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Flooding: What Damage Can It Do to My House?

leather chair inside flooded house

“Welcome to the neighborhood!” one of our neighbors called while we were standing in the front yard of our new home.

On any other day, it would sound like a normal greeting. But on that particular day in June 2014, my husband and I wryly laughed at their joke. Our neighborhood had just flooded ‒ literally days after we received our keys.

We waded through knee-deep water (which, looking back, probably wasn’t the wisest idea ‒ more on that later) to get to our house. Thankfully, even though roughly two-thirds of our backyard was under water, damage inside our house was minimal.

Others weren’t as lucky. Several of our neighbors’ homes sustained severe damage ‒ from collapsed basement walls to wrecked foundations. Those repairs cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Needless to say, we purchased flood insurance soon after.

We definitely learned some important lessons that day and in the weeks that followed.

If you experience any kind of flooding ‒ from a few inches to several feet ‒ the information below can help you take action to care for your home and family.

What Kind of Damage Can Flooding Do to a Home?

Floods can occur within a few minutes or develop over several hours, causing severe damage to your house or property. This damage can include:

  • Structural damage: Floodwaters can wreak havoc on the framework of your home ‒ and the materials that hold it together. It can even move or shift a house from its foundation.
  • Natural gas hazards: Flooding not only jeopardizes the integrity of the home, it also can cause damage to gas lines both inside and outside the house, creating an extremely dangerous situation. If floodwater causes a gas-powered appliance like an oven or water heater to move, those gas lines could be compromised, too.
  • Mold: Water and moisture can lead to mold growing on porous items like carpet, wallpaper, drywall, insulation, upholstery, wood and more. It can not only ruin these items. It’s also harmful to your health.
  • Damaged electrical components, systems and appliances: From outlets and switches to wiring and fuse boxes, any electrical components that were under water ‒ even briefly ‒ will need replaced. Flooding can also damage the components inside large appliances like your oven, refrigerator, dishwasher, furnace, air conditioner and more.
  • Loss of personal belongings: A treasured keepsake. A family photo album. Equipment for your favorite sports or hobbies. Clothes. All of it can be washed away or destroyed by flooding.

What Should I Do After a Flood?

If you’ve been impacted by a flood, follow the directives below to help ensure the safety of your family and your home. (For further reading, see our list of safety tips for before, during and after a flood.)

  • Check for structural damage, loose power lines, gas leaks, foundation cracks or other damage before entering your home.
  • If you suspect a gas leak, smell gas or hear any kind of hissing sound, leave your home immediately and call the gas company from a cellular phone or a neighbor’s phone. Don’t smoke or use candles or matches in your home until you’re sure there are no gas leaks.
  • Turn off the electricity. Even if the power company has turned off the electricity to the area, make certain your home’s main power supply is disconnected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends contacting an electrician to do this for you if you must go through any kind of standing water to get to the main power switch.
  • Be cautious when entering your home. If the door sticks at the top, it could mean your ceiling is ready to fall. So, check your ceiling for signs of sagging before entering.
  • Air out your house as soon as it’s safe to do so. Open your doors and windows for a good half hour before spending more time inside.
  • Check your sump pump periodically to make sure it’s working.
  • Discard any food or medicine exposed to the floodwaters.
  • Move things off the floor and run fans and dehumidifiers.
  • Replace gas control valves on furnaces, water heaters and other gas appliances that have been under water. Silt and corrosion from floodwaters can damage internal components, which could cause an explosion or fire.
  • If you have well water, have the water tested before drinking it.
  • If mold is a problem in your home, you should promptly clean the area or call in a professional.

Can Floodwater Inside My Home Be Hazardous?

Yes, and I still cringe when I think about what we probably waded through on the way to our house. If you’ve ever looked down into a storm drain, that’s what can make its way into your home. Not only could this water be exposed to dangerous electrical sources, but it also may contain household waste, sewage, rodents, snakes or other materials that could hurt you or make you sick.

If you are exposed to floodwater, make sure you wash up well with soap and clean water (or sanitizing wipes, in a pinch). And if you absolutely must enter your home, Consumer Reports notes you should wear protective clothing and gear, including tight-fitting goggles; long rubber or neoprene gloves and clothes that fully cover your arms and legs.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Damage from Flooding?

We never thought of buying flood insurance when we first purchased our home. But we quickly changed our tune.

Many people think that flood damage is covered by their home insurance policies. It’s not. And that could be a costly assumption. Thinking about all that you could lose, flood insurance coverage is a smart and safe choice.

  • What can flood insurance cover? Flood insurance can cover damage from heavy or prolonged rain, coastal storm surge, melting snow, blocked storm drainage systems or other similar causes. It gives you additional coverage that’s not available through home insurance1.
  • Where can I get flood insurance? Erie Insurance offers flood coverage through a partnership with American Bankers Insurance Company, a federally funded flood carrier. Read more about how to get a quote for flood insurance, or talk to your local agent to learn all your options to insure your home against flooding or other water damage.

Another option is adding an Extended Water endorsement 2 to your homeowners’ policy or adding it as part of a bundle. It provides protection for your home in the event of a sewer or drain backup, or from flooding such as inland flooding, tidal water, storm surge or mudflow and mudslide.

With Extended Water, you gain peace of mind knowing your home has coverage for:

  • Basements and other rooms that flood during a storm or various flooding events3
  • Water that backs up from sewers or drains (separate Water Backup endorsement required in North Carolina)
  • Repair or replacement costs for both your home and personal property3
  • Additional living costs associated with temporarily relocating while your home is being restored4
  • Flood avoidance reimbursement (up to $10,000) to help proactively protect your home before flooding occurs5

Looking After You ‒ Before and After the Storm

Owning a home has many rewards, but it also involves its share of demand… especially when Mother Nature has a mind of its own. While you’re looking out for your home, we are looking out for you.

Talk to one of our local agents to see how we can help protect your home.

ERIE® insurance products and services are provided by one or more of the following insurers: Erie Insurance Exchange, Erie Insurance Company, Erie Insurance Property & Casualty Company, Flagship City Insurance Company and Erie Family Life Insurance Company (home offices: Erie, Pennsylvania) or Erie Insurance Company of New York (home office: Rochester, New York).  The companies within the Erie Insurance Group are not licensed to operate in all states. Refer to the company licensure and states of operation information.

The insurance products and rates, if applicable, described in this blog are in effect as of January 2024 and may be changed at any time. 

Insurance products are subject to terms, conditions and exclusions not described in this blog. The policy contains the specific details of the coverages, terms, conditions and exclusions. 

The insurance products and services described in this blog are not offered in all states.  ERIE life insurance and annuity products are not available in New York.  ERIE Medicare supplement products are not available in the District of Columbia or New York.  ERIE long term care products are not available in the District of Columbia and New York. 

Eligibility will be determined at the time of application based upon applicable underwriting guidelines and rules in effect at that time.

Your ERIE agent can offer you practical guidance and answer questions you may have before you buy.

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