Preventing water damage is something every homeowner has to consider. Accordingly, as a homeowner you may be asking yourself:
Is there water running somewhere?
Why is the carpet soggy?
Are there water stains on the ceiling and walls?
Questions like these are startling reminders that water damage is a serious problem, one that can be devastating and costly.
Homeowners expect to see water flowing into sinks and basins, then making its way through pipes and drains to the sewer main. On the other hand, they don’t want water seeping into the walls, soaking floors, flooding basements, or filling crawl spaces.
Preventing water damage is key. Simple repairs today can save you thousands of dollars tomorrow.
Water Damages Your Home More Severely Than You Think
While storms, floods, and hurricanes present serious threats to a house’s integrity, tiny leaks can spread, resulting in devastating damage. The root problem might be a cracked pipe, blocked gutter, or faulty sump pump. Poorly graded soil can be problematic as well.
Left unchecked, slow leaks can weaken the foundation, rot the drywall, and weaken studs, joists, and beams. To make matters worse, moisture in walls, crawl spaces, and basements can produce black mold.
Preventing water damage means identifying the problem early and stopping leaks at their source. Follow these 14 tips, and you’ll notice a difference:
1. Clean and Maintain the Gutters
Nobody likes cleaning out gutters and downspouts, yet failing to do so once or twice a year is asking for trouble. Clean gutters move water off the roof and away from the foundation, but choked gutters impede that flow. Instead, leaves and other debris force water to spill onto the ground, eroding soil that should create a protective barrier around the perimeter of the house. Perpetually soggy soil likely signals trouble as water seeps into the foundation or leaks into the house, damaging walls and floors.
Yet, preventing water damage is easy when it comes to gutters! You can either clean the gutters or hire someone to do it for you. If you choose to do the job yourself, make sure you have a sturdy extension ladder!
Don’t forget to check your gutters during the winter, when ice can form dams, which can cause water to back up and leak through the roof and into the attic.
2. Inspect Sinks and Drains
Preventing water damage also means checking sinks and drains, especially those in the kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry room. Sinks hold water temporarily, then channel the water through pipes to the sewer main outside. A clogged drain, a cracked pipe, or a faulty overflow mechanism can impede this flow, resulting in major water damage. Additionally, nasty wastewater may leak into sink cabinets, between floors, or inside walls.
By all means, try to keep your drains clear. In the kitchen, avoid pouring grease down the drain. Most of the time, flushing grease with hot or cold water does little to break down the grease, and may exacerbate the problem.
Always use strainers in kitchen sinks, especially when prepping food. Install working strainers in the shower and tub, too. Whenever you dispose of food clippings, hair, or other waste, deposit the debris in the trash; do not flush it down the toilet or force it down the drain.
Be sure to check drain traps underneath sink cabinets. Finally, look for cracks or rust that might indicate trouble.
3. Prevent Pipes from Freezing
Frozen pipes can cause serious, unforeseen damage, which is why people are investing in smart thermostats. During winter, set the temperature in your home so it doesn’t fall below 50 degrees, even if you are away. Warm water must be able to flow through the pipes.
If your house is going to be empty for a long time, turn off the water at the water main. You should also drain the system so water doesn’t sit in the pipes in frigid weather.
4. Fix Cracked or Missing Caulking
Recaulking the seams around your house is easy and inexpensive — and goes a long way to prevent water damage. First, check windows and doors to determine if they lack caulking or if the caulk is cracked. Water tends to collect just above the window casing, so look at the caulking there. Fill in cracks, even if the fissures are tiny.
Next, inspect the walls and floors. Look for signs of water damage, such as bubbles in the paint or wallpaper. Pay attention to drywall or plaster that flakes off. Mold and termite activity can also signal water damage.
Preventing water damage is easy and inexpensive — if you start early!
5. Prevent Basement Water Seepage
Do you notice water in your basement, especially after a heavy rain? Over time, the cement floors and walls in your basement can deteriorate, allowing water to accumulate. Start by resealing your basement. Check especially vulnerable areas and apply a water sealant.
Then, check the water drains outside; they should redirect water away from the foundation and walls. If the ground is poorly graded, you may detect overly saturated areas around the foundation. You can regrade the ground with a shovel and a rake; the ground around your house should decline a minimum of 5 percent for the first 10 feet.
Finally, install a backwater valve to prevent sewer backups. Preventing water damage is vital, allowing you to enjoy every inch of your home for years to come.
6. Keep Your Drains Healthy and Flowing
Chemical drain cleaners can eat away at pipes, making them vulnerable to leaks. Instead, use a drain snake to unclog a sink. Remember to clean all the drains regularly. Make sure the tub’s overflow drain works properly. Notice if there are leaks around the faucets.
Preventing water damage means scheduling regular drain check-ups, which can save you time, money, and headaches.
7. Check Your Appliances Regularly
Once a year, you need to examine the faucets and hoses to your washing machine, dishwasher, and refrigerator. Look for cracks or water leaks.
Consult the manufacturer’s instruction manual for specific recommendations. Generally speaking, you will need to replace the hoses every 5 to 7 years. Normal wear and tear can weaken hoses, and in most instances, the homeowner must foot the bill if there is water damage due to lack of maintenance.
Don’t forget to inspect the water heater once a year, too. Look for rust or corroded areas, as well as drips, leaks, or pools of water. Consider a tankless water heater or on-demand water heater. Additionally, maintain your air conditioning unit and have it serviced annually.
8. Maintain Trees and Vegetation
Trees add beauty and value to a home. They provide shade in the summer and protection during the colder months. But they can cause severe damage if invasive roots spread into sprinkler systems, drainage fields, or pipes.
If possible, avoid planting trees and bushes near utility pipes. If you have identified problematic plants around your property, consider moving them 20 feet away from the house. Overgrown trees or bushes may need to be removed altogether.
One last note: If your town is experiencing a drought, don’t let your soil become too dry. In the winter, houses tend to expand, but during hot months, they shrink, leaving foundations vulnerable. A soaker hose laid 6 inches away from the house and 3 inches below the soil can minimize the effects of contractions.
9. Inspect Your Roof
Water damage often occurs in the attic because of a leaky roof. Check the roof for visible holes, such as those that result from fallen branches. Replace any damaged or aging shingles. In addition, look for moss that may be growing beneath the shingles, prying them loose.
Ensure that the flashing around your chimney is intact; then, cap the chimney. Check for loose mortar and cracked bricks; both can lead to holes through which water can seep. Have the chimney mortar sealed. Again, repair all the cracks. Preventing water damage often starts with the roof!
10. Investigate and Fix Leaks Promptly
Suspect that you might have a leak? Don’t wait! Water damage doesn’t go away on its own, and ignoring the signs can lead to costly repairs. In some cases, there may be mold, mildew, or dry rot taking hold. There may even be structural damage to the house.
The key to preventing water damage is a prompt response. Conduct a thorough inspection and determine a course of action. Once you identify a leak or dripping pipe, fix it — right away.
Review your homeowner’s insurance. Some policies cover burst pipes and ice damage on the roof, for instance. Water that starts from the top and flows onto the ground is usually covered by a standard homeowner’s policy. For instance, your policy probably covers damage from rain and burst sprinklers. However, some policies do not cover sewer or drain backups. If you live in an area prone to flooding, you might want to check into flood insurance.
11. Maintain the Sump Pump
A sump pump collects water in a pit, and when the water reaches a certain point, it automatically turns on, drawing water from the pit and away from the house.
Sump pumps are usually located in a basement or crawl space. Once a year, determine if the sump pump is working properly. During heavy storm seasons, check the pump more frequently. A sump pump can help protect your house from rising groundwater or interior flooding.
A few reminders: Determine whether the sump pump is connected to the GFCI electrical outlet. The pump should turn on when you flip the switch. If the circuit breaker fails, replace it. If the sump pump has tilted over, set it upright. Finally, be sure the float is working. Preventing water damage is a little easier with a functioning sump pump.
12. Monitor Water Pressure
You can spot leaks quickly by installing an electronic water leak detection system. Typical units have a sensitive transducer that monitors the sounds coming from pipes in your house. By gauging water pressure, flow, and temperature, you can detect problems early and take action, thus preventing water damage from broken or burst pipes.
13. Know Where the Stopcock Is
The stopcock, also known as the stop valve or shut-off valve, is a control tap for your water supply. You will find the stopcock under the kitchen sink, behind the toilet or under the bathroom sink, under the stairs, or near the water heater. If you have a broken pipe, turn off the water from the stopcock and wait for the plumber; otherwise, your home may incur more water damage.
You should check the external stopcock as well. This valve controls the flow of water from the water main that serves the houses on your street. If your supply pipe bursts, you should turn off the water supply to your house until repairs can be made.
14. Consider Installing Leak Detectors
A leak detector is like a smoke alarm, alerting you to water or flooding. There are a wide range of detectors on the market, with prices starting at about $30. For instance, some leak detectors can be paired with smart home systems and send alerts to your phone if there is a problem.
Active leak detectors automatically shut off the water supply to your home. If your house is prone to flooding, you might want to place passive alarms in high-risk areas.
Spot detectors sound an alarm if they come in contact with water or moisture. Area detectors ascertain the presence of water over a wider range, using sensor wires.
Preventing water damage means installing leak detectors in the basement and attic, near the AC unit and water heater, in the laundry room, bathroom, kitchen, and near any water pipes. Then, remember to check the batteries regularly!
If Things Went South, Consider Calling a Professional
We urge you to take precautionary steps to protect your house. Sometimes, though, you need to call a professional, especially if you notice signs of water damage or if the job exceeds your skills.
If your home sustains water damage, call a restoration professional right away. The experts at Demarco Restoration can help you through the entire process, from inspection, evaluation, and repair to insurance submission support. We are here for you! Contact us today.