How to Deal with a Major Water Leak

Major water leak? Take a deep breath, follow these steps, and in a few weeks, you’ll be able to put the entire situation behind you.

Amanda Thomas
6-minute read
Episode #208

I recently got an email from an out-of-state homeowner that we have worked with for several years. For the last few years we have provided vacation rental cleaning services to his family after they visit Arizona a few times each year. His email said that his landscaper just called and saw water coming out of the back patio doors. Could we send someone over to check on things?

As you can imagine, water free-flowing out of a home is not a good thing. One of our employees arrived at the home to find that there was water covering almost the entire first floor of the home. No homeowner wants to deal with a flood in their home, but having a plan of action in place will help take at least a little stress out of the situation.

If you ever experience a major water leak in your home, here are the steps to follow:

1.) Shut Off the Water Source

First and foremost, if you discover a major water leak in your home, you need to stop the flow of water. By doing this immediately, you may be able to prevent more damage from happening to your home. If you can easily identify the leak source and it has a shut off valve available, you may be able to simply turn off the water at that source. For example, if you discover the leak is coming from under your kitchen sink, try first to shut off the water valve under your sink. If that stops the water from gushing out, you can move on to step 2.

If you cannot determine where the water is coming from, or it’s a burst pipe or water line that is spraying water everywhere, head straight for your water main. If you are in a house, this is likely a thick pipe on the side of the home. It leads from the ground in to the home, and may have a smaller pipe leading back in to the ground to supply your outdoor landscaping water. When you find the pipe, you’ll see there is a lever/handle on it that is in line with the pipe. When the lever is in line, that means the water is flowing in to the home. You’ll need to turn that level 90 degrees until it is perpendicular to the pipe to shut off the water to the entire home.

If you live in a townhouse or condo with one or two levels, the water main might be a little harder to find. It is likely either right outside your front door, or on the back side of your unit, and there’s a good chance you’ll also be shutting off water to a neighbor or two. If you aren’t sure where it is, immediately call your homeowners association’s emergency line. If you live in a high rise condo building, you’ll likely need to immediately call the building manager to have him or her shut off the water to your section of the building.

2.) Contact Your Insurance Agent

After you have made sure no more water is getting in to the home, it’s time to call your insurance agent. There is a small chance you won’t want to file a claim for the damage, but that is highly unlikely. If your baseboards or walls have gotten wet, they need to be professionally dried out to prevent mold from growing in your walls, and that process can be thousands of dollars. You may want to describe what you are seeing to your agent and see if she recommends you start the claim process based on your deductible, but most times that answer is going to be a quick yes.

While you have your agent on the phone, ask her for a referral to a reputable restoration company. My husband and I found out the hard way that not all restoration companies are in good standings with insurance companies. Before we were married, he had a main water line into his home burst. We picked a restoration company from the phone book (yes, it was THAT long ago) and hired them to start the work. What we didn’t realize was that my husband’s insurance company was involved in a lawsuit with that restoration company because the restoration company had been inflating their prices when billing to insurance. Things eventually worked out, but not until we had been dragged into a lawsuit for the invoices that the insurance was refusing to pay. Long story short, find out who your insurance company recommends, or at least get a referral from someone you trust who has used a restoration company in the past.

Also, before you hang up the phone with your agent, find out if your policy will cover temporary housing for you and your family while the home is being dried out and repaired. Whenever there is water damage flooring has to be removed, walls cut open, and giant fans are run 24 hours a day to dry everything. After everything is dry, then everything has to be repaired. It’s a very in-depth process, so if your insurance will cover for you to stay at a hotel or furnished rental home, it’s worth the time and effort to temporarily relocate.

3.) Contact the Restoration Company

As soon as you get off the phone with your insurance agent, call the restoration company. If they are a good company, they should be able to get a team there within a couple hours to start removing water from the home. Mold can start growing very quickly, so if the company tells you they can’t get there until the next day, move on to the next referral on your list.