Would you know what to do if your home got
drenched? When an overflowing river floods a home or when fire triggers
sprinklers and water streams in from fire trucks, the aftermath can be
nearly as serious as the crisis. Muddy or sooty water can destroy possessions
and endanger health if not properly and quickly addressed.
The first step in protecting yourself is to call your home insurance
agent. Document the damage by taking plenty of pictures using a
disposable camera if need be. Discuss with your agent whether any of
your antique or valuable belongings need professional treatment. Your
insurance policy may cover the cost of hiring a restoration company
that specializes in drying out homes and possessions.
If you are not sure what your policy covers take a few moments to
review it and explore your options before calamity strikes. Remember
that coverage can change according to the source of the water damage.
Insurance Canada.ca Inc, an Internet-based independent information
source, points out that what is excluded can be just as important as
what is included. "At the low end of the scale, water damage caused by
water overflow from the plumbing system, water from burst pipes, and
also frozen pipes could be covered, but not damage caused by continuous
seepage, sewer backup, etc. … It's important that you understand
precisely what your policy covers."
Read the policy carefully and ask your agent specific
questions about what is covered such as: Does the policy cover the cost
of replacing damaged ceilings, dry wall, carpets and wood flooring? How
much coverage do I have for my possessions? What type of documentation
is required to prove ownership?
In the event of water damage, the following tips can help you recover
treasured irreplaceable items as well as those not completely covered
When people survey the damage to their homes, their first instinct is
often to salvage everything. Unfortunately, time is of the essence for
many items; prioritizing is essential. Rather than starting with
severely damaged items, start with those that have the greatest
likelihood of being saved and are most important e.g. family
photographs, collections, antiques, important documents, artwork, and
books no longer in print. Mop up as much water as possible to begin
drying out your home. Elevate soaked items to allow air circulation.
Remove items from frames, record the date and any other notations
written on the back of photos. Rinse with cool, clean water. If stuck
together, soak in cool water until photographs separate or can be
pulled apart very easily. Do not touch or blot the surfaces of
photographs while they are wet. Place them face up on a clean dry
surface and allow to air dry for at least 48 hours. Be sure the room is
not dusty and has good air circulation.
Turn off the device and unplug. Wipe away or pour
off any visible water. Allow it to dry for 48 hours. Take the device to
a professional electronics store to test whether it will function
properly. Testing at home presents the risks of sparks, a short that
may irreparably damage the wiring in the device, and fire. If you
decide to test a device yourself, plug it into a power surge protector
to prevent damage to your home's electrical wiring.
If a carpet remains wet too long there is a risk that colours may run
into each other or into walls and furniture. Use fans and open windows
to ensure good air circulation. Rapid drying is also imperative to
prevent the growth of mold, which can be a health hazard. (Mold spores
are present in the air and on many surfaces. Warmth and moisture allow
mold spores to grow and multiply. Reactions to mold range from hay
fever-like symptoms and difficulty breathing to memory loss and
pulmonary haemorrhage in the case of toxic molds.)
If wall-to-wall carpet is soaked it may be necessary to lift it up to
either allow the underlay to dry or replace it. This can be a labour
intensive job; moulding must be removed and the heavy water soaked
carpet must be lifted carefully to prevent further damage. Use fans and
open windows to increase air circulation. Depending on the degree of
damage, you may wish to simply replace the carpet.
Area rugs tend to be more richly coloured and depending on the fabric
and dyes, there is a significant risk that colours will bleed into one
another. Elevate the rug to dry both top and bottom. If the colours
have already started to bleed, clean immediately, according to
manufacturers directions. It is important to clean it before it dries
to prevent the bleeds from becoming permanent stains.
For silk rugs it is best to contact the manufacturer or the retailer
regarding the best way to prevent permanent damage. Moisture can ripple
silk fibres causing the rug to lose its softness and shape.
Wood swells when wet becoming heavy and fragile. As it dries, it
returns to its normal size although permanent damage may occur e.g.
warping and cracking. If wood is affixed to plastic, fabric or metal
inside the piece of furniture, damage may occur due to different rates
of swelling and drying. It is important to dry the object at a uniform
rate. For example, don't attempt to dry one part of a couch at a time
by pointing a fan directly on an area. Use fans to circulate air
throughout a room, rather than pointing them directly at specific
When veneer furniture becomes wet, there is a risk that it will buckle
and pull away from the particleboard (or other material) underneath. As
the furniture dries, the veneer and the underlying wood product may dry
at different rates. The pressure of different rates of shrinkage can
cause the glue holding the veneer in place to come unstuck. To prevent
this, use a dry towel to blot up as much excess moisture as possible.
Lay a plastic sheet (plastic food wrap can also work) down on the
veneer then cover the plastic with a smooth flat sheet of wood. Place
weights on the wood sheet being sure to distribute the weight evenly.
For side panels hold wood sheet in place with clamps. With proper
ventilation, the piece of furniture will dry slowly and the veneer will
If you have a large number of water-damaged books, prioritize your
clean up. If you have rare or antique books start with those. Blot away
dirt and moisture. Fan the books open and interweave white paper towels
between wet pages. Paper is subject to the same rule as wood: Slow
uniform drying will help preserve the integrity of the item. Books with
glossy pages should also be a priority. The coating on glossy pages
will make pages stick together permanently if they are not separated
Water damage clean up can be labour-intensive time consuming but done
correctly, it is possible to salvage the irreplaceable treasures and
keepsakes that go into making a house a home.