après le déluge
February 23, 2017 5:04 AM   Subscribe

The hose to our magic fridge water dispenser sprang a leak sometime yesterday and then water sprayed out of it all day long while we were at work. The water did not stay long in the kitchen but was quickly drawn into the wall behind and kept following that wall all the way to the floor of the basement and garage. Drywall in the ceiling of the basement/garages and the walls are clearly soaked and discolored, and will need replacement. We are the homeowners, not renters. What do we do first?

What we've done so far:
1. Stopped the leak - no more water is entering the system
2. Drilled a few holes in the wet dry wall of the ceiling to make sure there are no big lakes sitting up there
3. Set up dehumidifiers in both the basement and the garage. They are clearly sucking up the moisture since we can surfaces drying, but the drywall has a long way to go and I don't see how that's drying the inside of the walls. Our basement is generally dry and the garage is generally a little damp, if that's helpful info.

So next steps I am pondering but can't decide:
1. Calling our insurance company - on one hand, would this be like car insurance where they tell us who to get in for service, etc.? Or maybe we don't even want to make a claim so we don't want to tell them? I'm a little paralyzed there.
2. Calling a contractor to come and rip out the drywall that is wet/stained. (and we can worry about putting it back up later once everything is convincingly dry). Do I just google 'contractor' + my zip code and see who comes up with a good Yelp?
3. Calling some other service provider - who?

Of course, freaking out a little about cost and 'doing this right' and juggling whatever needs to be done with a busy work schedule - have you been here before?
posted by Tandem Affinity to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A dehumidifier is not enough. Go to Home Depot or somebody and rent a couple of industrial drying fans.
posted by tilde at 5:14 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

3. Calling some other service provider - who?

There are companies which specialize in water, fire, and smoke disaster abatement. I'd call one of them.
posted by thelonius at 5:19 AM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Quit yer freakin! You have this under control. You have stopped the leak. You are taking steps to remediate. You got this.

Replacing drywall is not complicated. You could do it yourself if so inclined. Getting someone in to replace it is not going to be expensive. Personally, I'd join Angieslist (I think they may have made it free recently, but you can also check for a subscription through your local library). Tbh, this may be small enough of a job to search just for "handyman" rather than a drywaller/plasterer. Based on the description, I don't think you need the flood abatement guys.

What's your insurance deductible? I personally am on the mindset that unless I won't make claims below a meaningful loss, and have set my deductible accordingly. So for me, I wouldn't consider making a claim below $5k or so. You'll drive your rate up--not worth it for what I think would be a sub-1k repair bill.

Other thing to consider is replacing the water line entirely. My fridge uses a standard 1/4" od hose--you can get it by the foot at Home Depot, along with the necessary push-fit connectors. If the hose sprung a leak anywhere, replace the line.

"Have you been here before?" Every home owner has. My first was an ice dam that leaked from the second floor down to the first and destroyed the first floor bathroom. It was a mess. But again, you're doing everything right. You'll look back and laugh, or at least sigh knowingly.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:25 AM on February 23, 2017 [6 favorites]

Get it dry first, then take a view. Most of it will probably dry out just fine with no lasting damage. There's probably going to be some staining as a minimum - you can paint over that as long as it's totally dry & there's no more water coming. If there's any swollen or damaged areas, you can get that part repaired by any competent plasterer. Shouldn't be a big deal. Would obviously have been far worse if the ceiling had collapsed - so you dodged a bullet really. No need to make an insurance claim unless the cost of repair is much higher than whatever excess your policy specifies.
posted by rd45 at 5:32 AM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Get a box fan for $20 at home depot if you don't already have one. Dry the area. I would not file a claim, mostly because it's likely to be way below your deductible anyway. This is a handyman/general contractor repair. Stop the leak, dry it out, asses, new drywall. We had three inches of water in our basement, it came up through cracks in the slab due to hydrostatic pressure. We dried it out, removed the bottom 12" of drywall and replaced. Not a huge deal, you'll be ok.
posted by fixedgear at 5:55 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

You don't mention where you reside, but if it's warm where you are, another consideration would be mold. It can grow very quickly in warm and damp conditions. As such, a call to a disaster recovery company might be in order just to get some information and guidance.
posted by DrGail at 6:05 AM on February 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

This happened to me in January of last year. It was a BIG leak (bigger than yours sounds) and we called our insurance co to see about our plan. The leak was covered but we had a high deductible, which was fine. Then we called Serv-Pro. They showed up like a SWAT team and handled things. They were not cheap. They did not need supervision once they were let in to the house. A lot of what they did you could do on your own.

1. industrial drying fans, keep the air moving, don't just suck water out of it
2. ripped up all the old drywall and disposed of it. Turned out we liked the basement better without all the little rooms so we left it
3. got rid of all the destroyed/wet junk

It's probably not worth it for you guys to call remediation specialists, just take it one step at a time. I concur that Angieslist is a good place to start. You can also check out reviews on Yelp. You're doing all the right things!
posted by jessamyn at 6:52 AM on February 23, 2017

When I had a water problem recently, my insurance company was able to give me a referral to a repair contractor. They had a couple of options to choose from on their referral list, they called the first one on the list and got through to them immediately, then the contractor called me within 10 minutes after that. They came and looked at it, gave me an estimate on cost and time. Their estimate was more than the initial insurance estimate so they sent it off to the insurance company and the insurance estimate got revised within a day or two. All of that was handled without me having to do anything. Once the work was done, they sent the final bill to my insurance and handled that as well. And since I used a contractor on the insurance company's list, it came with a three year workmanship warranty, which is a great bonus.

I did have to pay my deductible, but it was SO worth it to have my insurance company's recommended contractor with the two of them working together to make the estimate/billing easy.

Also, it took the contractors about 4 days to do the work - but all I had to do was let them in first thing in the morning, get the report of what they were planning to do that day, and give them spare keys. Then I left them to it and went to work and it was fine.
posted by marginaliana at 8:16 AM on February 23, 2017

2. Drilled a few holes in the wet dry wall of the ceiling to make sure there are no big lakes sitting up there

Unless it is mold resistant drywall (green or blue paper is usually mold resistant, grey is generally not), you should assume you'll need to replace a much larger area than is obviously damaged. The paper on drywall is a great medium for mold, and does an excellent job of wicking moisture over a large area. You should assume the water damage is far more widespread than you think.

The good news though, is that drywall is cheap, and it's pretty easy to work with - so go big. In your shoes, I'd just start pulling it down now so that you can survey the damage and get it dry in there before mold starts.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:16 AM on February 23, 2017

Your insurance company has dealt with lots of these domestic water leaks. They realize that if this is poorly dealt with there will be more significant problems in the future. They may also have a remediation and repair company that they prefer. Give them a call.

When we had a leak recently (at work) the team showed up with fans and dehumidifiers. They also used probes to determine where the moisture was hiding. This may be what you need.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 8:52 AM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Call your insurance company! This is a thing that happens, they will be able to help.
posted by suelac at 10:05 AM on February 23, 2017

Call your insurance company! They know exactly what to do and who to call.

On a side note, I know several people this has happened to. I would never, ever, get a waterline to my fridge.
posted by LauraJ at 10:13 AM on February 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

Insurance is the answer, and they can take care of it all in an amazing way. They have lists of specialists that will do the job.

This happened to us with a vacation cottage where a hose came loose from the back of the dishwasher and flooded the house for two weeks. Two family members who were going to use it one weekend found it and turned off the water.

The restoration people do a great job, and make sure it is done right with no leftover mildew or water in weird places that you may not realize.
posted by chocolatetiara at 10:44 AM on February 23, 2017

When I was a property manager, our main concern was always mold. Mold grows quickly, so our task was to handle the situation quickly. We would immediately put industrial fans on the area until our on staff handyman could get there. As soon as he got there he ripped out the affected drywall plus at least 6 inches. Fans stayed on a couple more days, and then new drywall usually went up within a week. Then sand, paint, etc. Sometimes flooring was affected. My own personal preference was to replace flooring / underflooring, but sometimes our budget did not allow for that. When it's your own personal living space, don't take any chances with mold. Replace the affected area. It's cheaper in the long run. That's my two cents.

You could google for a handyman who does drywall, or you could google for a drywall company / contractor who specializes in drywall. I agree that Serv Pro is overpriced, but also that they can work without supervision. Depends on how much your insurance will cover, and how much time you have to devote to supervising the contractor. No matter what, ask A LOT of questions. If you act like you don't care / can't be bothered, the contractor may end up doing a slapdash job.

Nthing that we will never have a fridge with a water line.
posted by vignettist at 11:48 AM on February 23, 2017

Response by poster: A small update. We have had ServPro out after I could not get a single handyman or drywaller even to return a message.

I think all parties agree that quite a bit of drywall needs to come out for full drying. But they won't touch anything until asbestos testing comes back (the house is 20 yrs old; we are in MA).

We are waiting to see what their quote will be before doing anything...since it seems like there's plenty of time before they'll do anything besides putting big fans. They can't even get us a heater today...
posted by Tandem Affinity at 12:05 PM on February 23, 2017

I can't imagine that if this house was constructed in the last 20 years that there was any asbestos installed, even in wrapping around pipes. Asbestos use was banned in 1989. Are you sure it is asbestos they are concerned with? Sounds like an excuse to me . . .

We had a similar leak in our basement, though through a shared wall rather than an in-house leak. The insurance wouldn't even consider paying because it was a neighbor's fault and not because of a fault within the house. We would have had to sue to collect. We didn't, for several reasons having to do with the neighbor and the unlikelihood we'd recover anything.

What we stupidly didn't do for several years was cut out the drywall and replace the baseboards. Several walls were affected, and the drywall was damp to about the middle of my shin. We got wetvacs and fans ran for days. It eventually dried and didn't look deformed or moldy so we left it alone. Fast forward several years to a remodel, when we saw that the back of all the drywall was splotchy black with mold, far above where it had been damp. We'd probably been breathing it in all that time.

So just because it looks like the wall dried OK please get professionals to assess the damage. I could kick myself for not having done so.
posted by citygirl at 1:11 PM on February 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: We got pros. It was relatively hassle-free in the end, and based on our insurance adjustor estimate, I think it was worth calling our insurance. For anyone who's wondering about the asbestos testing, we ran into that with all the contractors we talked to and our insurance agreed - no demo in MA without asbestos testing. The logic is evidently that old materials are still being used in new construction, and joint compound is their biggest concern....
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:41 PM on April 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

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