Everybody hopes that their home will be safe from serious damage. Like death, it’s a subject that we prefer not to think about, and this means that we can find ourselves hopelessly unprepared if it happens. However, knowing what to do in the event of damage happening can stop it from getting worse, and it could save you a lot of money. It’s also much less stressful dealing with a situation like this when you know that you can take immediate, useful action. What do you need to know to get it right?
Water causes more damage to more properties than any other single factor. This is because it’s very hard to defend against, and it can also be very hard to spot. Dramatic floods such as those caused by recent hurricanes are an obvious danger, as are serious floods from adjacent properties, but slowly developing problems caused by rising groundwater or leaking pipes can actually cause worse damage because they can cause mold and rot to develop over months or even years before it’s detected. This is why it’s important to pay immediate attention to things such as discolored patches on your walls or floors that are becoming uneven. Once water damage is spotted, you need to dry out the area as fast as possible. This usually means hiring a dehumidifier. If the damage is confined to a limited area, remove all curtains, carpets, and soft furnishings so that they don’t stay damp. You can kill most kinds of mold with ordinary household bleach and redecorate using mold-resistant paints, wallpapers, and carpets to make sure that they don’t return.
Fire damage can make structures unstable, so if your property is seriously affected by this kind of damage, you shouldn’t re-enter until a professional safety inspection has taken place. If you live somewhere really isolated and this simply isn’t possible, ask a friend to stand at a distance as you move through each section of the building, and take a long stick to poke at floors and ceilings ahead of you. If the property is still solid and in a state where it can recover, your first task will be to air it thoroughly and clean out all the dirt and debris. You can use a chemical sponge to remove soot stains and apply a degreaser to restore surfaces. Both of these treatments will also help to remove the smell. Scorched wood that is still strong enough to keep will need to be waxed in order to restore and protect it.
The most common cause of severe impact damage to property is falling trees, which can break windows, partially crush roofs, or even damage walls. If a large tree falls on your property or if a tree is broken – for instance, as a result of a storm – you’ll need a professional tree surgeon to remove it safely, but in other situations, you should be able to remove it safely by sawing off branches and discarding them one at a time. With impact damage, it’s important to check the conditions of the full length of beams, girders, lintels, windows, or door frames that have been affected as the shock can reverberate along them and do subtler damage away from the immediate impact, potentially leading to long-term problems.
If your home is burgled, you will normally need to let the police see it before you start to carry out repairs. You should also take photographs of any damage for your records and so that you can make an insurance claim. When repairing, use what you know about how the break-in occurred to make it harder for anybody to get into your home in future. Your local police force may be able to give you useful advice. Installing an alarm system, or improving on the one that you had, is also a good way to keep your insurance premiums from going up in connection with your misfortune.
Preparing for the worst
If you don’t want to be left desperately short of resources when your property is damaged, having insurance is really a must. You can check a list of states to get an idea of the homeowners’ insurance average cost in your area, but as a rule, the premiums that you’re asked for will depend on the condition of your property and your ability to demonstrate that you’ve taken precautions against damage. Fitting smoke alarms, for instance, can not only save your life but also your money.
Your property will be safer from damage if you inspect it regularly to check for problems such as leaks or dangerous overhanging trees. The more intimately you know it, the better placed you’ll be to anticipate where weaknesses lie and act quickly if a problem develops. Your knowledge could make all the difference.