Squeegee and towels on the floor after a pipe burst and flooded our house.
Family & Life

What to do When Your House Floods and How We Handled It

As some of you know we had a flood in the first week of January. We were one of the first track of homes required by the city of Norco to install fire sprinklers and our house was built in 1999. Fast forward to today and those pipes are brittle. Well, that’s what our fire sprinkler guy said when he came out to fix and inspect the lines-ironically it was probably his company who installed them 23 years ago.

We know at least five other homes in our track who had one of these pipes break (one family it happened to twice). Some were broken because they were barely touched when someone was in the attic, others popped on their own. Ours came apart at a junction, so it’s likely the glue wasn’t completely applied. The company who came out to inspect it recommended that we replace all the connections…we haven’t but we are still considering it.

Walls cut open and framing exposed to the dryers and dehumidifiers after a pipe burst and flooded our house.

Heartless construction

It’s one of my pet peeves about track homes. They are put together by someone who is profit driven rather than heart driven. A custom home is built with love and a special sort of intent. There’s pride by the contractor seeking to create a home for a family that will last for decades – sometimes centuries. Owner builder – even more so, they are deeply committed to the quality of home they are creating. You can not reproduce the quality of a custom home in mass production. But what you can produce is a nice looking box that is affordable and easy to find. And unfortunately it often comes with greased hands and skipped corners.

First things first

I was minding my own business, playing Christmas music and removing the last decorations from the tree when I heard a loud pop from the back of the house. My room. I didn’t even go to see what it was because I could hear water pouring out. Torrential water. I ran right out the front door to our water meter and turned the water off. I came back inside and could still hear the water. It then occurred to me it had to be a fire sprinkler. Mike was in the garage and he had heard it too. The garage door was open so he saw me running to the meter to turn it off. Fire fighter that he is, he knew it had to be a fire sprinkler because of how loud the water was.

He called our neighbor who was outside in his garage tinkering with his dune buggy, and he brought over a multi-tool. (if you live in a house please get one of these, they are so helpful in any emergency and make it easy for even a child to turn off lines). The water had to be shut off at the main line coming in to the house.

Some helpful information for you

If it’s a fire sprinkler you cannot turn the water off at your house meter. They are built to bypass the meter so people don’t shut them off if they’re working on the house or turn their water off for a long period of time. If the flood is anywhere near a drain use it to your advantage. Our pipe popped right over the toilet in our bathroom. Mike immediately removed the toilet from the floor and used a giant squeegee to push the water down the drain. Lastly, we created a dam of towels to control the water and help push it towards the drain.

Take photos of your house right now. Anything valuable, take photos. I am so lucky that as a content creator I had plenty of those. It was invaluable when it was time to prove the quality of craftsmanship that went in to the trim work/custom cabinetry we had.

You’ve stopped the water, you’ve gotten rid of it as best as you can, now what?

Walls cut open, shiplap removed, trim removed and framing exposed to the dryers and dehumidifiers after a pipe burst and flooded our house.

Call someone to fix the pipe if you can’t fix it yourself

Once that was done, we called the emergency hot line for the fire sprinkler installation company. I would be lying if I said they responded right away. Unfortunately, they have someone who answers phones that doesn’t realize they offer emergency fixes day or night. See, fire sprinkler installation companies have special relationships with the city you live in. The city requires you to use a specific company to install the sprinklers, you are not allowed to diy these. You have to use the companies they recommend or they will not approve your construction. Because of that, those companies are required to service their lines when they break. They are not liable for a pipe bursting like ours, 20+ years after installation to do it for free…but they do have to come and fix it immediately so that water and fire protection can be restored as soon as possible.

It took us a week to get them to come out. When the guy came out he asked why I waited so long to call. I let him know I called right away and was told I had to make an appointment…this appointment. He gave me his cell number and told me to call any time if it happens again and he will either come right away or send a rep to. Okay, well that’s great for next time.

Next, call your insurance company.

They will want to get someone out there as soon as possible to dry everything out. Our insurance company sent out serve pro, they came before the fire sprinkler guy. They first assessed the damage and took pictures. They sent their findings to our insurance company who gave them the green light to come back and start “remediation”. If you get a chance, check out my instagram highlight on the flood and you’ll get to hear how loud the fans were.

You’ve stopped the water, you’ve gotten rid of it as best as you can, now what?

What does a remediation company do?

So, besides fans, the remediation company also demos any drywall, flooring, cabinetry, trim, basically everything that has water damage. They pack all of your belongings in to boxes – very carefully (trust me…I have been opening large boxes filled with bubble wrap and one small picture frame. Fun stuff). If you need a storage container they will have one delivered and put all of your belongings in it. They set us up with a temporary wardrobe situation complete with boxes to hang our clothing in. They provided all the boxes/tape/wrap. We helped with things we wanted to save and they handled the rest. You can be 100% hands off on this if you want.

Boxes and packing supplies were provided by the remediation crew after a pipe burst and flooded our house.
You can see that the water continued to come up from under the floor just from walking on it

They come every day, or every other day, taking readings from the fans and dehumidifiers and one day, they will decide they have dried everything out enough. They’ve demoed all they can. They will come and take more pictures of the work they’ve done, make some notes and they will pack their stuff up and leave. And you will be left with a demoed house, and a great feeling of loss and wtf do I do now.

After the remediation company leaves

Call your insurance company again and ask who they recommend for restoration. They will give you a list of contractors in your area to fix all the damage. This company will come out, take more pictures, measurements, and then send your insurance company an estimate of what they think it will cost to bring your property back to what it was before the flood. In California the insurance company is required by law to bring your property back to as if the damage never happened. That’s why you pay for insurance. In California, you are not required to use the company they recommend.

If their bid is lower than you think it should be you can get a few more companies (three is usually a good number) of your choosing to come out and make more bids. Then you can submit those to the insurance company and they will make any adjustments needed to the estimate. The estimate should also include the labor of moving your personal belongings back in to place and replacement/repair of any personal belongings that were damaged.

Once you and your insurance company have agreed on restoration costs, they will release the funds to fix it. In our case, they sent us a check. It was made out to our mortgage holder (Chase) and to us. We walked in to our local branch. Showed them the check and they endorsed the check to us with the condition they would send an inspector out when the restoration was completed to make sure it was done. Then we were allowed to choose whoever we wanted to restore the property. Guess who we chose?

We chose us. What a surprise.

Mike, Jack and Kate demoing the last remnant of the wood flooring in order to prepare for our new floors.

That’s it. Easy as pie. This process can take weeks or months depending on how responsive your insurance company is. Ours is State Farm and I highly recommend them. They made such a crappy situation as pleasant as possible. If you have any questions, please add comments. A flood can happen to anyone. Coincidentally, a month or so before ours, my sister in law had a flood from a toilet plugging the line and causing an overflowing toilet elsewhere. Horrible odds of flushing and plugging two different toilets at the same time…but a flood never the less.

One interesting outcome that I had no idea was part of our coverage (so I guess know your coverage): all of our flooring had to be replaced. Anything “line of sight” from the damaged areas had to be restored. Our flooring is continuous through the whole downstairs area – where the flood happened and so it all was covered to be replaced. Imagine me and my happy dance. I didn’t love our floors. What luck. Silver linings. Am I right?

8 Comments

  • Cindy Christen

    I didn’t know you had this happen Joannie…so sorry:..of course all I can think about is mold, mold, mold…but it sounds like you did a great job of handling the disaster….!

    • Hambels Get Real

      Thank you Cindy! It was definitely a low point but we’re finding all the silver linings we can. I totally thought of you with the mold issues. When we demoed the floor the insurance wouldn’t pay to demo the tile that was under our old floors. Mike and I are doing the work ourselves so we went ahead and demoed the old tile. It turns out moisture had gotten under the tile from the flood through the grout and any tile cracks and there was mold already starting to grow in any small cracks in the slab. We bleached and let it dry for several days to be sure it was caused by the flood. But, could you imagine if we’d let another company fix everything for us? They would have left the tile and put flooring right over it and we’d be having health issues because of the mold growth under the tiles

  • adrianscrazylife

    Wow, that’s all good info. We’ve had a number of minor floods over the years, but nothing this major. Seems like a huge pain, but it’s great that you could do it yourself. I’ve learned that contractors are an especially flaky bunch – I think that’s why they get into the business because they can’t work for other people.

  • Leslie Wood

    So frustrating! I’ve followed along with this, and have been amazed at how much work you’ve re-done, in a short space of time since the flood. We have had our basement flood (sump pump problems) and I know that re-doing that work that you’ve previously done, isn’t nearly as rewarding the second time around (when you weren’t wanting to redo it!) Very happy to hear that your insurance company acted quickly – sorry that this happened to you though!

    • Hambels Get Real

      Thank you Leslie! Hopefully this post can help others know what steps they need to take. I felt completely unaware of the process or who to call next or who has to do what. 😂 now I’m a pro 😂😂😂

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