After the frozen first week of January, calls about burst pipes started pouring in. Dozens of folks suddenly had a lot of water on their hands, and the below-freezing weather didn’t help. We don’t usually get this many calls about burst pipes because it usually doesn’t get this cold in the Athens area. But freezing temperatures aren’t the only culprit of unexpected flooding. Dishwashers, washing machines, and toilets can all flood and cause serious damage to your home. What do you do in these situations?
First Steps to Take When Your Home is Flooding
1. Stay calm, find the water shut off valve, and turn it off!
It’s usually by the street and has a metal cover over the inground box. The valve is inside and can be closed using a crescent wrench or a water shut off tool found at most hardware and home improvement stores. Turn the valve clockwise, or to the right, to shut off the water. It is incredibly helpful to know where the water valve is located before the disaster happens. Make it a goal to make sure you know where it is before going to bed tonight. Your local water department is happy to help. While you’re turning off the valve, have someone call us so we can get there ASAP to help. Add our number into your phone now in case of emergency: (706) 310-0097.
2. Begin containing water in a single area.
Use buckets, towels, and/or a shop vac to keep the water from running all over your home. Essentially, you’re trying to sand bag in an area to prevent further damage.
3. Keep the water away from hardwood floors if at all possible.
Some hardwood floors can be refinished, but some have to be removed and replaced. If you can contain the water in a room with tile or vinyl floors, you’ll be able to avoid an inconvenient remodel.
4. Use whatever you have to get the water out.
Scoop the water up with a dustpan or plastic container and throw it in the sink or out the door. It’s important to remove as much water as fast as you can to mitigate damage.
5. Remove all affected carpet pad.
If the flooding has reached your carpet, pull back the carpet and remove the wet carpet pad. If you don’t, the carpet pad will hold water like a sponge, allowing the water to soak into the subfloor and cause extensive, and expensive, damage.
6. Take pictures and document the damage and work you perform.
Do not forget this important step. If you plan to file an insurance claim, you will likely need documentation of the water damage and any work you performed to mitigate the damage. Pictures showing how far the water traveled are invaluable, as are pictures of wet carpet pads and the burst pipe or plumbing fitting. Some insurance companies will require you to submit the damaged water line or fitting, so make sure to ask your plumber to leave the damaged part with you after he or she performs the repair.
If you do these things right away, you can dramatically reduce the level of flooding damage in your home, but please don’t think “All under control, I’ll call Branch next week.” Mold can start growing in 48 hours! Water behind baseboards and cabinets, wet carpet tack strips and other areas that are hard to reach are a ticking mold time bomb. Call a professional as soon as possible, or the problem will grow exponentially and become much more expensive to fix. To learn how to prevent burst pipes in the future, check out our 6 ways to keep frozen pipes from bursting.