The 6 Keys to Responding to Emergency Water Leaks

Damage to your home caused by water leaks can be one of the more devastating things one experiences. Clearly, the ideal scenario is to prevent this from occurring in the first place – a topic we have discussed at some length on previous email articles.

That said, sometimes the undesirable and unexpected happens. So, when a pipe breaks or another event occurs that causes water to be released where it doesn’t belong, it is essential to know how to respond.

Wes Snowden, our Washington Disaster Solutions and Reconstruction Team Leader has compiled the following six steps of action based on his experience in dealing with the aftermath of water-related damage. We appreciate the value his expertise and insights provide us and our clients.

Peter Saladino, President, Charter Construction



The 6 Keys to Responding to Emergency Water Leaks


  1. Know where the central water shut off is to the home – Every residence has a “main” water valve that controls the supply of water to the house. Knowing where it is found and how to operate it (shut it off) makes a crucial difference in the amount of damage caused by a broken pipe and the subsequent ongoing release of water. Each resident should locate this valve and know how it operates. If a specific tool is needed to open or close the valve, that device should be permanently located adjacent to the valve itself. Keep the pathway to the valve clear so you can quickly respond in an emergency.

  2. Call a Trusted Mitigation Company, your Community Manager if you are part of a condominium or townhome association, and your insurance company agent and adjuster. As the owner, you can decide which mitigation company to use. You can also get referrals from your association manager, agent or adjuster. Time is of the essence. Many people do not realize that after 24 hours mold can start to grow – and once mold forms the reconstruction process becomes further complicated. That is why it is important to get mitigation started immediately.

  3. Get as much of the water out of the home as possible. This will typically be done by a mitigation contractor. Other tools, such as buckets, rags, and towels can be used to remove as much of the moisture as possible until they arrive.Charter Construction’s Disaster Solutions Team self-performs mitigation in Oregon and teams with highly reputable mitigation companies in Washington (call us and we can get the mitigation started quickly).

  4. Minimize damage until the insurance adjuster can make an assessment. Although the other points provided here will help to limit the loss, shutting off the ongoing supply of water by closing the main valve is priority one.

  5. Contaminated water – It is also important to be alert to the source of the water that has been released. Knowing where the water originated or how it may have been contaminated is the key (i.e. the toilet and outside water are considered Category 3, sink water is considered Category 1). The Category of water will determine the mitigation efforts necessary.

  6. Hazardous materials awareness - If your home was built before 1982, please be aware that hazardous materials testing will have to be done to detect asbestos or lead levels. One of the realities that we face is the existence of materials that, since their introduction, have become known as hazardous to our health. If the home, or any part of it, was constructed before 1982, it will be essential to take the necessary precautions to protect against exposure to these materials.

Thanks, Wes, for your valuable insight and years of partnership and commitment to the Charter team! Your experience and wisdom are an asset to all of us and to those we serve.

As mentioned above, we all hope that it will never be necessary to deal with water-related damage and reconstruction. However, if the need arises, the above pointers may well limit the damage and complexities of the response and reconstruction process.

Charter Construction has done Remediation, Repairs, new Commercial Construction and built custom homes for 34 years. We have also provided emergency services for water, fire and storm damage, drawing on our extensive construction experience to go above and beyond in providing disaster solutions and reconstruction services. As always, if you have any questions regarding your home or building, our seasoned team of professionals is prepared to assist you with your construction needs.

Please contact our Team at 206-382-1900 in Seattle or 503-546-2600 in Portland.

Very Truly Yours,

Peter Saladino
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