Florida homeowners understand that storm surge is not the only water risk posed by hurricanes. Even homes inland can suffer moderate to severe water damage during a storm. Tropical storms pose a risk to buildings, especially when they topple trees into homes or ravage older roofs.
If it were up to the insurance companies, the only kind of water damage would be natural flood damage (since they’d never have to cover those losses), but that’s not the way nature and physics work. There are all types of water damage and several water types, which is why it’s helpful to know how to spot subtle water damage, understand the risks and have basic knowledge of remediation and repair.
Florida is not a state where you can simply open your windows and expect air drying to safely eliminate dampness. Mold is justifiably a serious concern anywhere with even moderate humidity. If your home has suffered water damage, either due to storm surge flooding, wind-driven rain or even a plumbing leak, you’ll need to do a thorough drying job. It may even be necessary to tear up flooring, baseboards and some drywall.
If a floor is carpeted, for example, you’ll essentially need to tear out, or at the very least thoroughly dry, everything down to the concrete (Carpet, subfloor, underlayment and potentially even joists.) Moisture meters can be used to help determine what can be dried and restored and what needs to go.
Next, you’ll likely need dehumidifiers and fans to thoroughly dry the area.
Hurricanes and tropical storms are certainly not the only cause of floor dampness. If windows, patio doors or balcony doors are improperly installed or the weather sealing has failed, there’s a risk for damp floors and potentially some costly damage after even the tamest rains.
There are a lot of things in your attic and the underside of your roof that are prone to mold or rot, including insulation, rafters and collar beams. Homes are not 100 percent air and watertight, and leaks in roofs and attics from wind-driven rain are practically inevitable at some point.
Features like recessed lighting and attic hatches create little gaps that allow for air leakage into and out of your home’s interior. Mold spores in your attic will make their way inside your family’s living areas, so attic mold shouldn’t be ignored. Leaks in roofs can also pose fire hazards if water gets into your home’s wiring.
In many cases if there’s leaking in the attic the water will eventually make it down to the ceiling, resulting in water stains. As inconvenient and ugly as these stains can be, they at least alert homeowners to a potentially dangerous leak in your roof.
Small leaks can sometimes be repaired with flashing or the replacement of sections of your roof, but it often depends on what your insurance claims adjuster believes is justified based on their inspection. (If you have roof and attic damage and you think your insurer is underestimating repair costs, or is refusing to replace, consider contacting a roofer for a professional second opinion.)
Whatever the scope of the damage, it’s important to thoroughly dry any moisture under your roof, remediate any mold growth, replace damaged insulation and take necessary reparative steps to address wood rot.
Just because every water molecule is technically one hydrogen and two oxygen atoms doesn’t mean all water is identical. When it comes to water damage repair, the remediation professionals use three different classifications: clean, gray and black.
Hurricane water damage nearly always comes in the gray or black varieties. Wind-driven rain that enters your home isn’t as polluted as storm-surge water that’s picked up sewage, chemicals, debris and all kinds of pathogens and creatures, but it’s still not clean like the water coming straight out of a leaky pipe.
Some water remediation and cleanup professionals will charge different rates for the different types of water. Black water from outside flooding is inherently dangerous. They will need to take extra precautions when cleaning and may need to perform additional remediation work to make your home safe.
Whether or not materials damaged by water can be cleaned and restored often depends on how porous the material is. Stainless steel, rigid plastics, glass, metal fixtures like door hardware and ceramic tiles are generally considered nonporous and could possibly be disinfected and restored.
Porous materials, like carpeting, drywall, wood, furniture, paper products, etc. tend to be porous. Mold remediators may be able to clean contaminated valuables, like fine art or expensive clothing, but the cost will likely be high, and it may be a long, arduous process.
When it comes to porous building materials affected by hurricane flood waters, especially when it’s black water damage, your contractors will likely recommend tear out and replacement.
Whenever mold is a serious concern even minor water damage should be taken seriously, which means hurricanes and tropical storms in Florida tend to result in big repair bills for lots of home and business owners. In many cases it makes sense to file a property damage claim, even with a hurricane deductible.
Insurance companies and their claims adjusters get understandably swamped in the wake of a hurricane. New or inexperienced adjusters are often brought in to help get the avalanche of hurricane damage claims processed in a timely matter.
Mistakes will inevitably be made when you combine long hours with potentially inexperienced claims adjusters and lots of pressure to work fast. As a result, it’s not uncommon for Florida homeowners to get shortchanged on legitimate water damage claims in Florida.
If you suspect your hurricane damage claim is being underestimated, wrongfully denied or treated unfairly, it could be in your interest to seek assistance from an independent claims adjuster or hurricane damage attorney.