Water Damage vs Flood Damage: What You Need to Know

water damage vs flood damage

Flood damage is just another kind of water damage, right?

When it comes to water damage vs flood damage, flood damage poses higher health risks, can require additional insurance coverage, and can cost more to repair.

But what exactly constitutes flood damage, what constitutes water damage, and why does it matter? Let’s start with the causes.

Causes of Water Damage

Water damage is a broad category with multiple causes. Your home can incur water damage from a leaky water heater, a burst sewer line, an overflowing toilet, or dozens of other sources inside your home.

Causes of Flood Damage

According to FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), flood damage is caused by:

  • overflow of inland or tidal waters
  • unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source
  • mudflow
  • collapse or subsidence of land along the shores of a lake or similar body of water as a result of erosion or undermining caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels that result in a flood

A flood is defined as a temporary situation where two or more acres of dry land, or two or more units of property, are covered in water from one of the above water sources.

Distinguishing Flood Damage from Water Damage

One easy way to distinguish water damage from flood damage is by answering this simple question: is your home the only one having any issues?

If the answer is yes, then you’re likely dealing with water damage.

If the answer is no, and more than one home is having the same issue, then it is likely a result of flood damage.

Insurance Coverage for Water Damage vs Flood Damage

Water damage is typically covered by homeowner’s insurance. When dealing with water damage, you should contact your local full service restoration company to discuss your homeowners insurance policy with your carrier, determine coverage and payout, and develop a restoration plan.

Flood insurance, on the other hand, is not covered by your typical homeowner’s insurance policy.  You must invest in a separate NFIP approved flood insurance policy – and before any damages have taken place.

Health and Safety Aspects of Water Damage vs Flood Damage

There are three types of water damage: category 1, 2, and 3.

Category 1, or “clean water”, comes from supply lines, faucets, and other sources that typically aren’t contaminated. It can typically be cleaned with extraction, drying, and dehumidification.

Category 2, or “grey water”, comes from dishwasher leakage, sump pump failures, and other sources that can include some contamination. It typically requires a degree of sanitation and decontamination.

Category 3, or “black water” comes from sewage, standing water, and other sources that can be significantly contaminated by pathogenic and toxic material. It requires an extreme degree of sterilization before people can safely re-enter the structure without safety gear.

Flood water is always category 3.

The Cleanup Process for Water Damage vs Flood Damage

Versus the other two categories, category 3 water damage and flood damage may require additional restoration measures:

  1. Removing mud and debris. Whether it’s a natural flood or a burst sewer line, dirt and sediment will be carried in with water. Any mud must be shoveled and removed from your home before we can begin the disinfecting process.
  2. Bleaching and disinfecting virtually every surface and all contents. Many contents, including toys, rugs, and furniture may have to be disposed of completely.
  3. Applying biocide, anti-bacterials, and anti-microbials to every service, nook, and cranny. Contamination by category 3 water and flood water damage can contribute greatly to mold growth.
  4. Checking virtually every enclosed space in the structure with thermal imaging on an ongoing basis. Flood water in particular can carry a wide variety of mold spores that can bloom at different rates.
  5. Repainting and refinishing surfaces. The extreme disinfectants necessary for this class of water and flood damage may discolor walls, floors, and other surfaces more than lower classifications of water damage.
  6. Repair any roof leaks or storm damage. Often, flood damage comes with extreme weather, which means that not all damage necessarily came in through the front door. It’s necessary to check your roof for holes, cracks, missing shingles, or clogged downspouts that could cause further damages. We recommend going through this roof inspection checklist once it’s safe to climb on your roof.

Learn more about water damage repair and flood damage repair.

Water Damage vs Flood Damage: Which One Does My Insurance Cover?

Still feeling confused? Here are some examples of different potential damages and which insurance policy will generally cover them.

Damage Covered by Homeowner’s Insurance

The following scenarios are covered under a typical homeowner’s insurance plan:

  1. Freezing weather causes a burst pipe, flooding your home and requiring new flooring and walls.
  2. A flood causes an electrical fire in your home. While the initial flood damages are not covered, the resulting electrical fire is covered by your homeowners insurance.
  3. Your water heater explodes, leaving water everywhere.
  4. Your washing machine overflows, causing water damage to the flooring around it.
  5. A garden hose is left on and water runs in through your back door.

Damage Covered by Flood Insurance

The following scenarios are covered under an NFIP flood insurance plan:

  1. A nearby river rises and floods basement of your home. This is flood damage because the rising river constitutes “overflow of inland waters.”
  2. A flash flood or mudslide causes damage to your home. Since your home is likely not the only one affected, this constitutes flood damage.
  3. A hurricane causes coastal flooding, and a dangerous storm surge devastates your home. Again, you’ll need a flood insurance policy to protect you against this type of damage.

Invest in Flood Insurance Today

In places like San Diego, knowing the differences between water damage vs flood damage can save you a lot of money – especially if you live directly on the coast. Don’t wait to find out if your damages are covered by your homeowners insurance policy. Avoid paying a thing out of pocket when flood damage occurs – invest in flood insurance now before it is too late.

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