Drip, Drip, Drip…Damage

December 23, 2012 | Kate Horrell

Water – it is one of our most valuable resources, and also one of the most problematic things in our world. Even inside our home, out-of-control water can cause high bills, annoying sounds, and long-term damage to your house and your belongings. My family had several leaks due to old, poor quality pipes, and it is a huge pain. And a huge expense!

Therefore, I found the following article from USAA very interesting and helpful.

Drip, drip, drip.

The sound of a leaky faucet may drive you nuts during the night. But unchecked and unfixed, the problem could drain your wallet, costing thousands of dollars in damages, according to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety.

Water leaks can sneak up on you and cause widespread damage to floors, ceilings, walls and prize possessions. Plus, they can disrupt your home life for weeks during cleanup and repairs.

With regular inspection and maintenance, homeowners can stop leaks before they start. Tim Reinhold, IBHS chief engineer and senior vice president of research, offers the following tips to help prevent the top 10 sources of household leaks, most of which range from $4,000 to $5,500 in damages after the insurance deductible has been paid.

1. Washing Machines

The often-used washing machine is the most hazardous appliance you own when it comes to water leaks. It may be convenient to have your washer and dryer on the main floor or near the main living space, but that’s also where many valuable furnishings and electronics are located. And few laundry rooms have a drain that could contain a leak and prevent water damage.

What You Can Do

  • Replace rubber and plastic hoses with reinforced steel braided hoses. “The hoses are pressurized all the time, and for just a few dollars more you can buy some added peace of mind,” says Reinhold. Replace these hoses every five years, no matter how they look. Deterioration could happen inside the hose, where it’s not noticeable. Label the hose with the replacement date.
  • Tighten hose connections if they feel loose. “Connections are always problematic and can be a source of leaks or an outright system failure,” says Reinhold.
  • Turn off the water supply to the washing machine whenever you leave the house for more than one day.
  • If possible, replace screw-type water-supply valves with an easier-to-operate dual-ball valve that controls both hot and cold water with a single lever. “Many older houses will have individual shut-offs for hot and cold water rather than a single valve, which magnifies the problem,” explains Reinhold.

 

2. Plumbing Systems

From high water pressure that stresses the system over time to frozen pipes that burst, problems with your supply line pipe can cause big-time damage. In fact, burst pipes result in some of the highest costs to homeowners, with damages that often top $8,000.

What You Can Do

  • Watch for warning signs. One or more of the following indicate you may have a supply line issue that warrants inspection by a plumbing professional: water spots on ceilings and floors; higher-than-normal water bills, which indicate excessive water usage; pipes that “bang” when faucets are turned off; and evidence of rust and wet soil erosion around the foundation.
  • Check to see if water pressure is normal. “It should be 30 or 40 per square inch in your home rather than the 70 psi you might find at your street connection,” says Reinhold. “You can have a water pressure regulator installed if you’re having problems.”
  • Make sure everyone in the home knows where the water supply valve is located and how to shut it off. Regularly test the valve to make sure it works properly.
  • Insulate pipes prone to freezing, especially at the point of entry into the home.

 

3. Toilets

Homes old and new can suffer toilet-related leaks. Newer homes are more likely to experience sudden toilet failure, such as one caused by a faulty supply line or fill valve, resulting in higher losses, according to IBHS. Older homes are more likely to develop a slow, seeping leak. And then there’s the constant risk of clogs. Whether caused by a toddler who throws toys into the toilet bowl or other sources, clogs can cause overflows and significant damage to floors and ceilings.

What You Can Do

  • “When a clog occurs, take the lid off the back of the tank and close the flapper or lift the float to stop water before it overflows the bowl,” says Reinhold. Make sure the water supply valve is accessible so you can turn off the supply.
  • Replace gate valves on the supply line with ball valves, if possible, to reduce the risk of leaks.

 

4. Water Heaters

Like washing machines, water heaters can cause more damage if they’re located on the main floor rather than the basement. Often installed and forgotten, water heaters that have passed their life expectancy — typically about 10 years — can start to rust or corrode. And without a floor drain or a drain pan piped to a floor drain, a leak can wreak havoc in a hurry. IBHS reports that water heater failures cost an average of $4,444 per incident, after the deductible.

What You Can Do

  • Purchase a water heater with a long warranty, ideally 12 years, advises Reinhold. “A new house may come with a standard contractor-grade water heater, which usually only has a three-year warranty,” he says.
  • Have a professional inspect and maintain the heater’s anode rod every two years, then every year after the warranty has expired. The anode rod attracts corrosion to protect the steel tank.
  • Flush sediment from the hot water tank, especially if your home has hard water, which leaves more sediment, says Reinhold.

 

5. Drains and Sump Pumps

A backed-up sewer drain may cause the most unpleasant and dreaded of all leaks — sewage that overflows into your home. If your home sits at the low end of a hill or lower than street level, it’s more susceptible to sewer backups.

What You Can Do

  • Have a professional plumber install a back-flow prevention assembly.
  • Plant trees far from drain lines.
  • Store personal belongings off the floor and away from drains and sump pumps.
  • Do not pour grease down the drain.
  • Test the sump pump before the start of each rainy season.

 

6. Dishwashers and Refrigerators

Often called the heart of the home, the kitchen contains two leak-prone appliances: dishwashers and refrigerators. Leaking pipes, hoses and drains under these heavily used appliances can damage floors or cabinets. And since signs often appear behind or under the dishwasher and fridge, leaks often get overlooked.

What You Can Do

  • Periodically check for leaks under the sink where the hose connects to the water supply.
  • Look around the base of the dishwasher for evidence of leaks, such as discolored, warped or soft flooring materials, or water damage to nearby cabinets.
  • If your refrigerator has an ice maker, make sure the hose connection is securely attached to the water supply line. A damp spot on the floor behind or under the fridge may be a sign of a crimped ice-maker line about to burst. “I’d recommend cleaning out behind your refrigerator once a year and inspecting hoses and pipes,” says Reinhold.

 

7. Sinks, Showers and Bathtubs

Ever gone running to the sink because you forgot to turn off the faucet? Along with drain clogs, overflows can result from water left running by mistake. In the bathroom, broken plumbing behind walls can result in water leaking through old, damaged caulk, grout and other sealants around walls, bathtubs, showers and sinks. Faulty drain pipes and shower pans can leak, too.

What You Can Do

  • Regularly inspect and replace deteriorated caulk and grout around sinks, showers and bathtubs.
  • Look for stains or soft areas on walls and floors near bathroom or kitchen plumbing.
  • Fix leaky faucets. “You’d be surprised how much you’ll save on your water bill over time,” says Reinhold.
  • If your access to a plumbing leak is limited, consult a professional.

 

8. Air-conditioning Systems

It’s a bad sign to see water dripping from a ceiling, especially when you don’t know where it’s coming from. If you haven’t had routine maintenance done on your air-conditioning system, it could be coming from an overflowing drain pan. Over time, clogs can form and lead to leaks.

What You Can Do

  • Every cooling season, have your air-conditioning system inspected and serviced by a qualified contractor, Reinhold recommends. Make sure the professional inspects and cleans the system’s condensation pan drain line.
  • To prevent an overflow, have the professional install a float switch to cut off the AC system if there is a clog, says Reinhold.

 

9. Roof, Siding and Windows

Having a home means you’re sheltered from the elements. But if your home has a leaky roof, insufficient siding or damaged windows, you’re not very well-protected. Water coming in from the outside can result in catastrophic damage.

What You Can Do

  • Keep leaves, branches and other debris off the roof to ensure water drains properly. Otherwise, it may leak through the roof, down the walls and into the foundation.
  • Clean and unclog gutters at least twice a year.
  • Inspect the roof and siding for damage, and replace shingles, flashing and siding.
  • Replace damaged caulk around windows or doors.
  • Repaint wood siding and window frames as needed.

 

10. Downspouts, Spigots and the Foundation

“Have a solid foundation” is the most overused metaphor on the self-help lecture circuit. But for your home, take the advice literally. Protecting that foundation is crucial. Water can pool around the foundation and enter the home through cracks.

What You Can Do

  • Make sure downspouts carry water well away from the foundation of the home, adding splash blocks or extra length as necessary.
  • Fill in any low spots next to the house to help water drain away from the foundation.
  • Before the first freeze, disconnect garden hoses from all water spigots, and turn off each spigot’s water supply.

 

One Final Tip

The fastest way to stop a leak may be to turn off your home’s water, so do this first. It’s also an important step to take before you attempt to make any plumbing repairs. So, before an emergency occurs, learn where the valve is located. You usually can find it in the basement or on an outside wall in a utility area of the house. The main shutoff valve allows a full flow of water through the pipe when it’s open. Turning off this valve (by turning it clockwise) cuts off the water supply to the entire house.

Leak Detection Technology

There are three basic types of water detection systems:

Active Leak Detection. These systems sound an alarm if they detect excessive moisture and stop water flow if they’re integrated into your home’s shut-off valve system. They can be programmed to call you or be looped into your home security monitoring service.

Passive Leak Detection. Battery operated, they sound an alarm for a possible water leak.

Whole-House System. Featuring a shut-off valve installed on the main water supply pipe, this system will automatically turn off the entire water supply when it detects a leak anywhere in your home.

The content above was provided by USAA.

Kate here: There is so much useful information here. As a homeowner of a 1964 house, water is my nemesis. I battle it regularly and I am constantly worried about water damage. These tips are awesome!

Comments

  1. KateKashman says:

    True, true. I can remember having to go to neighbors with the same floor plan to discover where our main water shut off was located. Thank goodness it wasn't an emergency situation!

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