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Bohemian Mutual and Grinnell Mutual offer tips to keep water out of the basement

May 7, 2011
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald (Special) - When heavy rains enter the forecast, basement flooding may weigh on the minds of homeowners. Rain water isn’t the only source of water damage in the home, however. Water lines to washers or other appliances can break, leaking water through flooring, drywall, and more. Because water damage isn’t always covered in a homeowners insurance policy, it’s important to take preventive measures, advises Bohemian Mutual Insurance Association of Toledo.

Preventing exterior water damage

Surface water damage occurs when rain water pools around the home and slowly (or quickly) seeps through the foundation. According to Grinnell Mutual’s Director of Corporate Loss Control Larry Gallagher, homeowners can stop surface water from causing foundation damage by using gutters and downspouts with extensions, installing a French drain, or grading the soil around the home.

“Foundation damage occurs when water-saturated soil pushes down and into the foundation. The extra water can also cause water-related health issues, not to mention insect problems,” notes Gallagher. “The key to prevention is to establish drainage that moves the water away from the foundation.”

To be effective, gutters and downspouts need to be kept free of debris. Extensions should move the water away from the foundation at a six-inch drop for every 10 feet. Installing a French drain, a trench inlaid with drainage pipe or gravel, can also move water away from the foundation if surface water continues to be a problem. This can be done without hiring a contractor. (Learn how by visiting do-it-yourself home construction websites.) Finally, homeowners can grade the soil around their homes to obtain the necessary pitch for proper water flow. While an expensive option, it likely costs less than repairing a crumbled foundation. Of course, some surface water may be hard to spot.

“Homeowners need to keep a close eye on flower gardens and shrubs that surround their foundations. While the plants may draw some water out of the soil, thus alleviating water pressure, they can also hide water problems,” says Gallagher. “If a house is built on a crawl space, the enclosed space also needs to be checked for proper drainage.”

If a foundation starts to show signs of damage, the first step is to stop the water. Next, homeowners need to contract with a professional to fix the foundation.

Preventing interior water damage

There’s always a chance that appliances, such as water heaters, clothes washers, dish washers, and refrigerators, can cause water damage as well. For instance, water heaters are estimated to last 10 to 12 years. Signs of rust or corrosion may develop near the base of the tank as the heater approaches the end of its life. The deteriorating area on the tank may begin to leak and cause water damage on the floor where the appliance is located and on any floor(s) below this level.

“It’s good practice to make frequent inspections of aging appliances to check for rust or corrosion. Also check that the water lines coming in and out of appliances are tight and in good condition. Replace water lines as deterioration begins to appear as opposed to waiting until lines begin to leak,” advises Gallagher.

It’s also a good idea to only operate appliances like clothes and dish washers when someone is at home.

“Vibrations in a washer can cause water lines to loosen at the faucet or the appliance. If no one’s at home when a leak happens, a minor mop-up issue could become major structural water damage,” says Gallagher.

How to clean-up water damage

Use a water vac to pull water out of carpeting.

Pull back carpeting and the pad below.

Run fans on the carpeting and pad.

Run dehumidifiers to draw moisture out of the air.

Remove damaged drywall and insulation (rarely salvageable).

To prevent the growth of mold, damaged materials such as drywall or carpeting need to be removed 24 to 48 hours after the damage occurs. Contact your insurance agent immediately so photos of the damage can be taken first.

To learn more about protecting your home, contact Bohemian Mutual at 641-484-5233.

About Grinnell Mutual

Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company, in business since 1909, provides reinsurance for farm mutual insurance companies and property and casualty insurance products for homeowners, farmowners and businessowners through nearly 1,600 independent agents in 12 Midwestern states. Grinnell Mutual is the largest primary reinsurer of farm mutual companies in North America.



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