Your home is flooded, and you don’t know what to do—especially in the wake of a natural disaster when your first priority is the safety of your family. It may be days before you can arrange for your insurance to come out, or to start repairs. Here’s what you can do and focus on while you wait for professionals to repair your home.
Avoid Further Damage
First and foremost, you need to cut power. Take extra care before going in to grab items or take pictures. Flood water could:
- Carry an electrical current to shock you or spark a fire
- Introduce bacteria and microbes into your home
- Make it harder to walk safely
- Weaken the structure of your home
Locate your circuit panel. Shut off all power circuits, even if the power to the house is currently off.
Make a visual inspection of the exterior of your property. Look for signs of potential danger, like a collapsed roof. If you are not sure that the home is safe to enter, do not go inside.
Gather Important Papers
The cost of repairing minor water damage averages about $2,500 according to HomeAdvisor. You may be able to use insurance to cover some or all of it. Few homeowners anticipate this level of trouble, so it is wise to keep your papers organized and easy to find. The documents you might need include:
- Homeowners’ policy records
- Documentation of flood insurance, if applicable
- Personal identification
- Proof of ownership
If you are confident that you can get through the house safely, locate this information. Take it to a secure place away from the site. If you’re not confident or the flooding is severe or long-lasting, do not risk your safety by re-entering the house since it could be structurally unsound.
Choose Your Insurance Policy
Hurricanes cause billions of dollars in damage each year, with a typical claim per home ranging from $45,000 to $115,000. The type of flooding your home sustained affects the kind of insurance you will use to make repairs. Your regular coverage usually does not have a provision for water damage due to weather.
This type of disaster requires flood insurance, a special policy that you might carry through the federal government or a private insurer. If your basement is soaked due to a burst pipe in your plumbing, you should start with your homeowner’s insurance.
File a Claim
The average claim for house flooding not related to weather hovers around $8,000. The claim process could take days or weeks, so you should begin as quickly as you can. Even a small amount of water left to sit for hours in your basement could cause significant damage. Here’s what you may need to pay for:
- Determining the extent of the water damage
- Flooring removal and replacement
- Drying walls and foundation
- Replacing damaged electrical and plumbing systems
Keep in mind that your insurance may not pay for a full replacement of all destroyed possessions or equipment. Most policies make a distinction between fair market value and replacement value. Ask your insurer about the details of your coverage before you start shopping.
Since you do not know how long it will take before a claims adjuster arrives, you want to start building a record immediately. Take pictures, video, and write down any information you have about the condition of the home. If the property deteriorates after the initial damage (e.g. due to fire caused by flooding), update your record to reflect it.
Your claims adjuster will likely conduct a thorough investigation when they get to your property. The more information you can provide at the start, the more informed they can be during their inspection.
Begin the Repair Process
At your earliest opportunity, remove the water from the home. You can use a sump pump if you have one, or hire a professional to do it. Be careful about paying for equipment or services until your claims adjuster is done categorizing the extent of the damage. Keep receipts for everything you buy, no matter how small. The last thing you want is to get stuck with a bill that you thought would be covered.
If the government declares your region a disaster area, you may have to wait longer for access to repair services. Protect yourself from fraud by asking anyone who comes to your home for identification and evidence that they are sent from your insurance company. Do not trust contractors demanding payment in advance, as this is a common scam technique.