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Fischer: Protect your home from watery disasters

By Jen Fischer - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Aug 12, 2022

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Jen Fischer

“Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.” Not only is this an oft-cited line from English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” but it was also a line from yours truly (possibly along with some other expletives) upon opening the door of an unused basement bedroom. The first revolting visual that I beheld was the warped baseboards pulling away from the wall. I stepped inside the doorway to take a closer look, and as expected, alit upon a spongy, waterlogged carpet that left an indented footprint where I had stepped. This was the same carpet we had just replaced due to a toilet overflow from the upstairs bathroom a few months previously.

I sloshed across the room to see if I could find a culprit. It appeared that the paint was bubbling more prominently beside one particular window, and that same window looked to be pulling away from the frame. I erroneously assumed it was leaking through a window. We did have a decent monsoon rain storm the night before, but what could have caused this much water?

According to Swift Restoration, a local disaster cleanup company (which I currently have on speed dial), there are three categories of water loss. Category 1 is described as a clear water loss. This type of water originates from a sanitary water source such as uncontaminated interior water (included toilets that do not contain chemicals and have been flushed), melting snow or ice and rain. This type of water loss, however, can quickly degenerate to a category 2 loss given time and temperature.

Grey water is considered a category 2 loss. Not only is the hue of the water less than clear, but so is the content. This type of water is the stuff of science experiments. Although, encountering such water, and certainly ingesting it, could cause serious illness. This water contains microorganisms and chemical or biological matter that should not linger in the home. This can include discharge from washing machines, unflushed toilet bowl seepage and punctured water beds. However, if it does come from a punctured waterbed, there may be a much larger problem to address (refer to previous article on decorating faux pas). Much like clear water, grey water can also quickly deteriorate into category 3 water with the assistance of time and temperature.

The very worst level of water loss to encounter is black water. This is category 3. This type of water is something you want to avoid inviting into your home at all costs. This water is grossly contaminated. Coming in unprotected contact with it can cause serious, adverse physiological reactions. This water not only contains microorganisms and chemical and biological matter, but it also contains the dreaded ‘genics’ — pathogenic and toxigenic. These are agents no one wants in their homes. Some sources of this type of water include sewage, waste line backflow, and some weather-related events that bring water from outside, in. This stuff is hazmat suit worthy, and often comes disguised as much thicker and darker than the simple water formula of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen.

As it turns out, the culprit of our recent water loss originated from category 1 water. We are unsure at this point, if it has been left long enough to have drifted into a darker diagnosis. The cause could have easily been prevented. In fact, I preach about it to every new homeowner. I implore them to drain the outdoor hose bib, including the shutoff valve, every year before winter. I detail horror stories of what can happen if you don’t do this one thing, resulting in a major loss due to water damage. I have now learned to include assigning a specific person to that task. Otherwise, each person could assume the other had done it, and it doesn’t get done at all.

Jen Fischer is an associate broker and Realtor. She can be reached at 801-645-2134 or jen@jen-fischer.com.


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