AUGUST 5, 2020

Water's Potential for Destruction

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Water intrusion can do significant damage to your home, whether it’s as a result of a weather event like a hurricane, or a pipe, plumbing fixture or appliance leak. Even small slow leaks that go undetected, over time will cause harm.  According to Hippo Insurance, the average payout per claim for water damage is close to $9,000.  That’s a NATIONAL average: in Florida, where weather events are frequent, that number is several times higher.  

 

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The problem with water events is that, if not dealt with immediately, that $9,000 will be a drop in the bucket (pun intended!) when compared to all of the potential expenses that will arise.   In addition, since water travels everywhere, if you live in a condo you will also create problems for your neighbor below, for which you will be liable.

 

Here’s what standing water in your home can do over time:* 

WITHIN HOURS:

  • Furniture in direct contact with water begins to delaminate and swell. Dyes from non-colorfast fabrics in contact with water begin to bleed.

  • Furniture standing on saturated carpets begins to leach and stain the carpeting.

  • Drywall becomes saturated and swells

 

WITHIN DAYS

  • Fungi appear, along with musty odors.

  • Severe warping and cupping of wood and drywall appears.  Wood floors and     drywall may become unsalvageable.

  • Paint blisters, and wallpaper starts to peel away

  • Wood structural members begin to swell, warp and split apart.

WITHIN WEEKS:

  • Mold takes root in drywall and organic materials

  • Allergic reactions ensue from mold and microbial growth, and occupants must be evacuated due to health hazards.

  • A complete gutting of the structure may be necessary, which will drive expenses up astronomically and displace the occupants.

 

Some close friends who live in Coconut Grove had major flooding during Hurricane Irma. They lived in a 2-story home and were forced to move out for 10 months to gut and rebuild their entire ground floor.  The losses were massive, and the emotional stress was enormous.  Once the rebuild was done and they had recovered from the blow, they chose to rent the house and move to higher ground.  As my friend describes it – “an investment property has less emotional attachments.  If we have to re-build again, well, it won’t be as devastating.”  

 

We Floridians typically associate significant damage to our homes with weather events. But you don’t need a hurricane to have a water disaster. The most common culprits of water damage (bar weather) specifically in in condos are:

 

1.     Aging Water Heaters

Water heaters don’t last forever.  Most condos have 40 to 50-gallon water heaters – which is enough water to create a lot of damage if yours springs a leak.  Most heaters have a 10-year life span.  Then they begin to corrode – so this is the appropriate time to replace it. You can find out how old your water heater is by looking up the serial number on the manufacturer’s sticker near the top of the unit.   If you decide to replace it, you may want to consider getting a tankless heater  – though the upfront cost is higher, it will save you money in energy costs in the long run, and the life expectancy is double that of a tank heater.   

 

2.     Washing machine leaks

If the supply hose is damaged or has a faulty connection to the wall or washing machine, more than 600 gallons of water could potentially spill out within an hour. That means significant water damage to your apartment AND the unit below.  You should replace your washing machine supply hose at least once every five years. Also, resist the temptation to overload your washing machine. Frequently stuffing too many clothes in could loosen gaskets and valves or cause cracks. 

 

3.     Plumbing issues

Though some plumbing materials have a long lifespan, (brass pipes can last for as many as 70 years while copper pipes can last for more than 50 years), the typical lifespan for galvanized steel pipes is between 20 and 50 years.  That may seem like a really long time, but in Florida 44% of apartment homes were built before 1980. Knowing the age of your building and the state of the pipes is therefore even more critical if you live in an older property.  Knowing where your responsibility ends and your condo association’s begins is also important. I wrote about this in an earlier blog post that you can read here.

 

A faulty joint or an old valve can also be the culprit. In another recent blog post  I told the story of our neighbor on the 25th floor who broke a water valve.  By the time the water had been shut off, enough had been spewed to flood 10 units below him. Thankfully, he was able to recover most of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages through his insurance claim. 

 

A PREVENTIVE MAINTENANCE PLAN WILL MINIMIZE YOUR RISK.

 

Here are some tips to stay ahead of the game:

 

  1. Get an inspection to get a baseline of the condition of major elements and appliances in your home.  Then repeat every year.

  2. Don’t wait until you have a problem with your water heater, washing machine, refrigerator or any other appliance with a water connection.  Create a replacement plan for when they are past their life expectancy to avoid emergencies altogether. 

  3. Consider investing in a moisture detection system that can be monitored via an app on your phone. In case of a problem, you will be able to deal with it quickly and mitigate any damage.  

  4. If you have hurricane shutters, get them serviced every year before storm season starts.  There’s nothing worse than a stuck shutter in the throes of hurricane preparations.  If you lose one window, your entire property will be compromised.

  5. Make sure that you have adequate homeowner’s insurance, and that you have flood coverage.  

 

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and then some! Stay dry my friends!

 

*Source:  Chris Carbone, Renew Restoration, 2016

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The problem with water events is that, if not dealt with immediately, that $9,000 will be a drop in the bucket (pun intended!) when compared to all of the potential expenses that will arise.   In addition, since water travels everywhere, if you live in a condo you will also create problems for your neighbor below, for which you will be liable.

"

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