Water damage is one of those areas many homeowners don’t think about until it’s too late. It’s important to learn the signs of a potential water problem in your home so you can avoid costly repairs not covered by your home insurance. The biggest tip: Never ignore a drip or drop. You should immediately attempt to find and stop leaks before they cause any damage.
Water damage is one of the top causes of loss for homeowners, but much of it can be prevented through regular inspections and routine maintenance. Let’s take a look at several ways you can prevent water damage in your home:
- Heating, ventilating, and air conditioning – Have your HVAC System inspected regularly, either seasonally or annually (in advance of the winter or summer, or both), to ensure it is functioning properly. Under no circumstances should you ever see water coming from the indoor unit. This is a sign that something is either dripping, leaking, or not draining.
The only sign of condensation that is normal is a bit of sweat from the indoor evaporator coil and suction line (the large freon line covered by black insulation in the indoor unit), which indicates it is cooling. But it should not drip.
If the coil is dirty, that can also cause leaks, which is why your HVAC should be inspected regularly. Be mindful that any drips, leaks, or steam are not covered by your basic home insurance policy.
Sometimes the indoor coil can actually ice-up. And when the ice melts, it drips onto the floor. Like water, you should never see ice; if you do, adjust the unit’s temperature or have it inspected. If the HVAC freezes up and causes a flood when your house is unoccupied, repairs probably won’t be covered by your home insurance policy. Please consider this before leaving your unit running in an unattended house.
High-efficiency furnaces and central humidifiers can also leak, drip, or crack, causing a water leak. So make sure to have them regularly maintained as well.
- Appliances – Appliances can develop leaks because of cracked hoses, faulty connections, or aging materials. But water damage from appliances can also be prevented by conducting routine maintenance of appliances that use water.
In general, hoses and connections should be checked and inspected regularly to ensure they are secure and don’t show signs of corrosion or leaks. Any faulty hoses or connections should be replaced before they fail. A sudden failure is covered by your homeowner’s policy,but a continuous leak is not.
There are four major appliances that regularly cause water damage issues: your water heater, dishwasher, washing machine, and refrigerator.
To avoid water heater issues, schedule a professional plumbing inspection at least once every two years and flush the tank every six months to remove residue.
When it comes to your dishwasher, washing machine, and refrigerator, leave a three-inch gap between the back of the appliance and the wall to avoid kinks in the water supply hose. If you see any kinks or cracks in the water supply line when performing your regular inspections, replace the hose. Regardless of the state of the hose, you should replace it every three to five years. And remember: never operate a washing machine or dishwasher when the home is unoccupied.
To help keep an eye on these, you may want to consider installing a water leak detection system, especially if you’re frequently away from the house, that issues an alarm or signal when there’s a leak. Individual appliance systems can be installed on specific home appliances. Contact a plumber for more details.
- General Plumbing Issues –The bathroom is a typical source for water damage. Unfortunately, if there is a leak coming from a tub, shower, toilet, or sink, your policy won’t cover it. It won’t cover steam escaping over time, either.
Therefore, it’s important to inspect pipes for condensation and corrosion to avoid any issues. Investigate any musty smells, as well as any stains appearing on ceilings and walls. And call a plumber at the first sign of backed-up toilets and sinks, rust-colored water, and a warped flooring or ceiling.
For toilets, you should inspect the flushing mechanism inside the tank and the supply line every six months. Ensure the connection to the valve is secure. Call a plumber if you notice intermittent or constant tank refilling when the toilet is not in use; the flapper or fill valve assembly may need to be replaced or realigned. Look for kinks in copper or plastic pipes underneath sinks and make sure there is no visible corrosion.
Any sudden increase in your water bill could indicate a leak that has gone undetected, so pay special attention. Whole-house systems can also be installed to detect general plumbing issues. When the system detects a leak, it will automatically shut off the entire water supply. If you travel often, this type of system could help you rest assured while you’re away from home.
- Mold —When water leaks into your property, moisture can collect, allowing mold to develop. Mold can cause further damage to your property and can potentially cause serious health problems such as asthma or bronchitis.
Additionally, homeowner’s policies do not cover mold or fungus damage, so it’s important to identify it quickly and remove it. Mold can also cause problems when selling a house, so it’s best to not allow it to spread.
You can prevent mold from growing by fixing leaks as soon as you notice them and drying water-damaged areas immediately.
To remove moisture, use dehumidifiers, insulation and exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens. Impact windows also help reduce moisture. Increase air circulation by using fans and keeping doors open between rooms.
It is important to take steps to avoid water damage. Never ignore indications of an obvious water issue in your home. While homeowner’s policies will generally pay for sudden water damage, like the kind caused by a storm, they do not cover water damages caused by a flood or gradual problems such as lack of maintenance.
Review your home insurance policy or speak to an insurance agent today to make sure you know what to do if water damage occurs in your home. And don’t forget to keep an eye on those leaks. Every drop counts.