No matter where in the country you live, your home is at risk of water damage. When your home experiences water damage, you can pretty much assume that you will be spending anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 or more to repair the damage and clean-up the impacted area. And when water damage strikes, the sooner you act on the clean-up, the less costly and damaging it will be.
Though you can never entirely protect your home from water damage, there are several strategies that you can take to lessen your chances of suffering. Consider this list of easy tips that will hopefully help you keep your home clean and dry.
- Disconnect hoses in the winter season – Standing water in your hoses in the winter can create a build-up of ice that can freeze back into the interior pipes of your home. This can not only stop your flow of water, but in more extreme situations, can cause a pipe burst which will result in costly damage to your foundation as well as your walls and flooring.
- Keep your gutters and downspouts clean – As a practice, it is important to clean your gutters and downspouts at least two times per year. However, if you live in an area that is prone to strong winds or hurricanes, or if you live in a heavily wooded area, you may need to clean these out more often. When gutters and downspouts get clogged with leaves, rainwater is unable to make its way through and can result in puddles that can cause damage to your foundation. Always ensure that your downspouts are pointed away from your home.
- Keep your trees trimmed – Though this might not seem like it would have a big impact on keeping water damage from your home, keep in mind that trees that are not properly maintained can result in roots that wrap around the pipes of your home. Thus, when you can control what is planted where, it is best to ensure that heavy landscaping is not conducted in areas too close to your utility pipes. And, when trees get too big, it is best to have them removed and replaced with new growth that is easier to control and maintain.
- Ensure your indoor appliances are operating correctly – Your dishwasher, clothing washer, and ice maker in your refrigerator are common culprits for water leaks, especially when left unattended. As with any appliance, ensure that you are following the proper maintenance guidelines and service procedures. And, avoid running the dishwasher or your clothing washer when you will not be home. Ensure hoses on your washing machine are replaced regularly, especially if you have an older unit. Many homeowners also take the added precaution of turning off the water supply when they will be away from the home for an extended period of time.
- Know where your water main is located – In the event that you are going to be away from your home for a period for travel or other reasons, it is important that you know how to turn off your water supply. When you turn off the water main, you help reduce the likelihood of an unexpected water-related catastrophe inside your home, as water stops running through the pipes.
- Water detectors are a value-add – These small devices come in very handy as they sound an alarm when the sensors encounter moisture. The greatest benefit of these handy little devices is that they can often pick up on slow leaks or forming moisture, which means you get alerted before the problem gets out of hand or creates irreparable damage. Install these devices in the vicinity of water heaters, washing machines, dishwashers, toilets, sump pumps, and your refrigerator (if it includes an ice maker).
- Keep an eye on your water pressure – Your pipes and hoses are likely to fail when the water pressure is set too high. Water pressures gauges can be purchased at your local home improvement store. To use, attach the device to your outside faucet and then turn the faucet on as high as it will go. The gauge will then provide you with a reading of your home’s water pressure. For most residential water systems, the pressure should be between 40 to 70 psi (pounds per square inch). If your pressure is too high, you may need to install a pressure regulator which can also be purchased from a local home improvement store.
- Pay attention to your water bill – Your water bill can be a good indication of a problem, especially if the leak is in an area that you don’t have access to. If you are seeing a spike in usage and it isn’t likely related to watering your lawn, filling a pool, etc., then you may likely have a problem. In these cases, it might be best to call on a plumber that can help you effectively assess the situation.
Protecting your home from water damage during hurricane season
If you live in the hurricane zone or in an area that has been subject to hurricanes in the past, there are additional precautions that you may want to take to help protect your home. In addition to the aforementioned tips, if you live in Florida, Louisiana, or any other hurricane-prone state, be sure to follow these additional guidelines.
- In addition to keeping your trees trimmed, be sure to cut back branches that hang over structures such as your home, garage, or other outbuildings. Secure fencing that is weak or unanchored and ensure that any heavy objects in your yard are tied down or anchored should a hurricane be approaching. When these items are left unsecured, the strong winds from the hurricane are likely to pick these items up and send them racing through the air, and quite possibly into your home.
- Replace windows and doors with versions that have higher impact and pressure ratings. The added strength can help keep your home properly sealed, and do not require any activation when a storm is approaching.
- Install hurricane-grade window shutters. Depending on the design and type of shutters that you select, they can either be permanently installed so that they can be pulled over the window for an approaching storm or can easily be posted to pre-installed hanging tracks above or on either side of the window or door. Shutters are available in a variety of wind and impact ratings, but in this case, you can’t really overbuy. The stronger the shutter system, the more protection you provide to your windows and doors.
- Keep your roof in good condition. Conduct regular inspections of your roof, especially after a storm has passed through, and address any damage right away so that you can ensure your home is secure before another storm approaches. If you see signs or wear and tear or other damage, don’t wait as this damage can create the perfect entry for water to get into your home and create further and sometimes irreparable damage that will ruin the value of your home as well as your living conditions.
- Make sure that caulking around windows and doors is in good condition and is replaced periodically. Old caulking can crack or break and thus no longer serve the purpose for which it was intended. Check around your home and foundation for holes or cracks that need to be caulked and make note of where repairs have been made so that you can keep an eye on how your repairs are holding up.
- Ensure your sump pump works. While this might seem obvious, some sump pumps require regular inspection and, in some cases, may need to be recharged in order to operate.
Preventing a frozen pipe burst during the winter
In the northern states and when the temperature starts to drop, the pipes in your home are more subject to freezing and bursting. Most at risk are pipes that are in interior spaces that are not heated, in particular in garages, attics, and basements. This said, it does not mean that pipes in other areas are not at risk. Even pipes located in your cabinets or that are protected by an exterior pipe can freeze too.
Once temperatures start to drop, there are steps that you can take to lessen your risk of a pipe freeze. Here are some simple tips of strategies that you can take.
- Keep the doors of your garage closed. Not only will this help to keep heat inside your home, but it will help keep your property safe as well.
- During periods of extreme cold, open kitchen and bathroom cabinets so that warm air can circulate throughout the home and throughout the plumbing. This is especially important if your sinks are located on exterior walls.
- Though this may seem counter-intuitive based on the expense of a leaky faucet, do not hesitate to let cold water drip from a faucet that is served by exposed pipes. Even the slow drip can help keep your pipes from freezing.
- Keep your thermostat set at 55-degrees Fahrenheit or higher when you are away from the home. And, keep your thermostat set at a consistent temperature at night and during the day. Though many homeowners lower the temperature at bedtime, or set their thermostat to make this adjustment automatically, keeping a consistent temperature is better for your pipes.
- Add additional insulation to your basement, attic, and crawl spaces. The insulation will help to increase the temperature in those areas.
How to thaw your pipes
If you lose water pressure during the winter or experience only a drip instead of the flow you were expecting, this can be a sign of a frozen pipe. If this is the case, it is important to heed caution when thawing out the pipes as they are highly susceptible to a break during the thawing process. And, if the pipe has already burst, a quick thaw will cause the water to flood out of the pipe and into your home, quickly causing damage that could have been otherwise avoided.
If you have determined that a pipe has frozen, turn off the water via the water main. Then, apply heat to the section of pipe that is blocked by using a hair dryer, heating pad, or a portable space heater (though do not use a heater with an open flame as this will create other safety issues). Another option to help warm the pipes is to wrap them with towels that have been soaked in boiling or otherwise hot water. Do not under any circumstances use an open flame of any kind. This means that blowtorches, kerosene or propane heaters or charcoal stoves should not be used as the extremely high heat that comes from these devices can damage pipes or lead to a house fire.
As you work to heat the pipe and the ice begins to melt away, you will want to turn on the faucet so that the water can start to work its way through the pipe. Even though the water may be cold, the running of the water will help to melt the ice. Continue to apply heat until your water pressure has been restored. And of course, if you cannot locate the source of the frozen pipe, call a licensed plumber that can work with you to solve the problem. It is also wise to contact a plumber even if you have resolved the problem on your own, as the plumber can partake in an inspection to identify areas that might be problematic in the future.
And as always, if you’re in Bulldog Adjusters’ service area, we recommend contacting us in order to put through a damage claim with your insurance company. While your water damage may seem fine or you may have managed to fix it on your own or with the help of a plumber, your home insurance company should be made aware that you have this damage so that they can cover the cost of repair.
Bulldog Adjusters is one of the largest public adjusting firms in the United States. We pride ourselves on getting our clients the largest possible settlements on their home damage claims and we’ll fight for you.