Upper Cape Living: Dealing With a Major Home Disaster, Part 1

COURTESY REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATES - A leather couch with soaked ceiling panels and vintage rock-n-roll memorabilia hanging on the wall.COURTESY REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATES - The basement utility room with a couple of inches of standing water covering the floor.COURTESY REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATES - The drop ceiling was so water damaged that whole panels had sagged and fallen out of their frames.

One of our agents was excited to get home one night in February. She and her husband had recently completed a major renovation of their first floor, and had hardwoods installed throughout. The floors had been installed the five weeks before and they looked great. This agent is an avid DIY-er, and has tackled many projects on her own, but hired out a subcontractor for a project of this size.

As soon as she got home, her excitement turned to despair. A contractor had driven a flooring nail straight through a copper pipe, flooding the home's finished basement and ruining the brand new wood floors. Over the course of five weeks, the hole had steadily grown until it was big enough to send water everywhere.

In under a day, the basement was covered with over an inch of standing water. Packed from floor to ceiling with vintage rock-n-roll memorabilia and one of a kind items the owners had collected in their years of traveling, the basement was a point of pride for the family. The burst pipe sent water rushing through the ceiling, behind the walls and onto the carpet, one of the worst nightmares any homeowner could face. Tiles from the drop ceiling in the basement were so waterlogged that they broke into pieces and fell to the ground. To make matters worse, the new wood floors were cupped thanks to the moisture. A simple nail had inflicted damage on two floors!

Over the course of the next couple weeks, we're going to regularly check in on the homeowners as they put their basement, family room and living room back together after water took it all apart. Today, we're starting with the first step:

Assessing the Damage

The homeowners quickly called a disaster recovery company, pulled their valuables out of the basement and moved quickly to mitigate whatever damage they could. A high-end pool table, worth thousands of dollars, needed extensive repairs, but a 1950s era jukebox came through unscathed. Vintage guitars and signs mounted to the wall were destroyed by the water - a monetary and sentimental loss. The was already a lost cause, having to be completely torn out in order for the sub-floor to dry. The blowers, fans and dehumidifiers were quickly set up and have been running nonstop for almost a week at this point.

The next step this homeowner took, one that many skip, was to call an independent insurance adjuster. An independent adjuster is someone who works on behalf of the homeowner to ensure that they receive all the insurance reimbursements they are entitled to. They generally take up to 10% of the settlement as their fee - but the benefits of working with one far outweigh the costs.

A homeowner should have the name of at least one in their address book - when bad things happen, they can minimize the financial impact. Their knowledge of home construction combined with their familiarity with insurance companies makes them an indispensable asset when fighting to ensure that all the damage from an accident is covered. Damage from an accident like this one frequently cascade and require many secondary and tertiary items be replaced. For example, not only the drywall in the basement have to be pulled out and replaced - everything behind it has to be replaced as well, such as wiring and baseboard heating. Insurance companies will frequently try to replace only the bare minimum, leaving the homeowner holding the bag for extensive repairs caused by somebody else.

As it stands currently, virtually everything in the basement has to be replaced. All of the carpeting, much of the ceiling and even the new high efficiency gas furnace all sustained substantial water damage beyond the point of repair. The new hardwood floor on the first story also have to be replaced, and some damage to the baseboards and walls needs to be remediated as well. Much of the memorabilia, furniture, and electronics from the basement also needs to be replaced. The destructive power of water is truly amazing.

After an initial assessment, the rough total for damages to this home will likely end up numbering in the tens of thousands of dollars, and repairs are estimated to take over a month.

Stay tuned as we move into the next step of the process - starting the repairs!  

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  • Jandahl

    Hi, we installed a "flologic" automatic whole house shutoff, it measures the flow rate of your water system under various set ups. Like, home and away. This is tied into our security system, so we set it through our security system. If there is a flow of water beyond the parameters we have set, shut off occurs and we are notified by security system. Johnson Systems on the Cape installs these, with your plumber if you need that support, and then you are all set. We did this after two neighbors had floods which cost hundreds of thousands to fix. A word to the wise.............