School Yourself on Water Damage

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Your years of schooling may be behind you, but when it comes to water damage, it’s never too late to learn something new.

Water damage is a common subject for property managers, homeowners, and renters, but subject-matter knowledge is not as common. With 30% of homeowners insurance claims coming from water damage, and 15% of small business claims coming from water or freezing damage, being well-versed on the topic is a no-brainer. Consider this Water Damage 101. Whether you need an in-depth class on the subject or just a refresher course, these fast facts are the place to start.

Categories of water

We’ve all heard it before: “There’s something in the water.” Well, when it comes to water damage scenarios, it’s important to know what exactly is in the water. The IICRC S500 industry standards use three categories to describe the type of liquid involved in water damage restoration. Studying up on these definitions can help you take proper precautions if you’re dealing with water damage to your property:

Category 1

Contamination Level: None-to-low. Excess water originates from a sanitary source.

Danger Level: Poses no significant risk from ingestion or exposure.

Sources Include: Faucets, toilet tanks, drinking fountains, water supply lines (pipes or appliances), falling rainwater.

Additional Notes: Depending upon location, length of time, and temperature, Category 1 water can easily and quickly degrade to Category 2 or 3.

Category 2

Contamination Level: Medium-to-high. Can contain unsafe amounts of microorganisms, biological, or chemical matter.

Danger Level: Has potential to cause discomfort or sickness upon contact or consumption.

Sources Include: Dishwasher and washing machine drainage or overflow, toilet bowl overflow (some urine only), broken aquariums.

Additional Notes: Once microorganisms become wet, they can multiply, causing Category 2 water to degrade to Category 3.

Category 3

Contamination Level: Highest; grossly unsanitary. Likely contains disease-causing or toxin-producing agents.

Danger Level: Can cause severe illness, reaction, or even death upon contact or ingestion.

Sources Include: Sewage; waste line backup; stream, river, or seawater flooding; stagnant or recently-stagnant liquid.

Additional Notes: Category 3 water was formerly known as “black water” and may still be referred to as such.

Common causes of (non-weather-related) water damage

Many people believe weather is the leading cause of water damage, but in reality, non-weather-related issues account for more residential water damage claims. After conducting a study on closed water damage claims, the IBHS identified the five leading sourcesof residential water damage, what commonly causes those sources to fail, and how much the average incident costs. Take note of these and make sure you’re properly maintaining the sources on your property.

  1. Plumbing supply system failure: This involves any of the pipes that are bringing water to your property’s plumbing system.
    • 65% from material failure (old or improperly maintained pipes)
    • 18% from frozen pipes
    • Avg. cost after deductible: $5,092
  2. Toilet Failure: These are incidents strictly involving the toilet structure itself, not incidents with systems related to the toilet, like a septic backup.
    • One-third of toilet failure claims cited an overflowing or clogged toilet as the source of damage.
    • Avg. cost after deductible: $5,584
  3. Water Heater Failure: Issues dealing with the water heater – like a leak or burst – are most often due to a tank reaching or exceeding its life expectancy.
    • 69% resulted from a slow leak or sudden burst.
    • 10% of these claims were caused by supply line failure, and came at 60% higher cost than incidents citing a leak or burst.
    • Avg. cost after deductible: $4,444
  4. Plumbing Drain System Failure: This involves any of the pipes or structure carrying liquid/waste away from your plumbing system.
    • 52% were sewer backups
    • 37% originated from material performance issues (The likelihood of this increases with the age of the house.)
    • Avg. cost after deductible: $4,400
  5. Washing Machine Failures
    • More than 50% from supply hose failure
    • Avg. cost after deductible: $5,308

Locations in the U.S. where water damage & flooding occur most

(Based on latest available data for total number of claims filed)

What better way to round out this water damage lesson of fast facts than with some geography? Contrary to popular belief, water damage and flood damage are two different insurance claims, and they even require different insurance policies (stay tuned for more information on this). So, we did some digging to find out where water damage is most prevalent in the U.S. and compared that to where flooding is most prevalent.

Do these rankings surprise you?

Top 10 States for Water Damage (NICB)

(Total number of claims filed from January 1, 2014 through December 31, 2015)

  1. California (327,648)
  2. Florida (225,222)
  3. Texas (222,972)
  4. New York (145,390)
  5. Pennsylvania (143,788)
  6. Georgia (108,106)
  7. Illinois (95,379)
  8. Massachusetts (94,806)
  9. Virginia (90,244)
  10. North Carolina (88,407)

These top 10 states account for 56% of all water damage claims filed in the U.S. between January 2014 and December 2015.

Top 10 States for Flood Damage (FEMA)

(Total number of claims filed since January 1, 1978, as of April 30, 2017)

  1. Louisiana (449,463)
  2. Texas (269,074)
  3. Florida (255,683)
  4. New Jersey (190,456)
  5. New York (165,387)
  6. North Carolina (83,222)
  7. Pennsylvania (69,384)
  8. Mississippi (60,628)
  9. Illinois (49,030)
  10. California (47,589)

These top 10 states account for a whopping 74% of all flood claims filed in the U.S. since January 1978.

If your state is listed here, make sure you review and are familiar with your coverage for water damage incidents, and if you don’t have flood insurance, it may be worth it to consider your options.

When it comes to water damage, the more you know, the better prepared you can be if your property is impacted. We hope you learned something useful in this short lesson, and stay tuned for more “Water Damage 101” lessons to come.

If there’s any information YOU think would be helpful to know about water damage, let us know in the comments below!

Show Pop Quiz Answers

Water Damage Pop Quiz!

1. How many categories are used to describe the type of liquid involved in water damage scenarios? B. 3
2. True or False: California is on the the top 10 states with the most flood damage claims. A. True
3. What is the number-one source of non-weather-related water damage? C. Plumbing supply system
4. True or False: A leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water per day. A. True
So how'd you do? Let us know your score in the comments below!

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