Q: We had a pipe break in our kitchen, and water ran for several hours. This is our first insurance claim in 30 years and we’re unfamiliar with what to do, so we have several questions and would really appreciate some help:
The hardwood floor is now dry but has buckled. Do we need to check under it? Is replacement recommended, or is it OK to sand and refinish it?
About 75 percent of the floor is damaged. If it has to come up, can they match the new floor to the old one? Should the insurance company pay for a whole new floor?
About half of the family room carpet was also soaked. Can they relay the carpet, or should it be replaced? –Alan C.
A: First and foremost, you need to have a qualified restoration contractor out to the house to start drying it, and you need to do that as quickly as possible. Your insurance should cover this completely as an emergency repair (check with your agent or the company first to make sure), and, in fact, you are typically required by your policy to take all necessary steps to mitigate further damage. Your insurance company will have the names of qualified restoration companies in your area who know what they’re doing.
The contractor will assess the extent of the damage, and will use moisture meters to determine just how far the water has traveled (it’s often more extensive than you might think). They will then set up drying equipment as needed to dry the carpet, the subfloor, the hardwood floor, and other affected areas. The faster you get this process underway, the better your chances are of saving flooring and other components, and also of preventing mold growth.
The hardwood is cupping at the joints not only because of the water on it, but also because of the water that is still trapped below it. Depending on how wet it is, an effective drying plan should be able to lower the moisture level sufficiently to reduce the cupping, and then the wood will have to continue to air dry for a while until the moisture level drops sufficiently to allow the floor to be sanded and refinished.
The insurance company is responsible for restoring your home to a pre-loss condition, and what that entails is dependant on the extent of the loss. In a situation such as yours, what typically happens is that only the wet areas are dried and/or replaced as necessary–a good hardwood floor contractor should be able to remove and seamlessly patch in new flooring–then the entire floor will be sanded and refinished to blend everything back in.
Whether you can relay the carpet depends on two things: Did the backing delaminate (a process where the glue breaks down from the water and the backing separates from the back side of the carpet), and did the carpet get stained from any rust or dye transfer that often occurs from furniture sitting on the wet carpet. Also, the pad and the subfloor under the carpet need to be checked. Your restoration contractor will be able to make those determinations as well.
Q: We are looking at buying a new hillside house with a daylight basement, which has a sewage pump for the lower bathroom. We have no experience with these, and have heard comments ranging from the real estate agent’s “No problem” to a builder who said, “No way I would have one.” We read your column every week and would really appreciate your opinion. –Jack and AJ M.
A: Sewage pumps are one of those necessary evils in certain homes. If it’s possible to build a home without one, that would be preferable, but in many cases the configuration of the house and lot–such as the daylight basement you describe–make the use of a sewage pump unavoidable.
Sewage pumps are actually simple and relatively inexpensive items (around $350 typically). They utilize a proven technology, and there’s not a whole lot that can go wrong with them. The pump sits in a sealed box, and receives the incoming sewage from the bathroom. When the sewage level in the box reaches a certain point, it lifts a float mechanism and trips a switch that activates the pump, which in turn pumps the sewage up to the home’s main sewer line.
The pumps operate on 120 volts and typically draw about 10 amps of power when running. Obviously they don’t operate during a power outage, and flushing solid objects, such as toys, down the toilet can damage the pump. Beyond that, there really isn’t that much to be concerned about.
If you’re buying a house with a sewage pump, make sure you know where it’s located and how to access it should you need to. Get all of the manufacturer’s warranties and instructions from the builder, and understand how the pump operates and what maintenance items, if any, you need to keep up on. Most pumps are pretty trouble free, but they do differ in quality and dependability so you might also want to question the builder about the type of pump his plumber is using, and then do a little research of your own.
All in all, if I liked the house and trusted the builder, I wouldn’t let the fact that it has a sewage pump discourage me from buying it.
Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.