof collapse, homeowners insurance may also help cover living expenses, such as hotel bills, while your home is being repaired. Coverage limits and terms will apply, so be sure to check your policy to learn what it covers. Of course, no one wants to deal with a roof collapse. You may be able to prevent a situation like this by taking some preventative measures, such as cleaning gutters or clearing the roof of ice and snow as necessary. Consider hiring a professional if you’re concerned about safety or causing damage to the roof.

Ice Dams

Ice dams may result when ice forms on the edge of a roof and stops melting water from running off. When water gets backed up against the ice dam, it may leak through the roof and cause water damage. Dwelling coverage may help protect your home if an ice dam causes a loss. Personal property coverage provides coverage for named perils only and does not generally provide protection for ice dam situations.

You may find that homeowners insurance doesn’t cover ice dam removal, but resulting water damage to the dwelling is typically covered. And again, even if a loss is covered, policy terms and limits will apply. Check your policy to learn about what protections you have in place and talk with your agent to help determine whether you may benefit from additional coverage. Keep in mind that some routine maintenance may help you avoid this kind of damage. The III advises watching gutters for ice dams and keeping gutters clean so water can flow freely.

Frozen and Burst Pipes

Homeowners insurance may help cover damage to homes from burst, leaking or frozen pipes. However, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners warns that frozen pipes may not be covered if a proper temperature wasn’t maintained inside the house. Check your policy limits and terms to see how much coverage you have for burst pipes.

Injuries on Ice

Ice on the ground can be dangerous and sometimes hard to see. What happens if a visitor falls on ice on your property, suffers an injury and sues you? Liability coverage typically comes with homeowners insurance. This type of coverage may help protect you if you’re found legally responsible after a visitor is injured on your property. For example, liability coverage may help cover a person’s medical bills or lost wages if they’re injured. It may also help cover your legal costs.

Like other types of coverage, liability coverage has limits and conditions, and legal claims can be very expensive. If you’re concerned you may not have enough liability coverage, talk to your insurance agent about a personal umbrella policy, which can offer additional protection. As you prepare for another chilly winter, your local insurance agent can help you understand the specifics of your policy and provide you with information to help you make any necessary changes. You may not be able to escape the cold, but you can pass the months with the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have protections in place, just in case.

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Checking Your Pipes

Just as it looked like we weren’t getting a winter, the cold has returned.  This coming week, in our service area, snow is expected to accumulate anywhere from six to twelve inches. With the snow, comes dramatic drops in temperature which could cause some unforeseen issues if left without care.  And one of those issues is frozen pipes.  When a pipe bursts because of freezing, it can rapidly cause thousands of dollars in water damage to your property.  Making sure exposed piping is wrapped in insulation is one way to avoid such an issue, but exterior spigots should be shut off and the excess water within the pipe drained. Last year alone we were involved in dozens of burst pipe claims that cost home owners over one hundred and thirty three thousand in total damage.  Some bursts effected kitchens which completely destroyed cabinets, while others ripped through multiple floors leaving behind water damage that took days to remediate.  So, be sure to check your pipes as the temps drop for the next week to avoid the potential of major water damage restoration.

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What are Ice Dams?

You may be feeling  warm in your home as the snow serenely falls outside. But, up on your roof, a dangerous situation could be forming – one that can compromise your roof and lead to water damage inside your home. It’s all the result of an ice dam. If you live in a snowy area and you’re not familiar with what an ice dam is, it’s imperative that you read on.

What Is an Ice Dam?

An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms along the edge of your roof and prevents snow melt from running off. It often occurs because heat from the attic warms the middle of your roof, causing snow to melt. When that runoff reaches the eaves, or overhang, of your roof, the cooler surface temperature (there’s no heat rising from inside your home to this part of the roof) can cause the water to refreeze. As this happens over and over, an ice dam forms, preventing melted snow from running off your roof.

Do Ice Dams Cause Damage?

Yes, ice dams cause the water from melted snow to back up under the shingles of your roof and into your home – the water doesn’t have anywhere else to go. This can damage your roof, not to mention your interior. And, remember, water damage can lead to toxic mold inside your home.

How Can I Prevent Ice Dams?

An easy way to help prevent ice dams is to keep your eaves, gutters, downspouts and drains clear. This way water can drain away from your home as snow melts on your roof. It’s ideal to have your gutters cleaned out before snow season even begins. While you’re at it, install gutter screens for added protection.

Here are some other ways to help prevent ice dams:

  • Keep your attic cool. Proper insulation between your living areas and attic will help keep warm air from escaping into your attic and warming your roof. Ideally, during a snow storm, your attic won’t be more than 10 degrees warmer than the temperature outside.
  • Remove snow with a roof rake. Only if you can safely do so, remove accumulated snow from your roof using a long-handled roof rake, a specialized tool for clearing roofs, that won’t damage your roofing material. Do this from the ground. Never climb on top of a snowy roof.
  • Update your roof with materials that help prevent ice dams. These include a rubberized, water-repellant membrane underneath the shingles and a heating cable along the eaves. For either installation, consult a professional.

Ice dams may not be the first thing you think about once the snow stops coming down. After all, there’s the sidewalk and driveway to clear. But, for the sake of your roof and the integrity of your overall home, it’s important to keep an eye out for this winter roof danger.

So, how can you spot ice dams? Icicles may be a sign of ice dams, a buildup of snow and ice along your eaves that blocks water runoff. Discolored ceilings or walls may indicate that your ice dam has turned into a leak. Remember, in the midst of this harsh winter, it’s important to keep your gutters clear, your roof updated and an eye out for the signs of ice dams. If you suspect trouble, call a trusted roofing contractor at once.

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