I experienced this in my own rental home several years ago. After midnight I awoke from a deep sleep to the sound of a loud clap and the rushing sound of water. In a haze of sleep, one is not sure if this caused by gunfire, earthquake, or a pissed off rattler snake about to strike back. Running though my hall looking for the rushing noise, I plunged into the spongy soaking wet carpet in front of the bathroom door. I threw open the bathroom door, hit the lights and saw the vanity doors flung open and water shooting straight at my legs from a busted supply line under the sink.
I grabbed for the angle stops to turn them off to stop the flood of water. They were PAINTED over years ago and so stiff they would not turn off. The water flowing at over a gallon a minute, I cursed the landlord for not replacing them, and darted outside to turn the water off at the main in front of my house. Reaching through the dark and thick shrubs, feet planted in the mud and hoping I don’t tough a spider or slugs, I forced the water line OFF to stop the flood inside my house. Inside I had an inch of water on the bathroom floor and extended 4 feet into the hallway. I grabbed every single towel and soaked up the mess as quick as possible. The last thing you want to happen in case of a flood, is let water sit for a long time. Afterwards I photographed the damage and called in the landlord for repair.
Inconvenient as it was to happen in the middle of the night, I was happy that I was home to catch the damage immediately. It could have been a total disaster if I was away at work all day or on vacation. Water wears away mountains!
- The first step after water damage is clean up. Photograph the damage and get the water out as quick as possible. Be sure to take photographs of everything you can. Watermarks on walls, toe boards, carpet, the source of the water damage. Start drying out the area. Lift back carpets, move furniture and appliances out of the way. The drying out time is crucial.Scrub and disinfect while drying out. You do not want mold to take hold in damp areas.
- Inform your insurance company. Report the damage as soon as possible. However, if you think that you won the insurance lottery and are planning your dream kitchen with the money the insurance company will pay out, think again. Older kitchens, 15 year old and older, expect your policy to adjust downwards for wear and tear. The replacement cost will not cover the current market cost of a kitchen remodel. Insurance companies will be more inclined to pay for the repair of cabinets rather than replacing a kitchen in total if the water damage is limited to a portion of the cabinetry.
- The process of the repair/ replacement work. Typically an insurance company will send in a contractor that specializes in water damage to assess and quote the repair job. In the case of a water leak caused from corroded pipes, undetected within the walls for months, the probability of mold growth within the walls is high. Testing for mold is the next step. Drywall is cutaway and samples are sent back to the lab for testing. The damaged area is sealed with plastic to prevent possible mold spores from spreading.
- Option 1: The homeowner may agree to the repair of the existing cabinets and get on with the work as quick as possible with the insurance company paying for the repair of the damage. This may or may not involve all the cabinets depending on the extent of the damage. In my experience most insurance claims involve only a portion of the kitchen, primarily at the kitchen sink or at an ice maker line behind the refrigerator. A repair involves the dismantling of the damaged cabinets and sending off to a cabinet shop to be rebuilt. The insurance company may have the rest of your cabinets refinished to match but I have yet to see a claim that covered the cost of an entire kitchen remodel. In the water damaged areas, drywall will be pulled of the walls, plastic barriers will be raised in the damaged rooms and the mold remediation specialists will be called in to test and remove the mold. Blowers/dryers and dehumidifiers will be brought in to dry out the room completely. This is encapsulated within the damaged area with plastic temporary walls.
- Option 2: The homeowner may opt to replace the entire kitchen at owners expense. The insurance reimbursement will cover the water damage areas covered under the terms of the claim and beyond this, the homeowner will be responsible for covering the rest.
- Preventive maintenance tips:
- Check connections.
- Angle stops located inside sink bases in the kitchen, bathrooms and laundry room should be replaced if rusted or painted shut. Check the hoses for wear and tear. Braided hoses are excellent replacement options.
- Ice maker lines: make sure galvanized connections are not hooked into copper lines. Corroded lines result causing pin prick leaks that can go on for years in the walls before detection.
- Telling signs of a greater problem: rusted water coming out of the ice maker. If you have corroded pipes, you also have a leak.
- Check the water filter connection lines inside your sink base. The small 1/4″ plastic hoses that connect to your water filter can pop loose from the connection and water will leak continually out into your sink base, floors and adjacent cabinets until you detect the leak.
- Tile the sink base. A leak under the kitchen sink is the primary source of water damage in a kitchen. Tiling a sink base is a preventive measure to keep the cabinet floor from getting damaged.
- Do you hear a drip? Don’t ignore the sound of water running.
- Check connections.