Here's how to recognize flood risks before they become a claim
Flooding and water damage cost thousands of dollars annually to homeowners and billions to insurance companies. These are among the top causes for a homeowner to file insurance claims, with floods listed as the most common natural disaster in the United States, according to FloodSmart.gov.
To protect your home from water damage, it’s essential to identify the potential risks for flooding.
Many homeowners mistakenly believe that they don’t need flood insurance due to where they are located or because they’ve never experienced a flood before. As 2016 demonstrated, nothing could be further from the truth.
Natural floods vs. other types of flooding
Most homeowners insurance policies do not cover flooding from a natural disaster. Any seepage or rush of water entering a home as a result of a natural disaster is a natural flood. This may be water from a flash flood when a nearby river overflows its banks or a levee breaks. Seasonal storms can cause inland flooding in some areas, hitting homes and producing significant damage.
Other types of flooding include water events that happen due to a burst pipe, overflowing washing machine, or clogged gutters that force water into a basement or crawl space. Typically, these occurrences are covered by your homeowners policy if and when the correct claims are filed.
Identifying flood risks
While natural flood risks can be determined by checking the flood maps for your area, both homeowners and insurance professionals can benefit from understanding the risks of water damage from other sources.
The best way to identify flood risks for any property is to know what can cause water damage. Water (flooding) in the basement or crawl space can be caused by numerous events and factors:
- Clogged, broken or improperly installed gutters.
- Missing downspouts.
- Downspouts that don’t divert water away from the home.
- Missing drainage tile(s).
- Broken or improperly installed drainage tile(s).
- Improper grading of the home’s property (the land doesn’t slope away).
- Inadequate sealing of basement/crawl space floor and walls.
- Sump pump failure.
- Sewer backup.
- Burst water pipes.
- Leak from water heater, washing machine, bathtub or other water source within the home.
- Water from firefighting efforts.
Issues like clogged gutters can also lead to moisture and water damage to the roof, attic, windows and interior walls of your home. From ice dams in the winter to water backup because of gutter debris, the issues are many. If ignored, there is a potential for structural damage and the development of mold, which poses health risks to anyone living in the home.
After the flooding: Claims
If the unthinkable happens and a home flood event or water damage occurs, it is critical to know the steps for quick water remediation and how to file an insurance claim. Insurance professionals will have their own steps, some of which may overlap with the homeowner’s.
For the homeowner, safety always comes first: Never enter a flooded room, especially if you don’t know if there’s power — electricity and water do not mix. Shut the power off to the flooded area or have a professional from the power company do it.
The next step is to call your insurance professional. He or she can talk you through the specifics for claim filing and let you know what is (and isn’t) covered by your policy.
Tip: Don’t wait to call your insurance professional. Your agent can provide guidance for hiring a restoration company.
Other items homeowners may need:
- Detailed inventory list of all damaged items.
- Estimate of each damaged item’s worth.
- Pictures of damage and stages of cleanup.
- Receipts/invoices for all remediation payments.
Insurance professionals will follow the protocols set by their company, often working closely with the homeowner during the aftermath of the flooding and its cleanup.
Prevention is key to reducing your risks of home flooding. Know the potential causes and take steps to eliminate them. Simply having the gutters inspected and cleaned on a quarterly basis each year can help reduce your risk for water damage and basement flooding.
Naturalfloodfact: You don’t have to live next to a shoreline to be at risk for natural flooding. To determine if your home is located in a flood zone, check the preliminary flood hazard data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This allows you to look at your community and see the various flood zones.