Prevent Costly Water Damage to Your Home
It’s every homeowner’s nightmare.
Ryan S. was relaxing in his favorite chair one evening with a bag of chips and his favorite TV show, waiting to put a load of laundry on the dryer. He suddenly heard water splashing and ran into the bathroom to find filthy water flowing out of the bathtub drain and pouring out of the toilet, rushing towards the lovingly-refinished hardwood floor in the hallway. A clog in a drain pipe buried in Ryan’s yard had caused a disgusting and costly backup into his beloved home when his washing machine started to drain.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, water damage is the second-most-common culprit behind homeowner’s insurance claims. And water damage isn’t cheap–even a problem as basic as a malfunctioning toilet costs an average of $2,000 to $10,000 per incident when it leads to a water overflow. Practicing good home maintenance can keep your home from becoming a water damage statistic.
Prevent costly water damage from happening to you by using these five key strategies for maintaining your home both inside and out.
Inside your home:
Keep your plumbing in good working order. For most of us, our homes’ pipes are something we never think about until they fail. Plumbing can and does fail, though, and the damage caused by overflowing drains or burst pipes can cost thousands of dollars.
The best way to deal with plumbing problems is to prevent them or repair them before a catastrophe happens. The Institute for Business and Home Safety recommends checking your pipes at least once a year for condensation or damage, and calling a plumber if you see signs of leakage such as warped flooring. They also recommend calling a plumber if you notice your toilets and drains starting to back up, before a complete blockage can cause overflow into your house. You should also pay close attention to your water bill if you use city water, since a big increase can be a sign of a plumbing leak or a problem with the toilet or water heater. If you have a well, check for leaks if you notice your water pump running when no one is using any water.
If you live in a climate of winter freezes, insulate any pipes in your basement, attic or crawlspace to prevent bursting. Leave the cabinet doors under your sinks open when the temperature drops well below freezing to keep the pipes warm.
Maintain your appliances. The Institute for Business and Home Safety found in a study that faulty toilets, sinks, washing machines, sump pumps and water heaters are responsible for many insurance claims due to water damage. They recommend checking your toilet’s flushing mechanism and your washing machine’s water supply hoses every six months, and they warn against leaving the house while your washer is running. Flush sediment from your water heater every six months, and have a professional inspect the anode rod every two years to prevent leaking or bursting. Inspect your sinks’ plumbing and shutoff valve every six months, as well as the water supply hose to your icemaker. Test your shower stall pan once a year, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for caring for your sump pump.
Outside your home:
Maintain proper surface drainage around your home. Water pooling around your home can cause your basement to leak, and can even do serious damage to your home’s foundation. According to the Foundation Repair Association, pooling water is usually the culprit when expanding soil causes a home’s foundation to crack. Water flows downhill, so proper land grading around your home will cause water to flow away from your home and prevent pooling around the foundation.
The contractors who built your home would have (hopefully) made sure the land around the foundation had the proper grade, but soil moves over time and can change its slope and cause a problem. Landscaping expert David Beaulieu recommends a drop of six inches in the first ten feet of soil around your home, and he describes an easy way to check the grading around your home using string, two stakes, a tape measure and a string level.
Make sure your gutters and downspouts are doing their jobs. Your home’s gutters and downspouts route rain water away from your home’s foundation. If a gutter does not have the right slope or a downspout becomes clogged, you can end up with water damage.
The Foundation Repair Association recommends checking all gutters and downspouts each spring and fall, and more often if you have trees near the house. They recommend a fall of at least one inch for every eight feet of gutter to prevent water pooling in the gutter. If a single gutter is more than 35 feet long, slope it downwards in both directions from the center. Pour water into the gutters and watch to make sure there is no pooling, and check for clogs at the joint between the gutter and downspout. Make sure the downspout discharges water at least 5 feet from your home’s foundation.
Check your roof. According to a study by the Institute for Business and Home Safety, leaky roofs are the most frequent cause of water damage to homes. They recommend hiring a professional to inspect your roof once a year to make sure the roof covering, flashing, parapets and drainage system are all in good shape. They also recommend insulating to keep heat from your home out of your attic if you live in an area prone to freezes and thaws.
Has your home suffered costly water damage? Tell us your story.
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