Foundation problems from settlement, heave, or flooding can cause significant damage throughout your home. Then there’s repair and filing an insurance claim to recover from the damage.
If you’re experiencing flooding, the most important thing is to ensure your safety and that of your family. Here are the key items that need to be addressed before you do anything else.
- Turn off the electricity. Flooding waters can come into contact with extension cords, appliances, electrical wiring, and even outlets. Stay clear of the water until you’ve turned off the electrical power to your home. If needed, call an electrician to ensure everything is shut down.
- Beware of natural gas leaks. Shifts in your foundation can lead to cracks or even a broken natural gas pipe. If you smell gas, there’s an immediate danger of explosion. Leave the area at once and call the gas company to shut things down.
- Stay clear of sewage backup. The sewage drain pipe can also crack or break. Not only that, but due to soil saturation and flooding, the sewage could back up into your home. Stay clear of the contaminated water and call a plumber.
- Watch for potential structural failure. A shifting foundation can also lead to structural damage. If it’s bad enough, it could lead to structural failure. If this appears to be the case, keep clear of your home until it has been declared structurally sound.
Step-by-Step Insurance Claims
Here are the key steps to file an insurance claim for flooding or foundation damage.
- Document the damage. Take detailed notes on the damage including what happened and when. Supplement them with photos to support your description. Do this as soon as possible to ensure you cover everything while it is still fresh in your mind.
- Contact your insurer. Your insurer can go over your policy to determine exactly what’s covered and what isn’t covered. That can help set your expectations of eventual payout and help guide your efforts on documentation.
- Double-check your damage notes. Ideally, you’ll have someone else go over your notes, checking the damage to make sure you’ve covered everything. They may also offer advice on clarifying the descriptions.
- File your insurance claim. This may be the easiest step. Most insurers have an online system and/or a smartphone app where you enter the details of your claim including your photos. You may need to file one claim for damage to the home and another for loss of personal property since these are usually covered separately.
- Work with the insurance adjuster. Often an insurance adjuster will be assigned to your claim to thoroughly review it. Provide them with your full cooperation, from access to your home to discussing the damage. Review their final report closely to ensure they’ve captured all the damage. Given their expertise, they may actually find more damage than you’ve noticed.
- Determination of payout. Once everything has been reviewed and approved by your insurer, a payment minus the deductible will be issued.
For further information, FEMA has a helpful guide on How to File a Flood Insurance Claim.
Insurance Coverage: Flooding and Foundation Damage
Homeowner’s insurance usually covers water damage from internal sources. That includes burst pipes, overflow from sinks and baths, plus leaking water heaters, dishwashers, and washing machines.
Damage from hurricanes, storms, heavy rain, sinkholes, or underground water seepage is typically not covered. For that type of coverage, you’ll need separate flood insurance.
Flood insurance is available from the National Flood Insurance program. At the FEMA Flood Map Service Center you can map your property to determine flooding risks and begin the process of applying for coverage.
Flooding risk in Florida has been documented in the First National Flood Risk Assessment. They’ve estimated that 1,833,300 properties are currently at substantial risk. That number is expected to grow to 2.2 million by 2050, a 19 percent increase. They also point out that 4.8 million Florida home and property owners have filed flood damage claims since 2000.
To add further perspective on the damages that come with flooding, FEMA has provided a cost of flooding calculator. Selecting a 1,000-square-foot one-story home and just one inch of water, the damage estimate is $10,819. Ramp that up to six inches and the expected damage reaches $21,161.
Foundation Damage Prevention
With that data in mind, it’s wise to not only acquire flood insurance but to also do all you can to prevent damage in the first place. To help your prevention efforts we’ve developed a Flood Damage Prevention Checklist.
When you’re considering options for preventing foundation damage, it’s a good idea to get advice from the professionals. For a free inspection, contact Florida Foundation Authority.