Recent Water Damage Posts

Ice Dams & Water in Your Attic

3/28/2019 (Permalink)

In our January 23rd blog we talked about the possibility of roof ice dams this winter.  In the blog we explained what ice dams are, and some things you can do to avoid them.  And sure enough, we received many calls this past month from homeowners that experienced water damage to their home because of ice damming.  In all of these cases, water was leaking, and in some cases running, into the living areas of the home.    

But what if you had ice, ice dams, or icicles on your roof but didn’t see any water in living areas of your home?  Is it safe to assume you didn’t experience any water damage?  The answer is no.  It is entirely possible that water leaked into your attic space but never made it to your living areas.  And if that happened, you may have mold and eventually wood rot in your attic. 

If you had ice damming on your roof this past winter, a thorough inspection of your roof to check for shingle damage, and a thorough inspection of your attic to check for water intrusion, is a good idea.    

Ice Damming

1/23/2019 (Permalink)

The first major snow of the season has fallen.  Soon you may see icicles hanging from the gutters of homes.  But did you know that those icicles are most often the result of ice damming and can lead to water damage and eventually mold in your home?!

An ice dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow (water) from draining off the roof. As snow melts from your roof, either by the heat of the sun, or by heat escaping from your home, it tends to refreeze at the edges and other juncture points of your roof. The refreezing of water has a damming effect creating an even bigger ice dam behind it. Continuous feeding of the ice dam by melting and refreezing snow melt can cause significant damage. As the water seeps under shingles it refreezes expanding and creating an even bigger gap for future drainage to fill and further the cycle. Your shingles are being raised and eventually the water that backs up behind the dam, and underneath the shingles, can leak into your home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation, and create a perfect environment for mold growth.

To prevent ice dams, it’s important to clean your gutters before winter so that winter’s melting snow and rain can properly drain off your roof. 

Additionally, improper insulation and improper attic ventilation can contribute to ice damming by allowing warm air from inside your home to escape into the attic. It seems counter-intuitive, but the basic ventilation principal for your attic is to keep it as cool as possible during the cold season.  If you look at your roof several days after a snow and you see an even distribution covering your roof, that’s a good sign that your attic is properly insulated and ventilated.  If on the other hand, you see sections where snow has melted, that suggests an area in the attic where warm air is present due to either improper insulation or improper ventilation.  These problems should be addressed as soon as the weather allows.    

Some homeowners also find it useful to use a roof rake during the winter months.  A roof rake is not your average garden rake.  It is a specialty item used to remove snow from the 4-6 feet of roof above your gutter, while standing safely on the ground, so that melting snow can properly flow off of your roof versus forming an ice dam.  Roof rakes can be found in season at most hardware and home improvement stores.  If you choose to use a roof rake, it’s important to follow all suggested safety precautions and suggestions for use.  Additionally, it’s important to know the condition of your roof and shingles.  Older roofs, or roofs in poor shape, can easily be damaged by roof rakes and may cause more harm than good. 

April Showers Bring...Water in Your Basement

4/16/2018 (Permalink)

While the old saying “April showers bring May flowers” may be true; April showers (and even April snow storms!) can also bring water in your basement.

This time of the year water in your basement typically comes from one of the following sources:

  1. Water leaks in from the outside through a basement window or other opening
  2. Water overflows from your sump pump crock as the result of failed sump pump
  3. Water seeps up through cracks in your concrete floor or foundation, again often as the result of a failed sump pump
  4. Your sewer system backs up into your basement

But did you know that a standard homeowner’s insurance policy will not provide coverage for water damage caused by any of these four sources?!  However, coverage for three of the four can be easily and inexpensively added on to a standard homeowner’s policy in the form of what’s called an endorsement.  When this type of endorsement is active, it provides coverage of property damage caused by water that has managed to back up into your home from pipes, sewer systems, drains, sump pumps, water-service, or any additional system that transfers fluids to and from your home. 

Now is an excellent time to check with your homeowner’s insurance agent to ensure you have this very important coverage!  And for more on sump pumps and how they work, see our blog post from February 1, 2018.     

Sump Pump Failure & Homeowner's Insurance

2/2/2018 (Permalink)

Yesterday we talked about sump pumps; how they work and why they’re important.  Now imagine the potential damage to your home should your sump pump stop working for any reason; whether it be due to a power failure during a spring storm, or the simple mechanical failure of the pump itself.  Without a functioning pump to pump the water out of your sump crock, and up out of your home, the crock will overflow into your basement, soaking your carpet and drywall if your basement is finished, and possibly destroying furniture, important documents and anything else you may have stored in your basement.  And depending upon things like the water table and soil conditions in your area, the elevation of your home, and the amount of time the pump is out of order, the amount of water can be significant, causing havoc even in an unfinished basement.        

Many people may assume that their homeowner’s insurance will cover this type of damage.  But did you know that in most cases, a standard homeowner’s insurance policy does not provide coverage for water damage caused by sump pump failure.  However, this type of coverage can be very affordable and can easily be added on to your standard homeowner’s policy in the form of what’s called an endorsement.  When this type of endorsement is active, it provides for coverage of property damage caused by water that has managed to back up and into your home from pipes, sewer systems, drains, sump pumps, water-service, or any additional system that transfers fluids to and from your home.  Now is a perfect time of the year to check with your insurance agent to see if you have this important coverage, and if not, to add it before the heavy spring rains.    

Sump Pumps: How They Work & Why They're Important

2/1/2018 (Permalink)

In our January 18th blog post entitled “Landscape Grading & Keeping your Basement Dry”, we talked about surface water runoff and the importance of keeping it flowing away from your home in-order to keep your basement dry.  But did you know that water below ground can also be a threat to your foundation?  That’s where your sump pump comes in. 

In-order to understand how a sump pump works and why it’s important, it’s helpful to first understand the home building process.  After a hole is dug by an excavator for a basement, the next step is to put in foundation footings.  Foundation footings in Wisconsin are typically a poured cement slab, often reinforced with rebar.  The footings are poured into the excavated trench essentially in an outline of the foundation walls.  The footings provide a foundation upon which the cement bricks of the foundation will be laid, or upon which the cement walls of the foundation will be poured, depending on the type of basement wall construction used.  The soil upon which these footings are poured needs to stay at a consistent moisture level to prevent settlement, heave, or differential movement.  That’s where the sump pump and it’s supporting system comes into play.

A drain system is installed around the perimeter of the foundation/footings.  This drain system is essentially a system of pipes (surrounded by crushed stone) with holes in the top that collect water that is heading towards the foundation walls.  The water that is collected in these pipes is redirected into a sump crock in the basement, where a pump then pumps the water up and out of the basement.  Proper installation and maintenance of this entire system is essential to keeping a basement dry and stable. 

Flooding & Flood Insurance

1/30/2018 (Permalink)

Soon it will be that time of year when flooding will be all over the news.  Did you know that a standard homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover damage from flooding?  Water coming into your home or business from the outside, through a basement window or other opening due to excessive rain or rising bodies of lake, rivers, streams, etcetera, typically falls under the category of a flood, and most homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover floods.  According to a 2016 poll conducted by the insurance information institute, only 12 percent of homeowner’s have flood insurance.    

How can you protect yourself?  The first step is to make sure that your yard is properly graded so that excessive rain, and any standing water resulting from excessive rain, flows away from, and not towards your house.  For more information on this, see our January 18, 2018 blog posted titled “Landscape Grading & Keeping your Basement Dry”

The second step is to determine if your home is in a flood plain.  If it is, you are at risk of flooding from rising bodies of nearby lakes, rivers, streams, etcetera.  FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) can provide you with information you need regarding flooding.  They provide copies of the latest and most up-to-date flood zone maps for most communities.  You can start by going to:    https://msc.fema.gov/portal  Here you will be able to type in the address of your property, hit “search” and then click on “view web map”.  If you have any questions, or suspect that your property may be in a flood plain, talk to your insurance agent.  You may be able to buy a separate flood policy through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).  Talk to your insurance agent about this very important coverage and what your risks are.  Not all areas of a flood plain have the same risk.

Having flood insurance, if it makes sense for your property, will allow you to get our experts in quickly to dry out your floors, walls, furniture and other belongings.  When it comes to water damage, a fast response is important to keep costs down and prevent the growth of mold or other secondary damage.        

Landscape Grading & Water in your Basement

1/18/2018 (Permalink)

It's hard to imagine right now, but spring will be here before you know it.  And while spring may be a welcome sight for many of us, it isn't without it's problems.  Many of you will find wet foundation walls or even water in your basement during the spring thaw.  There are a couple of reasons why this might happen.  One of them is something many of us never think about and that's the grading of our yards.  

According to Wikipedia, "Grading in civil engineering and landscape architectural construction is the work of ensuring a level base, or one with a specified slope for a construction work such as a foundation, the base course for a road or railway, or landscape and garden improvements, or surface drainage."

It is important that the ground around your home slopes away from your foundation so that water, or surface drainage, from heavy rains or melting snow, runs away from your foundation and your home.  Ground that is flat or slopes toward your foundation is a recipe for wet basement walls or water in your basement.   

Proper slope and surface drainage is something that should be checked periodically.  Ground shifts and settles with freezing and thawing, erosion and other impacts of nature.  Settling ground is particularly pronounced in newer homes where the ground has recently been disturbed to build the home.  The ground will compress or settle downward.  Evidence of this will be more visually apparent in sinking walk ways or patios, but may not be as obvious in the ground around the foundation of the home as it is often hidden by shrubs and plants in landscape beds.  It's important to check for proper slope every year or so and fill in with dirt if necessary to help keep your foundation walls and basement dry.

What is the proper slope away from your foundation?  The consensus seems to be 6 inches for the first 10 feet extending out from your foundation.  This translates to a slope of 5%. According to the Spruce,  

"To find the slope away from your foundation, you will need:

  • Some string (at least 12 feet long)
  • 2 stakes (we will call them "A" and "B"), and something to pound them into the ground
  • A string level (that is, a type of level designed to fit on a piece of string)
  • A tape measure

Do You Already Have the Correct Slope?

Using the above supplies, take the following steps to determine if sufficient slope currently exists:

  1. Tie one end of the string loosely around stake A.
  2. Pound stake A into the ground right near your foundation
  3. Slide the string down stake A, so that it rests at ground level
  4. Tie the other end of the string loosely around stake B.
  5. Now measure out 10 feet down the slope from stake A, and pound stake B into the ground there (if there is excess string, just wrap it around stake B). The string between the stakes should be fairly taut, but still adjustable.
  6. Slide the string up or down stake B, so as to make it roughly level.
  7. Put the string level on the string, at about the mid-point between the stakes.
  8. Now adjust the string up or down on stake B, so as to make it exactly level.
  9. Measure the distance from the string on stake B to the ground. Is the measurement 6 inches or more?" 

And if you do find yourself with wet foundation walls or a wet basement, SERVPRO of Appleton is always here to help.

Hot Water Heater Leaks

1/16/2018 (Permalink)

Most of us rarely think about our hot water heaters until they either fail to give us hot water or they leak all over our basement and cause significant damage. But in fact, due to the nature of what they due, water heaters are prone to leaks and often cause significant damage to your basement, especially if your basement is finished.  It's a much harder clean up if you have wet carpeting and drywall versus cement floor and walls.  

Hot water heaters operate by bringing cold water into the tank at the bottom.  This water is then heated using natural gas, propane, fuel oil or electricity.  The hot water then rises to the top where it is released to wherever warm water is needed in your home, while more cold water comes back into the tank to replace it, and the cycle continues.  This process results in various spots where water can leak.

  • Whenever you have a plumbing connection or plumbing lines, you have the potential for a leak and there are several near your water heater
  • Because water is being heated, water heaters have a temperature & pressure relief valve.  These valves can be faulty and cause a leak, or they can leak due to excessive pressure, overheating, or becoming stuck
  • Your water heater has a drain valve.  This drain valve can fail to close completely and can cause leak.   
  • If you have an electric water heater, leaks can occur due to a loose heating element or a bad gasket
  • The tank itself can corrode and water can leak out the bottom

To protect yourself from significant water damage from a leaky hot water heater, you can install an automatic water shut off valve.  Moisture sensors are placed on the floor near or under the water heater.  If a leak is detected, the sensors send a signal to the control box which in turn closes the valve, shutting off the water supply.   

Frozen Water Pipes

1/8/2018 (Permalink)

Much of the country recently experienced a severe cold snap.  And as temperatures began to rise this past weekend, we at SERVPRO were inundated with calls to clean up water damage at both commercial and residential properties due to burst water pipes.  It may seem counter intuitive.  The temperatures are rising, so why are pipes bursting now?

Without getting into the chemistry of water and what causes it, suffice it to say that water expands as it freezes.  While this expansion can cause a weak pipe to burst, it's usually not the direct cause of a burst pipe.  Pipes usually burst where little or no ice has formed.  That's because the break is usually the result of increased pressure in the pipe and not expanding ice.  Pipes burst when water thaws and begins to flow, but then runs into other, still-frozen parts of the pipe and builds up pressure.  

What can you do to prevent burst pipes?  The simple and most direct answer is to keep your water pipes warm and prevent them from freezing.  Typically homes in Wisconsin are built with the water pipes located on the inside of the building insulation, which protects the pipes from subfreezing weather.  That said, if your homes insulation is inadequate, you may have a problem. Also consider that any hole on an outside wall for things like television or cable wires, phone wires, or even furnace exhaust vents, can let cold air in.  These openings need to be properly insulated as well.  If you're building a new home, or doing a home remodel project, it's also a good idea to locate your plumbing pipes on inside walls versus outside walls whenever possible. 

To further protect your water pipes, it's a good idea to insulate the pipes themselves.  Most hardware stores or home improvement stores carry foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves that most homeowners can install themselves.  Plumbing supply stores and insulation dealers carry pipe sleeves that feature extra-thick insulation, as much as one or two inches thick.  These sleeves will obviously cost a little more but may be worth the extra cost.  

One last thing to consider.  The best insulation in your home, and on your pipes, may not be enough to protect your pipes from freezing during a particularly cold spell like the one we recently had, if your furnace goes out while you are out of town on vacation.  If you plan to be out of town during the winter months, you may want to consider purchasing a remote temperature monitor.  A remote temperature monitor is a digital thermometer that tracks ambient changes in temperature.  The sensor then streams the temperature data using wireless technology such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or GSM to your computer, tablet or cell phone.  This way you can be alerted to any problems at home, even when you're away, so that you can send someone to address the problem before it's too late.  Remote temperature monitors are not terribly expensive.  They can be purchased on-line or at hardware stores and home improvement stores for as little as $50 or less.

And as always, if one of your water pipes bursts and floods your home or business, the experts at SERVPRO of Appleton are here to help.    

Flooded Basement after Heavy Rain

4/26/2017 (Permalink)

The spring and summer rainy season is upon us and you may find yourself with water in your basement. 

The first question many homeowners ask is “Will my homeowner’s insurance cover the cost of this mess being cleaned up and dried out by SERVPRO?”  Only your insurance agent and/or adjustor can say for certain whether a claim will be covered.  But here are some guidelines to consider in such situations.

The source of the water is a major factor.  The most common sources of water in your basement following heavy rains include the following: 

  1. Water leaks in from the outside through a basement window or other opening
  2. Water overflows from your sump pump crock as the result of a failed sump pump
  3. Water seeps up from cracks in your concrete floor or foundation as the result of a failed sump pump
  4. Your sewer system backs up into your basement

Water coming in from the outside through a basement window or other opening due to excessive rain or rising bodies of lakes, rivers, streams, etc, typically falls under the category of a flood, and most homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover floods.  According to a 2016 poll conducted by the Insurance Information Institute, only 12 percent of homeowner’s have flood insurance.  To get flood coverage, you may be able to buy a separate flood policy through the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).  Your local insurance agent can help you determine if such a policy makes sense for you, and can help you purchase this type of policy. 

But what if the water came from your sewer system or a failed sump pump?  In most cases, a standard homeowner’s insurance policy does not provide coverage for water damage caused by sump pump failure.  However, this type of coverage can be very affordable and can easily be added on to your standard homeowner’s policy in the form of what’s called an endorsement.  When this type of endorsement is active, it provides for coverage of property damage caused by water that has managed to back up and into your home from pipes, sewer systems, drains, sump pumps, water-service, or any additional system that transfers fluids to and from your home.    

The spring rainy season is a perfect time to check with your insurance agent to ensure that you have this very important coverage.  So that if disaster strikes, SERVPRO of Appleton can make it "Like it never even happened."