wind vs water damage

Wind vs. Water Damage: What’s the Difference?

When you experience a natural disaster, like a tropical storm or hurricane, or even a severe thunderstorm, both wind and water damage can affect your property. It’s not always easy to discern what natural effects caused damage, and you might have problems dealing with your insurance company.

There’s also a distinction between water and flood damage. As you can imagine, these damage categories and trying to understand what’s what after an already stressful experience can feel overwhelming.

General Signs of Storm Damage

Anytime your home is in the path of a serious storm, damage can occur. We tend to think about hurricanes as being the most common source of storm damage for U.S. homeowners, but tornadoes, as well as thunderstorms and hailstorms, can also cause damage. Even storms that just bring heavy rains can be damaging. 

Some of the general signs of storm damage that can occur include:

  • Hail damage. Large hail isn’t that common, but even small hailstones can be problematic. Small hailstones can create dents and holes in siding, damage windows, and destroy gutters. On the roof, you can lose granules from the impact of small hailstones, which is your roof’s first defense. Once you lose granules, your roof becomes more susceptible to further damage.
  • Missing shingles. You might not realize a storm’s impact on your home until you look at your roof. Storm winds can have the strength to lift the edges of shingles, and if there’s enough force, it can rip them away. This is especially true if your roof is older. If you don’t get it repaired, your roof insulation or sheathing will be exposed, putting you at risk of water invasion under your other shingles.
  • Damaged shingles. Your shingles don’t have to be entirely missing to indicate storm damage. They can be cracked, dented, or lifted.
  • Water stains on your ceiling. If you see stains on your ceiling, you may have a leak, which could be caused by several factors, ranging from damaged shingles to clogged gutters. Your attic could also have dark spots or damp insulation. 
  • Roof debris. If you see big branches or sticks on your roof, what landed them there probably had force behind it.
  • Siding dents. These can be relatively easy to repair if you have aluminum siding or it’s made of another soft material, but you need to do it quickly because otherwise, small cracks or gaps can develop, allowing water to come in.
  • Broken or clogged gutters. This leaves water with nowhere to go except down the side of your house and then under your shingles, which can damage the structural integrity of your roof.

How Does Wind Damage Happen?

When there’s a storm with strong winds, especially a tropical storm or hurricane, structural damage occurs because of the exposure to the wind forces from the top down. The winds are usually higher as the height of a structure increases. That means the most severe damage will be at the roof line or close to it.

The points of your roof that are most elevated, like your ridgeline, are the first areas that high winds will likely damage.

If there’s also a hole in your roof, wall, a broken window, or door, these can create internal pressure within the structure of your home. That internal pressure then puts more pressure on your walls and roof.

Wind-Driven Rain

Wind-driven rain damage is a covered peril in most homeowners insurance policies. Wind-driven rain means that the wind caused the initial damage that allowed water damage to occur.

There are a lot of situations where both wind-driven rain and flood damage can occur, and it becomes complex as insurance adjusters assess the damage and try to determine the source.

Flood Damage

During a hurricane or storm, flooding can come from the coast, rivers, or other natural water sources. 

Coastal flooding when a hurricane occurs is because of the pressure, rotation, and wind of the storm that pushes the ocean onshore and then inland. The bulk of the damage from a hurricane related to flooding is because of waves and storm surges.

If you’re near a river, a hurricane or storm can cause it to overflow. 

When there’s an accumulation of precipitation on the ground that’s not absorbing fast enough, it can also trigger flooding. 

There are many ways flooding can affect a structure, including the force of impact, movement of the earth, and saturation of building materials. 

Flood vs. Water Damage

Flood and water damage aren’t the same, at least not from the perspective of insurance companies.

Heavy rains can cause water damage but not necessarily flooding damage.

Water damage is typically what’s caused by plumbing issues. For example, water damage might be a result of a backed-up toilet or a washing machine that overflows.

Flood damage is from water that begins with a natural disaster. Flood damage can also include sump pump failure, an ongoing roof leak, or a hurricane or storm with heavy rain.

From an insurance perspective, determining flood damage is more complex. Generally, flood damage affects a home directly because of a specific event. This means that there must have been enough rain to create a flooding event or flash flood.

What Type of Water Damage Will Homeowners Insurance Cover?

Most homeowners insurance will not cover flooding damage but may cover wind-driven rain. If your roof is damaged and that’s what allows water to enter your ceiling, that would likely be the result of wind damage rather than flooding damage.

You would need a separate flood insurance rider or coverage for a natural disaster-related flooding event.

Homeowners insurance might cover these situations, even though they involve water damage:

  • Broken appliances that lead to flooding, like a refrigerator or AC unit.
  • Flooding because of a water heater.
  • A frozen pipe bursts.
  • Overflows of a sink, pool, tub, or something similar.

What homeowners insurance is unlikely to cover includes:

  • Typically any flooding caused by nature.
  • External sewage system backups that cause flooding, especially in basements.
  • Water that comes in from underground, usually after a heavy rain that leaves the ground saturated.

We Can Help You Through the Process

When you’ve already experienced damage to your home and potentially personal belongings because of wind, water, or storm damage, the last thing you then want to do is deal with an adversarial insurance company. Disaster Management Recovery Group can help.

We offer storm damage evaluations, so you can resolve your claims. We understand the complexities of storm damage impacts, and create detailed reports of damage so that your insurance company can more efficiently process your claim.

We can do structural evaluations, estimate flood damage loss and mold claims, report all hail damage, and help you if you’re dealing with a dispute with your insurer regarding flood and wind damage claims.