Preventing Water Damage

For any homeowner, water damage can be a nightmare and is always an unplanned and unbudgeted event. The causes are varied and the damage can be big or small. From broken pipes to leaking appliances, water damage can wreak havoc, destroying your home, personal property, and irreplaceable family heirlooms. Potential repercussions to unmitigated water damages are mold growth, bacterial growth/cross contamination and dry rot of structural building materials.

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According to insurance companies that is the most common form of property disaster (almost 40% from total claims).

By learning the facts and regularly inspecting your home, you can help prevent future water leaks and intrusion and make sure your home remains in good condition. Early detection could mean the difference between a simple mop-up job and major construction repairs.

In The Kitchen

1. The Sink:

a) Check the caulking around the sink and repair/replace when necessary.
b) Check the pipes under the sink for leaks. Damp, soft or stained walls and floors around plumbing pipes indicate an internal leak that must be fixed before additional damage occurs.
c) Watch the drain (a slow drain is the sign of a clog building).
d) A drip in the trap under the sink can be a sign of drain problems and should be repaired immediately.
e) Check faucet for leak.

2. The Dishwasher:

a) Check hoses for aging and proper connection to the water supply.
b) Watch the area around/under for signs of leaking (discoloration, warping, “mushy” floor material, water damage to nearby cabinets).
c) If the dishwasher doesn’t empty completely after each use, the main filter may be clogged and must be replaced promptly.
d) When the sink overflows, it is probably due to dishwasher back-ups. This problem usually occurs when the drain line is clogged.

3. The Refrigerator:

a) Check the rubber door seals on your fridge and freezer to make sure you’re getting a proper seal.
b) Check the drain pan.
c) Check the defrost drain. This can become clogged with debris or freeze shut.
d) Check your ice maker to ensure hose connections are secure. A wet spot on the floor may be a sign of a crimped ice maker line about to burst.

In the Bathroom

Most pipes and plumbing joints are installed inside the walls, making it hard to detect signs of water damage. You must be very attentive to flooring, wall moisture, and stains as they may provide clues for invisible plumbing problems

1. Toilets:

a) Watch for no or slow draining, this could mean something is stuck. Clogs can result from too much toilet paper or objects such as hanging bowl deodorants.
b) Be aware that cleaning tablets containing chlorine can corrode internal parts.

2. Sinks:

a) Check under the sink for aging pipes and proper connections.
b) Routinely clear the drain to dislodge hair and beauty products from building up.

3. Exhaust Fans:

a) Use it during and following warm showers or baths to prevent excess moisture build-up.
b) Make sure that the exhaust fan is working properly. It is recommended to wire the exhaust fan so that it will operate automatically when the bathroom is in use.
c) Check the exterior vent damper and make sure it is clean and properly working.

4. Showers and Bathtubs:

This is a very common source of water damage. Exposed to a large amount of daily water, the shower and bathtub require special attention in order to be well maintained.

a) Check the caulking and grout and repair/replace when necessary.
b) A leak may be hidden behind the wall, watch for staining and soft spots around walls and flooring nearby.
c) Check the tiles and replace every cracked tile immediately.
d) Clogged drains and other invisible plumbing problems will prevent your bathtub from drying completely after use. This may indicate serious problems in the floor beneath the bathtub and should be inspected by a professional immediately to prevent further structural damage.

In the Laundry Room and Utility Room

1. Washing Machine:

a) Check hoses regularly for damage. Replace immediately if a problem is found.
b) It is a good idea to replace all supply lines with braided stainless steel hoses.
c) To prevent hose kinking leave at least 4 inches between water connection and back of the machine.
d) Check the filters and clean or replace them periodically.
e) Inspect the shut off valve by looking for drips into the washing machine while it is not in use. If you detect a leak, replace the valve.

2. Dryer:

a) Check the ventilation hose.
b) The dryer ventilation hose must be connected to the outdoors. Search for lint accumulation behind and under the dryer and make sure the vent pipe is not clogged and that it is debris-free.

3. Water Heater:

Most units last between 8 – 15 years. Watch for wet spot in the pan or rusting on the tank to signal a leak.

4. Utility Sink:

The utility sink is sometimes the source for water-related problems.

a) Check for leaks under the sink. A drip in the trap under the sink can be a sign for drain problems and should be repaired immediately.
b) Check around the sink; slow draining pipes may indicate a partially blocked drain. A constantly dripping faucet must be repaired right away. Replace sink seals if they are cracked or loose.
c) Damp, soft, or stained walls and floors around plumbing pipes indicate an internal leak that must be fixed before additional damage occurs.

On the Roof

 1. Debris:

Keep roof free of debris (leaves, twigs, etc), any item that could clog the gutters and prevent drainage.

2. Soffits and Roof Vents:

Make sure these are installed properly and functioning. These prevent heat and moisture buildup and extend you roof life.

3. Shingles:

Replace missing, curling, cupping, broken, or cracked shingles.

4. Attic Space:

Attic Vents:

a) Moisture or surface discoloration near the vent is a red flag; find the source of moisture and repair the problem.
b) Remove any birds’ nests and debris blocking the vents.


a) Check the insulation frequently, especially after the rainy season (When damaged by moisture and water, the insulation becomes thin and flat).
b) If the insulation is wet, remove it and dispose of properly.

Attic Appliances:

a) Check attic air conditioners, swamp coolers and HVAC (heating, ventilating, and cooling) systems. Look for wear and tear and loose connections.
b) Appliance failures may cause water damage to everything that lies below.

Recessed Lights Canisters:

a) The presence of rust and corrosion indicates possible moisture invasion and a potential electrical hazard.
b) Stains above or near the wood, or on the insulation around the canisters are a good indicator of moisture-related problems.

Ceiling and Walls:

If it’s winter and you’ve got water in the attic or see water stains on your ceilings or walls, look for any ice dams.

In the Basement

A moist or wet basement is a problem that can quickly develop into a complete disaster. A periodic inspection of the basement can very often provide accurate indications of a water problem somewhere else in your home and can help prevent a much bigger damage.

1. Plumbing:

a) A common problem is pipe condensation caused by pipes sweating. This problem promotes mold, corrosion and rotting if ignored.
b) To reduce condensation, consider insulating all pipes.

2. Openings through the Basement:

Dryer vents, exterior electrical outlets, and phone and cable connections often go through the basement walls. If not properly waterproofed, these openings will allow water intrusion to the basement.

3. Foundations:

a) The house can shift and settle over time, forming gaps and cracks.
b) The exterior landscape also changes over time, which can lead to excessive water in the soil around the foundation.
c) Consult a professional if you need to make any landscape changes or foundation repairs.


Perimeter Drains:

a) Have your drain tile around the foundation inspected by a qualified drainage contractor.
b) Special cameras can show you the condition present and identify if and where blockages are.
c) If your home is over 15 years old, has trees or large shrubbery close to house check them. Thereafter check it every 5 years


1| Ensure the main water shut off to your home is in good repair and its location is known to every member of the household. Shutting off the main water supply is the quickest way to stop the leak.
2| Though we all do it to maximize the valuable free time we have in a day it is not advisable to leave dishwashers and washing machines running when you leave the house.

Prevention Is Still the Best Solution

 A water damage loss can be extremely disruptive to you and your family. Homeowners and business owners alike have found out the hard way how water can cause serious damages to homes and structures. Repair and replacement can take a considerable amount of time and effort. That’s why the best form of insurance is prevention.

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