Common Causes of Water Damage in Chicago & What to Look For in Your Home

A water damage emergency is not just an inconvenience. It is a serious and stressful situation that can result from any number of water disasters — many of which you can’t fully prepare for.

Every minute counts when it comes to assessing, extracting and cleaning water damage in a room or building. However, with the right water restoration team and step-by-step emergency plan, that process can turn from a headache to a lucky break. Identifying the signs of common water issues in your Chicago home or business, as well as proper assessments and emergency services to call in the unfortunate event of water damage, will bring you the peace of mind you need to handle any hurdle life throws at you.

Common Water Damage Causes in the Chicago Area

Water damage restoration services in Chicago can repair your residential or commercial space to its healthy original state regardless of the emergency’s proximate cause. However, location and geography are as crucial as technical savvy when it comes to managing water damage. Knowing our area’s specific water concerns and risk factors, our professionals are poised to help in the event of any number of common water damage scenarios:

  1. Floods

Flooding in Chicago is an infrequent, but not unheard of, misfortune. Heavy rainfalls in spring often combine with winter’s melting snow and ice to create the area’s most concerning water levels. Ground saturation, overloaded urban runoff systems and treatment facilities are the perfect storm to produce floods this time of year, though floods can strike at any time in Chicago.

  1. Burst Pipes

Burst pipes most frequently occur during frigid winter temperatures where water freezes inside pipes and causes concentrating swelling. If the freezing and swelling continue, the pressure induced will often cause old or improperly installed pipes to crack or completely burst, leading to wall, floor, ceiling and furniture damage.

  1. Snow and Rain

Water damage as a direct result of severe weather conditions is all-too-frequent in the Chicago area. From flash floods to overly saturated runoff systems that back into residential and commercial properties, weather-induced water damage can strike swiftly and harshly.

Melting snow, in particular, is the source of many water complications. As snow melts, it easily can cause roof leaks or soak into a home’s foundation. Poorly maintained or blocked gutters expedite the process, as they cannot handle the high concentration of water. Melting snow has also caused many basement floods in the area, especially in older homes.

  1. Plumbing Issues

Plumbing complications in old and new homes alike are the bedrock of water damage. Plumbing issues stem from blocked or leaky pipes, poor water pressure controls, clogged drains, expensive sump pump failure and much more.

While many plumbing issues can be fixed with a few tools and a few labor hours, the kinds that lead to emergency water damage often go undetected. The regular home or business owner cannot monitor deeply embedded, structural plumbing concerns, risking expensive leaks and breaks.

  1. Old Pipes

Older pipes and drainage systems are common in urban areas like Chicago. The very condition of your pipes likely depends on a number of variables, including pipe materials, fillers, dimensions, pipe lifespan and overall system wear and tear.

Even the age of your neighborhood and its construction will affect the condition of your pipes. Plus, as plant life and trees grow near your home or business, they develop roots that may surround and affect sewer lines and piping. All of this creates problems for old pipes, which are already likelier to leak.

  1. HVAC Units and Household Appliances

HVAC systems, which include your building’s heating, ventilating and air conditioning units, need regular maintenance and servicing to run in peak conditions. When not well-maintained, they can cause moisture and mildew buildup in areas of your home already prone to these conditions, such as basements or attics.

This HVAC-induced moisture will often spread through air conditioning and heating ducts and encourage mold and spore development. This leads to comprehensive and costly patches and cleanups that may not be covered by your home insurance policy.

Likewise, malfunctioning or broken household appliances court many water damage repairs. Consider all the appliances in your home that connect to pipes and use extensive amounts of water. From your washing machine to your hot water tank, these machines need a keen eye and diligent checkups to make sure they don’t decline.

What Emergency Water Damage Looks Like

Water damage in your office or residence will vary in size and scale. Of course, this doesn’t mean subtle harm or small leaks don’t require professional attention or should be ignored altogether. Flood and water emergencies in Chicago often take the following forms, many of which you may or may not be able to spot on your own:

  1. Puddles or Standing Water

In the most extreme flood-damage cases, standing water will pool in your home or office. Puddles or water will frequently begin in the lower levels, like your basement, and work its way up if unabated.

With puddles and standing water, saturation is not only seen but felt. However, many water restoration teams will assess your floor paddings and subfloors as well for damage that escapes the eyes. This sub-surface evaluation should not be skipped if you want a complete picture of your residual water damage.

  1. Roof Damage

Roofs, gutters and snow guards should be appropriately assessed in the event of water damage emergencies. For the Chicago area especially, roof damage must take into account snow loads and liquid runoff trajectories as well as general roof maintenance questions such as installation, damage from recent storms, harm from winds and the actual age of the roof.

water damage from roof

Bear in mind most roofs have a lifespan of 20 to 30 years. Exceeding these lifespans presses your luck with leaks and improper water runoff, not to mention your energy bills.

  1. Mold and Mildew

Mold and mildew — especially in rooms predisposed to them — are telltale signs of problematic moisture buildup. This, in turn, waves a red flag that you have a leak or uncontrolled moisture source on your hands.

Individuals with allergies or breathing conditions may already be sensitive to moisture levels and mold spores in the air. Some people are even able to assess interior or structural water damage by identifying moldy or odd smells previously absent in their homes.

Don’t be alarmed by sudden, strange smells during a water emergency, though. Across many phases of water restoration, smells and odors can arise. This is a natural and even positive sign that proper drying is taking place within carpets and fabrics.

  1. Vulnerable Household Areas

Attics, basements and crawlspaces are the early victims of emergency water damage. That’s because these rooms are located in areas that receive most direct contact with water damage-causing sources, be it burst pipes, old roofs, saturated walls and air ducts or malfunctioning water heaters.

You’ll note many of the problems described above will start to appear in these most vulnerable spaces. Mold and mildew are already issues for attics and basements as well as the duct systems of older buildings. Be vigilant about the conditions of your rooms and consult restoration experts with any aging or layout questions.


In addition to contacting ServiceMaster of Lincoln Park at (773) 346-6767 as soon as you realize you need water restoration for your home or office, you can take a few steps to make sure that the situation doesn’t worsen before our team arrives.

Follow the steps below to help keep the water damage to a minimum.

What to do:

  • Damage from water and bacteria growth can begin within hours. Call for professional help from ServiceMaster of Lincoln Park at (773) 346-6767.
  • Keep children and pets away from the area that has been affected by water damage
  • Remove as much water as possible by mopping and blotting.
  • Remove wet area rugs or other floor coverings not permanently attached. Do not attempt to start removing your wall-to-wall carpet.
  • Lift draperies off the floor, loop through a coat hanger and place the hanger on the drapery rod.
  • Wipe furniture, prop up wet furniture cushions for even drying and place aluminum foil under furniture legs.
  • Move photos, paintings and art objects to a safe, dry location.
  • Do not remove books from shelves. Rather pack them tightly to prevent warping of pages until a restoration professional can begin this specialized drying.
  • Open drawers, closet and cabinet doors to enhance drying.
  • Consider finding another place to sleep during the water restoration process. We know this is tough on families, but depending upon the level of water damage, it may be the healthiest and most practical solution.
  • Contact your insurance carrier after you have gotten your emergency under control and make a phone call to ServiceMaster of Lincoln Park. Your homeowners’ or business insurance package may cover some or all of the cost to clean up after water damage.

What not to do:

  • Do not enter a room with standing water until electricity has been turned off.
  • Do not move any furniture on your own if it is too heavy. Wait for professionals to help.
  • Do not spend a lot of time in a water-saturated area without protective gear or a face mask, especially if you know you are allergic to mold.
  • Do not use a regular household vacuum to remove water.
  • Do not lift tacked-down carpet without professional help.
  • Do not use electrical appliances while on wet carpet or flooring.
  • Do not disturb visible mold.
  • Do not wait for days to do anything and see if the water will just “go away.” It may seem to subside, but it’s usually just being absorbed into your structure, which will cause damage later.

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