Beyond Flooding: What to do About “Minor” Water Damage

Even if your home has been spared from acute flooding, what seems like "minor" water damage from leaks and other water intrusions can turn into major problems over time – and need to be addressed ASAP.

Hurricane Harvey forecasts indicate torrential rain for Texas and Louisiana for several more days, including a continuation of historic flooding and massive property damage. Current emergency efforts are focused on keeping people alive, rescuing stranded survivors from rooftops and from stranded cars. Basic needs for shelter, food, and water come first before damage to houses and property.

But many more houses are outside of the worst of the devastation and flooding. They are along the fringes of Hurricane Harvey where houses can still be damaged without being destroyed or even directly in the path of the hurricane but saved from flooding by elevation or location.  These houses are still at risk for leaks and dampness that isn’t always immediately obvious; for eventual odors, wood rot, and mold growth in the days and weeks to come.

While these assumed “minor” issues don’t receive the attention of national news reports, Federal disaster funding, and storm-chasing damage restoration contractors left unattended they can eventually lead to major structural damage and adverse health effects.

When professional help is days or months away, there are still critical actions you should take, on your own, even before the rain stops.

Mitigate the damage

Mitigation means acting quickly to stop the damage from getting worse, without necessarily fixing the damage. The key to storm mitigation is stopping water leaks and minor flooding so materials can dry within 24-48 hours. This prevents the further damage of structural weakening or wood rot, and stops the growth of mold on damp surfaces. Even before the hurricane moves on, even while it is still raining, there are ways to mitigate the damage. The key is to not wait, but to go ahead and do the best you can, as soon as you can, with what you have on hand.

Once damage is discovered, take pictures of everything that you can and contact your insurance company and find out if the water damage is covered by your policy. Don't wait. Coverage is not always obvious or intuitive, so be sure to check your policy carefully and confirm coverage with your adjustor (this is not the same person who sold you the policy). 

Remember, it takes time for wood to rot and for mold to grow so stay aware in the days and weeks after storms have abated for signs of swelling or warping of wood, flaking paint, and for musty smells or other off-odors – they are all signs of damage and/or mold.  

If you are in Texas or Louisiana and suspect you need a mold assessment or remediation, be aware that both states have legislation governing the conduct of mold inspectors and mold contractors. See https://www.dshs.texas.gov/mold/rules.shtm for Texas and http://new.dhh.louisiana.gov/index.cfm/faq/category/41 for Louisiana.

Hurricanes cause havoc, and the weather on the fringes can also. With the above steps, you can react quickly and effectively to mitigate the risk of long-term serious damage escalating from the initial “minor” damage.  

For more serious damage like flooding or extensive water intrusion get the free Homeowner’s and Renter’s Guide to Mold Cleanup After Disasters from the CDC at: https://www.cdc.gov/mold/pdfs/Homeowners_and_Renters_Guide.pdf

Learn more about the other things in your home (in addition to water damage) that impact your indoor air quality and ultimately your health.  Get your free and confidential Hayward Score now.  Our comprehensive report will detail how to address problems in your home so you can be empowered to take action and make your home healthier for you and for your family. Join the thousands of people who have already started their journey!  www.haywardscore.com/score

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