Water related damage causes millions of dollars of damage every year. Homeowners insurance generally covers household water damage if the damage is sudden and accidental, such as damage caused by burst piping. But there are steps that homeowners can take to prevent problems and insurance claims. A water damage claim can be a red flag to insurers as well as future homebuyers. It is better to take preventive action than face the risks of increased insurance costs and reduced home marketability. Here are some ideas for you to consider.
1. Use copper tubing or braided stainless steel over rubber for ice maker supply lines, dishwashers, toilets and faucets. Plastic tubing can harden over time and crack.
2. Install braided, no burst hoses on the washing machine. The supply hoses to your washing machine are always under pressure, just like the supply pipes in your water system. However, over time the rubber will harden and crack resulting in leaks and in some cases complete failure. A broken washing machine supply line can cause extensive damage if it is not discovered quickly and the water turned off. A simple solution is to install no burst hoses. They cost above $20 a pair at home centers and hardware stores.
3. When you go on vacation, turn off the water to your washing machine while you are gone. Many homeowners have returned from vacation to find their homes flooded from washing machine hoses that have failed.
4. Install overflow pans under washing machines and water heaters in case of overflows or leaks. Many homes already have the overflow pans under washing machines but they are often cracked, damaged and in poor condition. Check the condition of the pan and replace it if necessary, especially if the laundry room is on the second floor. I inspect a lot of homes where there is water damage on the ceiling below the laundry room. Also check the connection between the pan and the drain pipe to the exterior.
5. Shut off and drain outdoor water faucets in the winter time. This prevents water in the pipes from freezing and damaging the pipe. When the water freezes, it expands causing the pipe to leak or crack, which will allow water to flow inside the home once the ice melts. Also bring garden hoses inside to prevent damage to them from the cold. Shut off valves can be found just inside the home where the pipe for the faucet goes through the wall or under vanity sinks in newer homes.
6. Prevent frozen pipes inside the home in the wintertime.
Insulate pipes in your home’s crawlspace, attic and garage. These exposed pipes are most susceptible to freezing. The more insulation you use, the better protected your pipes will be.
Seal leaks that allow cold air inside the home near where pipes are located. Look for air leaks around utility penetrations. Use caulk, expanding foam or insulation to keep the cold out and the heat in.
When temperatures go below freezing open faucets and allow a trickle of water to flow from the faucet. This small amount of hot and cold water might be all it takes to keep your pipes from freezing. Let warm water drip overnight, preferably from a faucet on an outside wall. Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to uninsulated pipes under sinks near exterior walls.
By taking these simple precautions you might save yourself the mess, money and aggravation of dealing with cleanup from water leaks.
Steve Sheffield is a full time home inspector with certifications through ASHI, American Society of Home Inspectors, and the IRC, International Residential Building Code. He has completed over 1500 inspections since starting Hometown Inspection Services, LLC eight years ago. Prior to starting Hometown Inspection he was in the lumber / construction supply business for over 30 years. He can be reached at: or 770-789-1463.
Van Purser and his wife Jeanne are a licensed Real Estate Brokers in Georgia. Since1984 they successfully purchased and renovated over 400 homes. Their expertise is in representing Buyers or Sellers as an advocate; which means always ensuring their best interest. Additionally, they represented hundreds of clients over the years as an Associate Broker with Metro Brokers, RE/Max and now with his own firm. He and his wife, Jeanne, have been married since 1977. Van or Jeanne can be reached at 770-623-3313, or by email at or .