A leaking hot water heater or burst water pipe can quickly damage your home and belongings.

Because water damage may be hidden behind walls, under carpets and in unseen areas, clean-up should be handled as quickly as possible. And oftentimes by a professional.

What to do if you discover water damage on your property

If your home has been damaged by water, it’s critical to stop the source of the water and start cleaning it up immediately.

Where to start when remedying water damage

  • If the leak is from a burst water pipe or appliance, shut off the main incoming water valve to help minimize the damage.
  • If you can’t locate the leak or don’t know how to stop it, call a plumber. Please be sure to retain the failed component.
  • Call us at 1-800-421-3535 or file a claim online. We’ll begin to process your claim and may dispatch a professional water damage clean-up service to your home.

Before the water damage restoration professionals arrive

Talk to your claims associate about what you should and should not do before the clean-up team arrives:
  • If it’s safe to do so, mop up excess water. A wet/dry vacuum may also help. If you’re not sure whether the water contains sewage or toxic substances, wait for the professionals.
  • Protect your belongings, particularly wet and absorbent materials. The quicker items are removed, the less likely they are to be severely/permanently damaged.
  • Take inventory and photograph any items that may have been damaged, noting the brand, price, age and other details.
  • Don’t remove or lift flooring because doing so incorrectly could cause additional damage.
  • Keep anything that you suspect may have caused the leak.

Necessary documentation for water damage claims

  • Photograph damage and move personal property to a dry area.
  • Make a list of damaged items. Include their purchase date, value and any receipts.
  • Inventory the items you remove and organize them by what can be salvaged and what needs to be discarded. Your claims associate can help you with this. Please do not discard of any damaged items until speaking with your claims associate.

How the clean-up process works

Depending on the extent of the water damage, the clean-up team will:
  • Remove furniture and other items to help prevent further damage or flooring stains
  • Extract standing water with powerful pumps and vacuums
  • Use industrial fans, air movers and dehumidifiers to speed drying and prevent warping of doors and floors
  • Remove and dispose of damaged materials
  • Provide cleaning, sanitizing and deodorizing treatments

How the claims process works

The claims associate will review your insurance policy and explain the coverages that apply.

Once your claim has been verified, we’ll arrange for payment for clean-up and restoration services.

Any payment you receive is based on the coverage you purchased and the severity of the damage, minus your applicable policy deductible.

Water damage vs. flood damage

Your homeowners policy is not the same as flood insurance. Flood insurance is offered by the National Flood Insurance Program to pay losses from floods associated with heavy rains, hurricanes, tropical storms and other severe weather situations.

Prevent water damage in your home

Preventative fixes

  • Install metal mesh connection hoses on your washer and dryer; they’re more resistant to leaks and cracking than rubber
  • Elevate your washer, dryer, water heater, oil tank, furnace, electrical wiring and personal items
  • Have a plumber install backflow valves and standpipes in all basement drains to prevent sewage from backing up into your basement
  • Consider applying water sensors and automatic shut-off valves

Regular maintenance

  • Keep gutters and downspouts free of leaves and debris to prevent rain overflow from seeping into your roof, walls or foundation
  • Run your sump pump every few months and clean it annually before the rainy season
  • Flush your hot water tank every 6 months to remove sediment

Get in the habit

  • Don’t pour grease down your kitchen sink - it can congeal, cling to your pipes and cause serious damage and blockage
  • Because caustic chemical drain cleaners can erode pipes, use a drain snake to unclog sink drains
  • Pay attention to a sudden and significant increase to your water bill, which could indicate a leak in pipes behind walls or in floors
Need to file a business claim?
Visit the business claims center. Or call us at 1-800-421-3535.

Each claim is handled on the basis of its individual facts and circumstances, in accordance with policy language, including applicable exclusions, conditions and limitations, as well as applicable controlling law.

The information contained on this page is intended to provide insight into our property claims process. Product, coverage, discounts, insurance terms, definitions and other descriptions are intended for informational purposes only and do not in any way replace or modify the definitions and information contained in your individual insurance contracts, policies, and/or declaration pages from Nationwide-affiliated underwriting companies, which are controlling. Such products, coverages, terms and discounts may vary by state and exclusions may apply.