Did you know that water damage is one of the most common and expensive home insurance claims? Responsible for billions of dollars in damages each year, it can wreak havoc on your property and pose health risks to you and your family. But with proper planning and proactive maintenance, you can significantly reduce your risk. To learn how to prevent water damage in your home, read on for our expert advice.
- Inspect your roof regularly. The first line of defense against water damage is a well-maintained roof. Inspect yours at least twice a year and look for missing or damaged shingles, cracks or leaks. Immediately correct any problems that may arise. (For more, read: Does Your Roof Need Repair or Replacement?) Also, if you have a chimney, look at its exterior for loose mortar or cracked bricks and seal as needed. You can also inspect from inside the attic. If you see signs of leaks or light coming through, it may be time to call a professional for a full inspection and repair.
- Keep gutters and downspouts clean. Clogged gutters and downspouts can cause water to overflow and collect near your home’s foundation, which can lead to structural damage. We recommend that you inspect your gutters and downspouts twice a year and remove any debris – such as leaves, branches or dirt – that could block the flow of water. Also, make sure downspouts are secured and directed away from your home’s foundation to prevent basement flooding and foundation problems.
- Dense basements and crawl spaces. Moisture intrusion into basements and crawl spaces can lead to mold growth and structural damage. To prevent this, make sure your basement walls and floors are properly sealed and waterproofed. You should also inspect your foundation for cracks and immediately repair any problems you discover. If you use your basement for storage, invest in waterproof bins and store your belongings on shelves – not on the floor. Never store valuable items in these areas which are more susceptible to water accumulation and moisture.
- Inspect and maintain appliances. Regularly inspecting and maintaining appliances that use water, such as washing machines, dishwashers and water heaters, can reduce the likelihood of a leak. Check the hoses and connections every year for signs of wear and replace them if necessary. Investing in floor pans to place under appliances is an inexpensive way to catch early indications of a problem and prevent damage.
- Use water sensors. A water detector is a small electronic device that can alert you to potential leaks or flooding, so you can protect your property and minimize the risk of costly repairs. Place them near appliances such as washing machines, water heaters, dishwashers, sump pumps and toilets, as well as in your basement and other areas prone to flooding.
- Know where your water line is. In the event of a burst pipe or extensive leak, quickly shutting off the main water supply can help minimize damage to your home. With that, you want to make sure everyone who lives with you knows where it is and how it works.
- Keep an eye on your water bill. Don’t let water damage drain your bank account. Monitor your monthly bill so you know how much water you typically use, and if you see a significant increase, seemingly without explanation, look for a leak.
- Inspect the sump pump. Typically located in the basement or crawl space, your home’s sump pump can help prevent interior flooding by removing excess water. You can routinely inspect this by making sure the pump is plugged into the GFCI outlet and pouring water into the sump pit. If it is working correctly, the pump should be turned on and remove the water.
- Change to PEX pipe. If you have an older home, chances are you have copper piping, which was the standard for decades. Unfortunately, due to the nature of this material, it has been phased out for good reason. Soldered joints and corrosion can develop pinhole leaks that will drip and wreak havoc on ceilings and walls. While it can be expensive to rewire an entire home, making incremental changes to corrosion-free PEX plastic pipes will pay dividends.
Understandably, water damage can be an overwhelming burden for homeowners, as it can lead to costly repairs, reduce the value of your property, pose risks to your health, and disrupt your normal routine. This is why it is important to keep a detailed and up-to-date housing inventory if you have to make a claim. Having a comprehensive list of what’s in your home and how much it costs can save you time and help speed up the application process. Don’t have a home inventory? It’s never too late to start one. Read: How to do a home inventory.
Now that you know how to prevent water damage in your home, the next step is to talk to an agent about your insurance. Make sure you know what type of water damage is included in your homeowner’s policy and what options are available to add. To start a conversation now, find a local, independent agent near you.