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What to Do After Your House Floods

I love being an Insurance Agent. It truly gives me great happiness ensuring that my customers are properly protected in the case of an insurance claim.

But, a few weeks ago, I was not only the Insurance Agent, but also the customer. During the polar vortex, a pipe burst in one of my rental properties. And, I felt all the sorrow, pain, and unhappiness that one of my insureds feels when they have a claim. But, along with all those negative feelings, I also had the sheer relief that I was properly insured.

And, this incident reminded my of why insurance is just so important! Thank goodness I was properly protected on this building.  Here are the “before” pictures of the building:

 

Now, please take a look at the disaster that occurred due to a burst pipe:

 

Aannnddd….this is what the building looks like after demo:

Because of this incident, I thought it would be a good idea to write a blog to remind all of us 1) why insurance is so important and 2) what do to if you have a flood incident.

There are a number of ways that your house can flood, whether it’s due to heavy rains, sewer backup, or a pipe burst. While a house flood can be devastating, here are some tips on how to respond if it were to happen to you.

Put Safety First

The first step in any major home disaster is to remain safe. You may be forced to leave your home if the flooding is bad enough. Make sure you are also safe when you return to your home to begin dealing with the aftermath. This may include turning off the power, as water and electricity obviously do not mix. Be sure to wear protective clothing such as rubber boots and gloves when you re enter your home. Not only will you be dealing with the water itself, but also whatever else the water has been in contact with, namely debris or even sewage. It is best to protect yourself against whatever harmful chemicals and items the flooding may have washed in.

Also, never eat food that has been contaminated by flood waters, or even been in close proximity to the water for an extended period of time. If the water was high enough to reach your refrigerator or any of your pantry cabinets, it is best to go ahead and throw the food away and just buy more. In addition, you should thoroughly wash any dinnerware, glasses, or flatware that might have been caught in the house flood before you use it again.

Call Your Insurance Agent

Your homeowners insurance will vary depending on what policies you have, but many insurance companies cover flooding due to storms, backed-up city sewers and storm drains, broken sump-pumps, or bursted pipes. Your insurance company will send an adjuster to look at and assess the damage to determine if it is a covered loss. If your losses and damages are covered, the sooner you call your agent, the sooner they will pay out. Repairs can become costly, but the insurance money will help get your home back in order quicker with less of a financial burden on you. So, if this ever happens to you, please call me so I can walk you through all the details of dealing with this type of claim.

Stop and Remove the Water

One of the first things you should do when your house floods is stop the source of water coming in if at all possible. If your sump-pump is broken or malfunctioning, replacing it will help keep up with any continuing rains and may prevent further damage to your basement, garage, crawl space, or main floor. Calling the city to remove debris from storm drains may also be necessary in order to help stop flooding.

If your flooded home was caused by a bursted pipe, fix the plumbing as soon as possible to lessen water damage. The sooner you stop the water from coming in, the sooner you can get to cleaning up and repairing any damages.

Once no more water is coming in, you can work to remove the water from your home. Depending on the level of flooding you have experienced or even the rooms in your home that have been affected, your process might change. You may need to bail water out using buckets and bins or use hoses to drain large amounts of water from your basement. As the water begins receding, you can use a wet vacuum to suck remaining bits of water and moisture from carpets and floors. If you’re lucky and the damage is minimal, you might be able to simply mop the mess up.

Dry Out Your Home

Even if you are successful in removing all of the standing water from your home, everything will remain damp and wet, especially if heavy rains have increased the humidity in your area. If you have power, use your air conditioning and portable fans to help dry the wet areas of your home.

Dehumidifiers are also a big help, especially in closed off spaces such as basements or crawl spaces. Dehumidifiers work by removing excess moisture from the air. This is the easiest way to dry out your home and minimize the potential water damage you might be dealing with, as it does not require you to actively clean. However, in the case of a house flood, dehumidifiers are only supplemental and you are likely to need multiple methods of action. Dehumidifiers are recommended for anyone who lives in a damp climate or an area that experiences longer rainy seasons, as they can prevent some of the problems associated with this type of weather, both for you and your home.

Clean Up

Once the water is gone and you have called your insurance company, it’s time to begin post-flood care. You can call in a professional clean-up crew or do the work yourself. This may involve determining what is salvageable and throwing away anything that is too damaged or no longer safe to use. If the flooding in your home was widespread, you may have to bring in a roll-off dumpster for easy disposal of larger damaged items, as you will find your trash bags filling quickly.

Be aware that you may need to remove flooring, drywall, and insulation to prevent mold and mildew from spreading in your home. Furniture may also need to be dried out, cleaned, or thrown away depending on the level of water damage. Unless you are exceptionally handy, it is probably best to call in a professional company that specializes in mold removal. Mold can begin developing within the first 24 hours after a flood, and once it has started growing, it can be difficult to fully remove. The quicker you remove items from water and begin drying them, the less likely they are to be lost to mold, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution and have a professional assess the situation.

If you’ve experienced flooding for any reason or want to be covered against possible floods in your area, please call Langlois Insurance Agency at #815-485-2106 to make sure you are protected against the unexpected. We always love hearing from our customers!

Warmest Regards,
Matt Langlois

Market Value vs Replacement Cost: Which Amount Should I Insure?

Before purchasing a home, you are required to purchase homeowner’s insurance as well. But how do you know how much to insure your home for? Most would think that they need to cover only the price they pay for the house. However, that price isn’t enough coverage to pay for your home in the event of a disaster such as a fire or storm. In most cases, your home’s real value is greater than its market value. That is because market value deals only with the buying and selling process, not rebuilding. And rebuilding costs are much more than the costs to build a home from scratch due to costs of demolishing/cleaning up the existing home, not being able to buy in bulk for supplies, and labor for a single rebuild versus multiple.

So which amount of coverage do you go with? Depends on the risks you want to take. Below we will go over the differences between a home’s market value and replacement cost, followed by the best option we recommend for the average homeowner’s insurance policy.

What is Market Value?

Market value is the price a home can sell for in its current condition. Knowing this price is beneficial when buying or selling a home, but not necessarily for rebuilding. As we said already, there are a number of factors that cause rebuilding the same home to be much more expensive than the home’s market value. Market value is affected by factors such as the location of the home, crime rates in the area, amount of land, proximity to schools, and the availability of similar homes. The most important detail to note about market value is that the price is rarely high enough to cover the cost of rebuilding it since materials and labor costs could be more than when the house was built and one-time jobs are typically more expensive.

Benefits and Risks to Insuring Your Home at Market Value

Benefits: Occasionally, a home may be worth more on the market than it would take to rebuild such as if the home were historical or consisted of elaborate artisanal work that would be worth a lot of money. If you have a home such as this, you can choose to purchase a historic home policy, but these are often more expensive. To save money, you could insure your home based on the market value in order to recover after a loss.

Risks: If your home’s value isn’t placed in the history or craftsmanship, insuring your home at market value puts you at risk for not being fully covered in the event of damage to the house. You would be required to pay the difference between your home’s rebuilding cost and market value in order to rebuild. The only other alternative would be to build a less expensive home elsewhere.

What is Replacement Cost?

Replacement cost is the amount of money it would take to rebuild your home after being destroyed. Coverage at this price will insure your home for the cost to repair any damage or even rebuild your home at the current prices. A building contractor can help you estimate the replacement cost of your home based on the property’s structure and associated items as well as costs such as plans and permits for rebuilding, labor, materials, fees, and taxes. Keep in mind that the land value is included in the market value only, not the replacement cost as the land will not have to be rebuilt.

Benefits and Risks to Insuring Your Home at Replacement Cost

Benefits: You will be able to experience minimal financial interruption should your home be destroyed. If you go with this option, it is best to insure your home for 100% of its estimated replacement cost.

Risks: The cost to rebuild your home can vary over time. There is no guarantee that you will be 100% able to rebuild your home at the estimated replacement cost. To increase your chances of keeping your home fully covered against destruction, we recommend reviewing your policy annually to make sure your amount of coverage is still appropriate for you. Factors that can affect your replacement cost include home upgrades and improvements, market conditions, labor and material costs, and transportation prices. For the maximum amount of protection, you can consider a policy that includes an inflation clause to automatically adjust and account for changes in construction costs.

Insuring Your Home

Unless you believe otherwise based on the benefits and risks listed above, insuring your home for its replacement cost is typically the best and safest option. While, yes, insuring your home for its market value is cheaper now, you will be more adequately covered down the road should anything happen to your home.

Ultimately, when you make your decision, research all your options and please talk to any of us at Langlois Insurance Agency about your situation.

As always, please don’t hesitate to give me a call with any questions or comments — I always love to hear from my customers!

Warmest Regards,

Matt Langlois

matt@langloisinsurance.com