Home or Property Water Damage:
Everything You Need to Know.
Hoping to save your hard-earned dollars?
Learn everything you need to know to prevent and mitigate water damage at home, and work with insurance providers on water damage claims.
Water damage can be a really big hassle to deal with. It’s the leading cause of insurance claims in the United States, affecting 14,000 people every single day.
And with the risk of a flooded basement or major leaks, it can be essential to make sure you have the proper coverage in case flooding does occur.
Especially since the cost of repairing water damage can be astronomically high, sometimes reaching as much as $100,000.
But equally important is knowing how to prevent water damage in the first place – and what you can do to mitigate damage to your property or home in the event of a water leak!
What is Water Damage?
It might sound like a strange question, but the truth is that not all water damage is the same – and it’s often covered differently on your home insurance policy depending on how the water entered your home and where it came from.
From broken water mains to leaky washing machines, hundreds of gallons of water run through your home, and every day 14,000 people in the US experience a water damage emergency.
No matter the cause, the resulting damage can be devastating and incredibly costly!
Typically, home water damage can be broken down into three categories: general water damage, sewer backup, and overland water.
General water damage includes sudden or accidental water damage from a source inside your home, like a bathtub overflowing or a busted pipe.
Sewer backup is when the sewer drains back up into your home – typically the basement – caused by a clog in the sewer line, outdated sewer systems, or excess rain.
Overland water is often considered “fresh” water that comes through your windows and doors at ground level. Overland water coverage covers damage from excessive rainfall, river flooding, spring run-off and melting snow or ice.
The problem with water damage is that it can be a destructive process causing wood to rot, steel to rust, plywood to delaminate, and more.
For the most part, water damage in the home can be prevented with regular maintenance and proper precautions.
Water Damage by the Numbers
When you consider the numbers, it becomes pretty clear just how common water damage can be:
of U.S. homeowners claim to have suffered losses from water damage
is the average cost of a home water damage insurance claim
of water heaters fail before they are 12 years old
years is the average age of failed washing machine supply hoses
of basements in the U.S. will experience some type of water damage during their lifespans
of homes in the U.S. have leaks that waste at least 90 gallons of water per day
If you’re looking to avoid the thousands of dollars in damage that a water leak can cause, you should consider installing Notion Sensors throughout your home – they have water leak detection capabilities to let you know the moment your home is at risk of water damage.
Place Notion’s smart water leak sensors by toilets, sinks, bathtubs, water heaters, AC units, and other appliances to have more than peace of mind about your home being protected.
Common Reasons for Water Damage
So far we’ve discussed what water damage is and how prevalent it can be – but what about common causes?
The truth is there are dozens of reasons why water damage can occur. And while some are more avoidable than others, it’s important to be aware of the common causes of water damage so that you’re better prepared in case misfortune strikes.
This one’s a pretty big no-brainer. Whether it’s a loose-fitting pipe under the kitchen sink or a clogged plumbing system, pipes and drains can be a major cause of water damage in the home.
Keep an eye out for signs of moisture, rusting, cracking, and bulging – these are all signs of water damage from plumbing issues. Of course, some plumbing issues occur within the walls and are nearly impossible to detect.
Malfunctioning Household Appliances
Like any appliance that uses water, a malfunctioning or improperly-used washing machine can cause indoor flooding. And this can cause extreme damage in homes, especially when it isn’t caught in time.
The best thing to do is regularly look-over and maintain your equipment. Washing machines, refrigerators, hot water heaters, and dishwashers are all susceptible to deterioration, so keep a watch on older machines. Hot water tanks and washing machines are the two appliances that are most likely to cause water damage in the home.
Bursting and leaking pipes are very common culprits of water damage, especially old or rusty pipes that are more prone to leaking. Clogged drains can also cause pipes to back up and overflow into your home.
As with plumbing issues, keep an eye out for signs of moisture – rust, cracks, and bulges can all be signs of leaky pipes. Spikes in your water bill can also be a good indication that water is leaking (or even pooling) in areas of your home.
Aging Water Heaters
HVACs, (heating, ventilating and air conditioning units), are also a common cause of water damage. Air conditioners, in particular, require regular servicing. When they’re not maintained properly, moisture can build up. And when moisture cools, it can interact with mold spores in the AC ducts and cause mold to grow inside.
If you live in an area that’s prone to hurricanes or severe thunderstorms, it’s important to be prepared for any unwanted damage caused by flooding.
And while you may have little control over natural water-related disasters, there are preventative measures you can take ahead of time to minimize the impact on your home – like keeping your gutters clear and installing barriers. You should also consider adding flooding insurance to your policy if you live in an area where your risk is higher (we’ll discuss this more below!).
In each of the above cases, having a leak detection system can be invaluable! To keep your mind at ease, you should consider installing Notion smart water leak sensors in areas where accidents are likely to occur – like behind toilets, sinks, bathtubs, water heaters, AC units, and other appliances.
You should also check out this handy water damage protection checklist for tips on how to keep your home safe!
What is Water Damage Insurance?
For the most part, water damage is a type of protection that’s included in most homeowner’s insurance policies.
But while most home insurance policies cover some sort of damage caused by water, it can also be one of the most confusing coverages to understand.
Generally speaking, whether or not something is covered depends on the source of the damage, the type of policy you have and if the water damage is accidental and sudden or gradual.
If you’re wondering what type of water damage is covered (and not covered) by home insurance providers, read on!
Note: Many home insurance carriers offer discounts for having a self-monitored home security systems. Contact your carrier to see if Notion is eligible.
The Different Types of Water Damage Covered by Home Insurance
Whether or not your home insurance covers water damage depends on the source of the water that caused the damage. Here are a few scenarios to be aware of:
General water damage (also known as Sudden or accidental discharge). As we discussed above, this kind of water damage includes sudden or accidental flooding that didn’t enter through the ground or the sewer, such as a frozen pipe bursting or dishwasher overflow.
In addition to water leaks, Notion Sensors can monitor the temperature in your home and alert your phone when the temperature drops to dangerous, pipe-freezing levels!
Sewer or water backup. Water damage caused by sewer back-up and groundwater sewage can be very unpleasant – and it isn’t always covered by insurers. If you live in a neighborhood with older pipes, aging sewer systems, and aggressive tree roots, you should definitely consider adding it to your policy.
Flooding. Whether it’s caused by a rainstorm or overflowing river, this kind of flood isn’t usually included in insurance policies. If your home is located in a region that’s prone to floods, it’s definitely in your best interest to add flooding to your insurance.
Storm-related water damage. Most insurance providers don’t cover any damage by coastal water (saltwater) – so disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes, or tidal waves wouldn’t be included.
Gradual water damage. It’s also important to note that gradual water damage isn’t covered in general insurance policies. We’ll discuss this more below.
What is Gradual Damage and Why Isn’t it Covered?
First of all, what is gradual damage?
By definition, gradual damage is any damage that happens to your property over an extended period of time. An example is when water damage occurs slowly, such as moisture building between walls, eventually leading to mold.
Whatever the case, many homeowners are left frustrated when they try to make a claim on a house insurance policy and find they aren’t covered because the damage is deemed to have occurred over time.
In other words, if the damage is not sudden or accidental, but instead is the result of a long-standing problem that went undetected you will have a problem in a claim and might have a claim denied.
How to Prevent and Mitigate Water Damage at Home
Here’s the good news: water damage is preventable in more than 90% of cases!
With some simple precautions and regular home maintenance, you can easily reduce the risk of water damage in your home.
First off, make sure to do an annual check on your exterior walls, roof, drainage system, and septic tank (if you have one). If you’re doing the inspection yourself, keep an eye out for any leaks, rot, or signs of water damage.
While on the property, it’s also important to inspect any vegetation to make sure branches are trimmed, gutters are cleaned, and vines are removed from exterior walls.
Inside, it’s important to check your water heater to make sure it’s draining properly, and check your washing machine to make sure the hose is intact.
Overall, it’s important to keep an eye on the humidity (higher than 50% can cause moisture to accumulate), and that your door and windows are able to keep out any water.
Lastly, to avoid any serious water damage, install Notion Sensors to get immediate notifications about water leaks in your home or property!
Here's how to do it:
How to Work With Insurance Providers on Water Damage Claims
In the event of water damage, you should call your home insurance provider immediately (most insurers have a 24-hour claims service). Try to be as detailed as possible when providing information about the damage.
Before you even think about cleaning, you need to make a list of all the items that were damaged or destroyed. If possible, collect proofs of purchase, photos, receipts, and even warranties. Take photos of the damage incurred and keep damaged items (unless they pose a health hazard).
Remember to keep receipts that are related to cleanup and living expenses if you happen to be been displaced. Contact your insurance provider about what expenses you may be entitled to and for what period of time.
Note: Be aware that most policies won’t cover the “source” of the damage. What this means is if your washing machine water supply hose were to fail and damages the floor, your insurance likely won’t pay to repair or replace the washing machine.
If you have questions or want a better understanding of your existing coverage, contact your insurance provider for help.
You can also check out this guide for how to file a homeowner's insurance claim!
How to Prevent Water Damage Claims from Being Denied
In order to prevent claims for being denied, it’s important to adjust your coverage to meet the necessary precautions and needs of your home.
For example, if you live in a region that’s prone to floods or has a history of a weak sewage system, it could be very helpful to add additional coverage to reflect this.
By being proactive and designing an insurance policy that fits your needs to save you tons of time and money down the road.
Another tip is to keep a current and detailed home inventory of your belongings with any receipts and important information that could help with claims.
It could even be helpful to make a digital copy and to store the original copies somewhere dry and safe!