Protecting Your Home from Water Damage
Whether caused by prolonged rain, heavy snowfall, old appliance hoses, frozen or corroded pipes, or even clogged drains, water damage is not only inconvenient, but also costly. Routine inspection and maintenance can help you keep water where it belongs. Use the following tips to identify potential problem areas in and around your house. While you can’t control Mother Nature, preventive household measures can minimize the possibility of water damage and costly repairs.
If you have a question about water damage prevention, contact us today.
Protecting Your Home’s Interior
Know Your Water Supply
- Water Shutoff Valves. Know where shutoff valves for the main water supply, certain appliances, sinks and toilets are located in your home. In the event of a leak, this will enable you to quickly shut off the appropriate valves before calling a plumber. Consider shutting off your water supply if you will be away from home for a week or more.
- Plumbing Pipes. Inspect your plumbing water lines and waste lines for leaks, damage or corrosion. If you notice problems, hire a licensed plumber for further inspection and repairs.
Maintaining Major Appliances
- Water Heater. The average lifespan of a water heater is 7-10 years. If you notice puddles around your water heater, it should be replaced. Hire a licensed plumber to inspect and flush your water heater annually.
- Appliance Water Hoses. Washing machines, dishwashers, icemakers, air conditioners and garbage disposals all use water to operate. Inspect these appliances for leaks, and periodically replace the supply hoses. Shut off the water supply to the washing machine before leaving your home for an extended period of time.
- Moisture-Producing Appliances. Vent your clothes dryer, stove and kerosene heater outside where possible. Use exhaust fans or open windows when cooking or running the dishwasher.
- Sump Pumps. If your basement is prone to leaks or flooding, a sump pump is the best defense. It’s important to keep it well maintained and tested regularly. Most sump pumps last about 10 years. Follow the manufacturer’s suggestions for testing and optimal operation. The areas around the pump should be clear of debris. A battery backup is recommended to ensure proper operation during power outages.
- Humistat. Keep indoor moisture low (ideally between 30-50% relative humidity). Consider purchasing an inexpensive humidity meter, available at local hardware stores.
- Air Conditioner. Keep drip pans clean and the drain lines unobstructed and flowing properly.
- Bathrooms. Check caulking around tubs and shower stalls to ensure that a watertight seal is maintained. To reduce moisture, use an exhaust fan or open a window while showering.
- Basement. Periodically inspect your foundation walls and floors for cracks that might allow water seepage, especially if you live in an older home or an area with poor soil drainage. Avoid storing valuables in your basement. For household supplies and other inexpensive items, use storage racks or shelves to elevate items several inches above the floor.
- Attics Ensure there is adequate ventilation in all attic and overhang areas to prevent leaks.
Protecting Your Home’s Exterior
Inspect Your Home's Roofing
- Roof. Missing, worn or broken roofing materials may allow water to penetrate and deteriorate the roof structure. Inspect your roof periodically, especially after severe storms. Contact a licensed roofer for further evaluation and repairs.
- Roof Flashing. Flashing is located at the intersection of all roof and wall lines, as well as along chimneys and roof valleys. Flashings may separate from adjacent surfaces and allow water to leak inside. A licensed roofer can inspect these areas and make necessary repairs.
- Ice Damming. If you live in a cold climate, ice may form under snow that accumulates on the roof and overhangs. This can cause water to backup and leak into your attic and home. To prevent this, be sure there is adequate ventilation in all attic and overhang areas.
Other Exterior Areas
- Gutters/Downspouts. If you live in a wooded area, falling leaves may clog the gutters and lead to water backup that could damage your exterior siding. In late fall, have all gutters and downspouts cleared of leaves and debris.
- Grade of Property. Soil should be graded from the foundation so that water flows away from the house during heavy rain or snow.
- Outdoor Hoses. Turn off exterior hose bibs during the winter or if you will be away from home for a long time.
- Window Wells. Check basement window wells to ensure that they are clear of leaves and other debris. Consider installing window well covers.
- Windows/Doors. Inspect windows and exterior doors for proper caulking and weather stripping.
- Exterior Paint/Siding. Periodically check for peeling and cracking.
- Terraces/Balconies. Regularly inspect terraces and balconies. Old or inferior flashing at the intersection of an outdoor terrace or balcony, located above a living area with a vertical exterior wall, can cause water leakage during heavy rain or wind.
- Exterior Drains. Regularly remove all leaves and other debris from exterior patio drains.
Protecting Vacation/Seasonal Homes
At the end of the vacation season or when you close your seasonal/vacation home for a length of time, shut off the water and have all water pipes drained by a licensed plumber. The plumber should also inspect all water lines, the water heater and appliances that use water.
Protecting Your Home From Water Damage
- Water Loss Mitigation Devices. Water damage can occur almost anywhere in your home. Frozen water lines as well as water-bearing appliances and fixtures, such as refrigerators with icemakers, dishwashers, washing machines, toilets and water heaters, are common sources of water leaks. The number of these sources in today's homes has led to an increased risk of water damage.Unfortunately, slow leaks from these appliances and fixtures are often impossible to see until it is too late. If a leak goes undetected, it can lead to rotting in the house frame and subfloors and can be a precursor to a catastrophic leak that releases several hundred gallons of water. Water loss mitigation devices may help prevent these problems, while also saving you money on your homeowners insurance premium.
- Passive Leak Detectors. Passive leak detection systems are intended to alert you to a water leak. They generally sound an alarm tone within the home when a leak is detected. More advanced products may be connected to a centrally monitored fire and burglar alarm system, alerting you if a leak is detected - even when you are away from the home.Passive leak detectors are helpful, but they do not provide the best method of protection from water leaks. The effectiveness of these systems depends on someone being in your home to take immediate action to stop the leak.
- Active Leak-Detection Systems. Active leak-detection systems provide a more comprehensive solution. These systems not only alert you of a leak, but also stop the water flow before it can cause significant damage to your home. These devices are typically installed on your home's main water supply line and instantly shut off water flow once a leak is detected. The leak detection methods vary by product but typically include the detection of higher or longer-than-average water usage and/or the use of small sensors placed near areas that are more prone to water leaks, such as a hot water heater, appliances or under sinks.Active leak-detection systems can be quite sophisticated. They may offer sensitivity variables such as "at home" and "away" modes that affect the speed in which they respond. They can allow for sprinkler systems or other water-use-intensive systems and do not infringe on your water consumption preferences, such as taking long showers. In addition, active leak-detection systems can be connected to a "smart home" system and/or centrally monitored alarm system, which could alert you when you are away from home. Generally, active leak-detection systems start at $500 and can cost as much as several thousand dollars, depending upon the product features, labor rates, and size of the system.