Tag: flood insurance

Protecting your home from flooding

From August of 2017 to spring of 2018 we saw more groundwater damage on the Cape than ever before. Most of the homes and businesses were unprepared for the events that happened making property losses devastating to owners. Now that it has happened it is very real to the local owners that even if their basements never flooded before it doesn’t mean they won’t, and severe damage can happen within a matter of minutes. We hope the information below helps more people prepare for that possibility, minimize damage and protect their belongings.

Flood facts to keep in mind:

  • Groundwater can cover a variety of actual sources like rain, storm/ocean surge or high water tables.
  • Damage caused by groundwater is often not covered by a typical homeowners insurance policy.
  • Flood policies often exclude personal items stored in the basement. If you have a flood policy make sure to double check the exclusions and have them clarified by your agent.
  • If your basement floods because the water tables are very high you may not be able to do much about the water until the levels have subsided. If you pump the water out into your yard it will probably seep right back in unless the pumping is continuous.
  • You do have options! Just because you take on groundwater under severe conditions doesn’t mean you have to sell and move on. You may have to invest in waterproofing solutions but it can be maintained.

Recommendations for properties in flood-prone areas

  • Raise basement appliances and contents up off the ground. Put them up on blocks, shelves or pallets. You could even install a false floor over the slab to allow for water to drain below to a sump pump.
  • Install a sump pump! Some basements may need more than one. Regardless of how many you install make sure you set up a battery back-up or generator. Last year some owners had pumps but they needed electricity to run and the storms knocked out the power for days so the areas flooded. Odds are that when the flooding is bad so isn’t the weather and power outages will be likely.
  • Properly grade your landscaping. You’re bound to see problems if you have a yard that directs water towards your basement. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that the soil around the foundation slopes 4-6 inches for a distance of 3′ from the foundation walls.
  • Check your downspouts. Just like with the landscaping you want to make sure your down spouts are directing the water away from the house. Water should be directed at least 3′ from the foundation.
  • Install an interior drainage system to give the water a place to go. There are several different kinds to suit different types of foundations.
  • Seal your basement walls. This and many of the other options listed here can be taken care of by basement waterproofing professionals. Do your research, read reviews and get quotes from a few places before deciding on the company to help you with your unique waterproofing needs.
  • Make sure you dehumidify. This is important whether you sustain flooding or not, but certainly a necessity if you do. Anything that gets wet needs to be properly dried to avoid mold growth.
  • For more severe cases like properties that take on storm surges that cause feet of water to quickly collect you may want to look into more drastic measures such as raising the entire house.

Flooding on Cape Cod

We’ve seen many storms and some pretty nasty winters the last few years here on Cape Cod, but last week was certainly something different for the area. While locals braced themselves for a storm after sustaining a long cold snap they didn’t quite expect to be facing such a major flood situation.

Provincetown’s high tide just after noon measured a whole 4’ higher than the previous tide, hitting a total height of over 10’ and turning Commercial Street into a river. Not only did the tides raise, the groundwater level rose so places like dirt crawlspaces flooded and all of the melting snow didn’t drain completely into the ground. Some areas reported surges that exceeded those of the historic Blizzard of ’78!

Eastham, MA Storm Surge Flooding

Not only were areas of the Cape being devastated with storm surge and groundwater damage, the warmer temperatures thawed homes with frozen pipes causing water damage in other areas. We can’t stress enough the importance of winterizing your home if you’re going to be away for an extended period of time. Even if it’s just a short while, make sure someone checks in on it, that your water is off and that your heat is on. Open your cabinets under sinks to allow for the warm air to flow to the plumbing. If you’re away often, purchase a water detector for damage prone areas like the basement to alert you as soon as water is detected, and Wi-Fi enabled thermostats so you can monitor the temperature in the house. These things help you act fast when disaster strikes so you can minimize the amount of damage you sustain.

Complicating matters even further were the power outages. Most heating systems rely on electricity to work so when the storm knocked out power to areas it also knocked out the heat. Later that night temperatures dropped to a deep freeze. It was a recipe for disaster. Pipes were even freezing in homes that were primary to the residents and the heat was on. It was really that cold, and the wind was that strong that it froze pipes in their exterior walls and ceilings.

Although there are a lot of areas where homeowners are required to purchase flood insurance because of their location on FEMA’s flood maps those policies don’t cover damaged contents. Think of all of the things that people keep in their basements; seasonal clothes, pantry items, extra furniture, etc. Finished basements could be entire bedrooms, offices and TV rooms. Flood insurance at least covers damage to burners and electrical equipment, but the cost to not only replace but dispose of all of the contents can be in the thousands.

“25% of homes with flood claims each year are in low risk zones.”

It has been a real eye opener. As restoration efforts continue and our crews remain available round-the-clock for emergency services we hope that everyone really takes a look at the measures they have in place for such disasters to protect themselves, their business and their homes from future events. It’s obvious the weather patterns continue to change, and the storms seem to be getting stronger, so please, stay safe out there and make sure you prepare for all of the possibilities.

Why We Are Still Talking About Hurricane Sandy

It was last fall that Hurricane Sandy battered the east coast, but we are still seeing pictures today of the damage inflicted and reading about Sandy Relief Fund donations. Pictures portray areas that have hardly been touched since the super storm hit. Community assistance and volunteers are still widely needed and funding is still an issue. Why are we still buzzing about Sandy? Thank Katrina.


Much of the hundreds of millions of federal dollars provided to the residents of Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina cannot be accounted for. Funds were provided for the homeowner’s to elevate their homes above floodwater threat levels with a deadline of 3 years to complete the elevation. Here we are years later seeing the level of homes unchanged. The mass search of receipts to prove where exactly the funds were spent is a headache of a mess. Trying to collect the funds back from non-compliant homeowners is going to be difficult if not near impossible.

By the time Hurricane Sandy devastated New Jersey, those with the power to grant the funds learned from what happened in Louisiana. Planning to release the finds in installments was part of the process of avoiding the mess. This plan involves more support including but not limited to production management, inspections, confirmation of work completion, and then collection. Where more support is required, more funds are required to cover that support. More time is required for the communication between each support system. An estimated 26,000 homeowners will benefit from federal programs upon approval, but these limited funds are approved for specific repairs and it is necessary to ensure that they are used properly.

Even in some of the average covered losses I see within the year, this installment process is present. The urgency to repair after a widespread catastrophe cannot compare, but the steps on how to collect can. If the funds are approved and released upon an agreed scope of repairs, you would divide the services by the payments required to complete them. Once one percentage of the project is complete, application for the payment is submitted. The work is inspected to confirm completion, and then funds are released. In doing this, someone, contractor or homeowner, is covering the cost and then maybe being reimbursed by the insurance company. Although this is a longer process, it protects policy holders from the dangers of fraud. In a large catastrophe situation, it protects disaster relief depletion due to those who don’t intend to spend the small amount of available funds as instructed.

Of course, there are other reasons we are still seeing incomplete restorations. These are not limited to insufficient insurance coverage, funding, and property view debates. There were homeowner’s blindsided to find that their basic insurance didn’t cover flood loss. Neighbors are arguing about view obstruction from house elevation. Many owners have now come to find that they need to completely tear down their homes and rebuild from scratch. Any unattended homes by now that still had water damage would be ridden with mold.

We also still get to witness the beauty within all the devastation. Even back after Hurricane Katrina hit, the growth in the presence of community is grand. With each large disaster, there are still thousands of people willing to help. Disaster relief committees learn from the last catastrophe to more effectively restore from the current. All the talk we still hear and pictures we still see about Hurricane Sandy are a great reminder that homeowners and renters not only need to learn from what happened, but also apply it. This 2013 hurricane season starts on a canvas perfect for another large storm. Plan ahead, review your coverage, and be aware of your risk.

Homeowner’s Insurance: Get personal with your policy

You buy a house and take out a standard insurance policy on it. You pay your premiums and renew every year. All seems sound and simple until a storm comes and your house is flooded. All of a sudden you are told that you don’t have flood insurance and that nothing it covered. Don’t let yourself wind up in this situation. Don’t just renew your policy every year but reintroduce yourself and get to know it.


The first item I need to urge you on is to make sure your policy is renewed on time! Write it on your calendar, program it into your phone, and make a big mental note. Usually policies are written yearly. In our industry we witness losses denied too often because of a lapse in coverage. The loss just so happened to occur in the month that sat between expiration and renewal. If that’s the case, you are unfortunately on your own to cover the expenses. I’m not saying don’t trust your agent to properly renew it for you, but I am holding you accountable for making sure it is done. You should obtain an updated copy of your policy once it is renewed.

Educate yourself on the amount of coverage you have. Is your dwelling (structural) coverage sufficient to support a major disaster? Consult a local building contractor if you would like a second opinion on just how much you should allot for, keeping in mind any changes you may make to the property. Do you have a separate flood policy? Flood coverage is not included in basic homeowner’s policies. What other events are excluded from your basic coverage? What is your standard deductible? What is your wind deductible? Are you subject to a specific hurricane deductible? Some deductibles can be very different than you standard deductible. Verify what exact perils the policy does and does not cover.

That covers mostly the house’s well being, but what about your personal property? Coverage for your contents is based on a percentage of your dwelling coverage. You may want to take out additional contents insurance for your antiques, guns, computers, silver, etc. This is where an inventory list comes in handy. If you take the time to inventory your belongings, say during your seasonal cleaning, you can bring that with you when reviewing the policy with your agent. An inventory would also come in handy if you were to suffer a major loss such as a fire. You’ll need an itemized contents list to submit to your insurance in order receive your contents limit.

What responsibilities do you need to uphold under this coverage? Keep inflation in mind. As property values rise, usually building costs do too. You must insure your home up to a certain percentage of the cost to replace it which will be set by your insurance company. Say this requirement is 80% (and just for this example you have no deductible – not typical I know): If it would cost $300,000 to replace your home and you have $180,000 (75% of the required amount) as your dwelling limit, your insurance company may only cover 75% of your loss. If you have $75,000 worth of damage, you could be responsible for paying $18,750 out-of-pocket!

Responsibilities also include proper maintenance. If you have a second home here on Cape Cod and you don’t refill the oil to keep the heat up during the freezing months, a pipe might freeze, break and flood your house. Since you neglected to keep the oil tank full and properly care for the property your insurance company may not cover the repairs. Seasonal maintenance checklists aren’t always just great suggestions or ploys for you to spend more at your local hardware store. You really should clean those gutters! Your coverage just might depend on it.

Talk with your agent about what happens if you do experience a loss. Ask them how much additional living expenses you are covered for if you lose the use of your home. Make sure it’s enough for you and your family. Don’t hesitate to set up an appointment with your insurance agent to review your policy at any time. They are your agent! It is part of their job to translate your policy details for you and make suggestions.

That may be a lot of information to take, in so here is a recap:

  • Always make sure your insurance policy is renewed on time and that you receive a copy
  • Make sure you have the proper amount of dwelling coverage not only so that you have enough to cover the cost of repair, but also to meet your insurance requirements.
  • Get to know the different deductibles you may be subject to and in what instances you will encounter them.
  • Look into possibly needing additional policies such as Flood insurance
  • Make & update your contents inventory!
  • Know your responsibilities required by your policy to keep coverage. Spring cleaning anyone?
  • Check on the living expenses you’ll be granted if you lose the use of your home to damage.
  • But all and all: Know your policy – talk with your agent!