mold and water damage: are they covered by home insurance?

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Water, when filling our oceans, swimming pools, or parched mouths, can be our best friend. But when it seeps into our homes, good old H2O turns into a slippery enemy. Depending on the source, home insurance coverage can offer protection.

does homeowners insurance cover mold and water damage?

Homeowners insurance may cover repairs for mold and water damage, but it depends on the source. For instance, you could be reimbursed if mold or water damage is caused by a plumbing issue or brutal weather. However, damage caused by flooding wouldn't be covered because standard homeowners policies don't include floods, nor do they extend to long-term neglect.

what’s covered: water damage vs. flooding

When our homes start filling with water, most of us are more concerned with getting rid of the moisture — quickly! — than with tracking where it came from. Insurance-wise, however, the source of your unwanted lagoon is pretty crucial. The big distinction you have to make is between flooding and water damage.

What's considered a flood?

A flood typically involves external water rising onto your land, such as you might get from an overflowing river, tsunami, mudslide — even heavy rains. Damage caused by flooding is generally not covered by your home insurance policy; you need separate flood insurance coverage.

What's considered water damage?

Water damage, on the other hand, involves instances of water hitting your home before touching the outside ground — and is usually covered by homeowners insurance. Depending on your home policy, things like a roof leak, busted pipe, faulty sump pump, or other plumbing issue, could all qualify.

Remember, because the distinction between flooding and water damage is so fine, it's always best to talk with your insurer after any incident. Even if your claim is flood-based and the immediate damage isn't covered, perils extending from the flood — like property theft or fire — might be.

dealing with mold

One of the worst byproducts of water damage can be mold. Besides being potentially hazardous for your health and just plain gross, mold can reduce your home's value by discoloring the walls or ceiling, rotting wood or ductwork, or creating a foul odor.

Luckily, you needn't rely only on your insurance. There are plenty of ways to prevent mold growth on your own.

Common types of mold and their related symptoms

An integral part of mold remediation is identifying the mold type. This allows you, the homeowner, and the professional involved, to gauge the health risks associated with any mold that's present as well as how to best remove it. There are more than 1.5 million species of mold in the world and only 100,000 have actually been identified. While that number seems daunting, here are the types of mold you're more likely to find in the home:

  • Aspergillus: An allergenic mold often found in AC systems and on foods.
  • Cladosporium: A blackish substance that grows on the back of toilets, fiberglass air ducts, and painted surfaces.
  • Stachybotrys: A species of mold that thrives in highly humid areas and typically grows on cellulose material like wicker, hay, wood, paper, and cardboard. Symptoms include, burning nasal passages, nose bleeds, inflammation of the mucous membranes, fever, and fatigue.
  • Penicillin: A mold usually found on food, grains, soil, paint, wallpaper, and rotting vegetables. This may harken the (in)famous image of the old, moldy sandwich.
  • Acremonium: A very toxin-laden (and acrimonious) mold, acremonium can actually affect cognition and cause nausea, vomiting, and damage bone marrow. To add insult to injury, nearly all types emit a horrible smell.

Exposure to mold can cause respiratory problems in children and pose a serious danger to those with chronic lung diseases. if you think you or someone in your home is getting sick as a result of mold exposure, then get medical help immediately.

How to prevent mold

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, mold spores flat out cannot grow without moisture. Here are some mold prevention tips to keep your pad dry and fungus at bay:

  • Dry any spills or leaks within 48 hours
  • Clean gutters frequently
  • Keep indoor humidity below 60 percent (if you use a humidifier)
  • Activate bathroom vent or open a window while showering
  • Vent appliances that produce moisture (stove, dryer, etc.) and use fans when necessary
  • Insulate cold surfaces
  • Avoid wall-to-wall carpeting if possible
  • Don't store paper products or clothing in humid areas
  • Clean fridge drip pans regularly
  • Ensure rainwater flows away from the house
  • Turn on exhaust fans when operating an appliance that expels moisture (dishwasher, cooking appliance, etc.)
  • Check that any cracks in your crawlspace or basement are repaired

How to spot mold

Sometimes even if mildew has entered your home, it's not obvious. Here are a few tricks on how to spot mold:

  • Check for an earthy or musty odor
  • Angle a flashlight at the wall to reveal color contrast
  • Look behind shelves and dressers, or anywhere the air is cold and not ventilated
  • Pat pillows with a spatula to see what dust comes up
  • Check surfaces for a slick or slimy feel

How to safely remove mold

Keep in mind that for areas 10 square feet or larger, it's usually best to call an industrial hygienist. But if you do find mold in your home, follow these guidelines when getting rid of it:

  • Wear long sleeves, goggles, and rubber gloves
  • Use a respirator
  • Ventilate the room while cleaning
  • Separate infested area from the rest of house with plastic sheets
  • Place used cleaning items in airtight plastic bag

water backup coverage from esurance

In case water ever turns from friend to foe in your home, it helps to know someone's got your back. With a homeowners insurance policy from Esurance or our partner, you can consider taking advantage of water backup protection to get some much-needed assistance when facing an overflowing drain or busted sump pump.

Get started on your water damage coverage with a free homeowners quote in just minutes.

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