Essential Tips: How To Prevent Water Damage And Maintain A Dry Home

Find out what causes water damage at home and learn how to prevent it to avoid costly repairs or purchases.

Flooding, seepage, leaks, and water damage are frequent problems in some regions. While some are inevitable due to tornadoes and heavy rains, others can be prevented. A small to moderate amount of leaked water is manageable with the proper tools, but substantial flooding should be left to the professionals.

photo: hotwatertalk.com

There are many reasons for water damage in your home, ranging from leaky appliances and plumbing to basement flooding due to sump pump failure or sewer backflow.

Water damage can involve clean water from broken pipes, which is not harmful. However, damages that involve water from toilets and sewage are considered “dirty” and require complete removal and disinfection of items.

It is essential to identify the cause of the problem, clean it up, and restore your property quickly.

Here, we will cover seven common causes of water damage at home and learn how to protect your household from costly repairs and water losses.

How To Prevent Water Damage When A Water Heater Is Leaking

  1. What causes water heater leak and how to repair it
  2. What to do with the leaky appliances
  3. How to deal with the clogged gutters and downspouts
  4. Water main issues
  5. Sump pump failure and how to fix it
  6. What is the sewer line backflow and what you can do about it
  7. Common plumbing leaks
  8. Preventing tips
  9. Cleaning tips

Water Heater Leak

In this article about water heater leaks, we discuss the causes, prevention tips, what to do when the problem occurs, and how to avoid damages.

For example, leaks from the temperature and pressure relief valve (TPR valve) occur when the temperature and pressure of the hot water inside the heater’s tank become extremely high. This causes the valve to open, allowing water to escape and relieve the pressure. If the valve becomes stuck or is not functioning properly, hot water will continue to escape and drip onto the floor.

Cold and hot water connections are also prone to leaks, so it’s important to tighten any loose fittings and connections. Replace any that are damaged.

Water can also leak if the drain valve is malfunctioning, clogged, or broken. In such cases, the faulty part needs to be replaced.

One of the most dangerous and costly situations is when there is a hole in the storage tank, often caused by corrosion. In this scenario, the tank is beyond repair, and the best course of action is to replace it with a new unit.

How To Prevent Water Damage By Fixing Leaky Appliances

Water can also leak from appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators, water softeners, and other devices that utilize water.

Leaks can occur due to damaged gaskets and seals, loose fittings and connections, or pinched/punctured hoses. Different appliances may develop different problems and often require specific maintenance.

Additionally, regular and proper maintenance, following the manufacturer’s instructions, is crucial for the upkeep of every device.

If you suspect a leak, it is important to immediately turn off the water supply and disconnect the appliance from the power source.

Look for wet spots on the floor surrounding the appliance as an indication of a water leak, and promptly dry the area.

Fortunately, sudden and accidental discharge or overflow from home appliances or the plumbing system is typically covered by standard home insurance policies.

Prevent Water Damage By Unclogging Gutters And Downspouts

Properly installed and functional gutters protect your home by effectively directing rainwater and melting snow away from your house.

If the gutters are not functioning properly, they can collect water, leading to eventual overflow. This can result in water pooling near the house, leaks in the basement, and water seeping through foundation cracks. Moreover, a large amount of cascading water can cause erosion on the exterior of your home, damage landscaping, and even deform or break the gutters themselves.

To prevent these issues, it is important to clean the gutters and downspouts before and after the winter season, or at least twice a year depending on weather conditions. The goal is to remove any blockages that may hinder proper water flow and cause overflow. It’s important to note that siding is not designed to withstand a continuous cascade of water from overflowing gutters, which can result in water seepage. Even if the siding can resist water, an overflowing gutter can saturate the ground, potentially finding its way under the foundation and infiltrating into the basement.

In addition, maintaining trees and vegetation around your house is crucial. They can obstruct normal water flow and even damage the gutter pipes. Regularly trim and manage trees and vegetation to ensure they don’t interfere with the gutters’ functionality.

Consider installing gutter guards to help minimize the accumulation of dirt, leaves, branches, and debris inside the gutters, thus preventing blockages in the downspouts.

Lastly, make sure the gutter downspouts discharge water at least 5-10 feet away from your house to ensure proper water drainage and minimize the risk of water seeping back towards the foundation.

By following these recommendations and properly maintaining your gutters, you can effectively protect your home from potential water damage caused by improper water flow and overflow.

Water Main Issues

Check the incoming water pressure, and if it is too high, contact your utility company for assistance. The gauge that allows you to measure your home’s water pressure is typically located near the main shut-off valve. Ideally, the reading should fall between 40 and 70 psi. If you consistently observe high water pressure (typically above 100 psi), consider installing a pressure regulator.

If you plan to be away from your home for an extended period, it is advisable to shut off the water supply.

Sump Pump Failure

Your sump pump can fail at any time. I experienced this a few years ago when mine malfunctioned and resulted in basement flooding, leaving several inches of water.

Sump pumps are particularly vulnerable during snowmelt, heavy rain, and periods of high groundwater levels. They activate automatically when the water level rises, triggering the switch. Choosing the right-sized sump pump can effectively remove water from beneath the foundation, reducing or eliminating the risk of water intrusion.

For an average-sized home, a pump with 1/3 horsepower is generally sufficient, but the appropriate size depends on factors such as water bed level, climate, and exposure to surrounding water.

If you don’t have insurance coverage, the damage caused by a failed sump pump can amount to tens of thousands of dollars. Therefore, it is crucial to regularly inspect and maintain your sump pump, and replace it after 5-10 years, depending on its condition.

Experts recommend not relying solely on an electric sump pump. Consider installing a water-powered or battery-powered sump pump as a backup, or invest in a generator that can power your electric pump during a power outage.

Test your sump pump system regularly by activating the pump, checking the discharge pipe, inspecting the check valve and float switch, and removing any debris from the sump pit. Regular maintenance ensures the proper functioning of your sump pump and reduces the risk of water damage.

Sewer Backup

Consider installing a backflow valve to protect your basement from the potential flow of sewage backward through the sewer line and towards your house. Several factors can contribute to this problem, including an overloaded sewer system due to heavy rain, blockages, or overflow from your home’s drainage system.

Installing a backflow valve can help prevent sewage from entering your basement by creating a barrier that stops the reverse flow. This is especially important during instances of heavy rainfall or when there is a higher risk of sewer system overload.

Plumbing Leaks

There are various reasons why leaks may occur in your home’s plumbing, including loose joints, pipe ruptures, defective faucets, tub and toilet leaks, and others.

If you notice constant dripping from a faucet, the issue can often be resolved by replacing the worn or defective washer or O-ring.

While some leaks can potentially cause significant flooding and damage, others may be less severe.

The approach to stopping a leak will depend on the specific type of leak, but it is crucial to address the issue promptly and correctly.

Punctures in plumbing pipes and fittings can be easily fixed by replacing the damaged section or connection. If you are having trouble locating the leak, check for sagging spots near tubs and sinks, wet spots on ceilings or floors, as these can indicate the presence of water. Begin your search from these areas.

For temporary solutions to pipe leaks, you can apply an epoxy putty, use repair clamps, waterproof tape, or any other pipe repair kit. Regardless of the method you choose, it is important to turn off the water supply to your home.

How And Where To Check For Water Damage

Some leaks are easy to identify and fix, while others are hidden and take time to be discovered. Here, you will find some common signs of a water leak, which can further help you prevent much greater damage.

  • Higher than usual water bills are often an indicator that there is a leak in your plumbing. Make sure to check your water usage frequently and compare it to the previous period. If your water meter dial has moved when water is not being used, you likely have a leak.
  • Check the water pressure, and if you notice a sudden decrease compared to other periods, something may be going on and needs to be inspected.
  • Look for puddles of water under appliances, the HVAC system, plumbing, tubs, toilets, and sinks.
  • Inspect for dark spots under pipes, in showers, stains on ceilings, and rocking toilets.
  • Replace cracked caulking.
  • Check for warped and cracked flooring.
  • Look for soft and sagging spots around sinks, tubs, dishwashers, washing machines, and the water heater.
  • Inspect your roof and repair missing, loose and damaged shingles.
  • If you smell musty air, it might indicate higher humidity due to water leaks. Frequent water leaks can lead to the development of mold and mildew, which can be unhealthy.
  • Pay attention to the color of the water. Clean water usually comes from rain or leaky plumbing, while gray water typically originates from dishwashers, washing machines, and even toilets. Black water is the most contaminated, as it comes from sewers or flooding.

Tips For Cleaning Your Home After Water Damage

  • Ensure that all electric and gas services are turned off.
  • Begin the cleanup and drying process as soon as possible. Properly drying out the area will help minimize damage and slow down the growth of mold.
  • Open doors and windows, and use the AC, furnace, fans, and dehumidifiers continuously to circulate the air, remove humidity, and prevent mold growth. Mold typically develops inside walls and floors.
  • Disinfect the objects, walls, and floors.
  • If possible, clean mildew outdoors to reduce the spread of mold spores indoors. If you have a serious mold contamination issue, it requires the attention of a professional.
  • Dispose of damaged items.
  • Wet objects begin to develop mold after 24 hours.

Conclusion

Water damage is not only expensive but can also cause structural problems and lead to the development of mold and mildew, which poses health risks. To maintain clean and healthy air in your home, it is crucial to prevent mold growth by removing all water and thoroughly drying affected areas.

It is important to be aware of the signs of water leaks and know how to address them promptly to avoid future issues. Make sure to regularly monitor your water bill. If you notice significant differences from month to month and haven’t filled up your pool, be sure to investigate for possible leaks.

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