How to Prevent Water Damage and Avoid Costly Repairs
(updated 2020)

Flooded water heater

What causes water damage?

Water damages in some regions are frequent problems, and while some are inevitable due to tornados and heavy rains, others can be prevented. A small and moderate amount of leaked water is manageable with the proper tools, but substantial flooding should be left to the pros.

There are many reasons for water damages in your home - from leaky appliances and plumbing to basement flooding due to sump pump failure or sewer backflow, but what is essential is to find the cause of a problem and fix it on time.


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We are going to cover 7 common causes of water damages and how to protect your household from costly repairs and water losses.

In this article:

  1. Water heater leak
  2. Leaky appliances
  3. Clogged gutters and downspouts
  4. Water main issues
  5. Sump pump failure
  6. Sewer line backflow
  7. Plumbing leaks
  8. Preventing tips
  9. Cleaning tips

Water heater leak

In this article about water heater leaks, we have talked about causes, preventing tips and what you can do when the problem occurs, and how to avoid damages.

For example, leaks from the temperature and pressure relief valve (TPR valve) happen when the temperature and buildup pressure of hot water inside the heater’s tank are extremely high. This causes the valve to open so water can escape and therefore relieve the pressure. If the valve gets stuck or is not working correctly, hot water continues escaping and dripping on the floor.

Cold and hot water connections are also prone to leaks, so make sure to tighten the fittings and connections that are loose. Replace those that are bad.

Water also leaks when the drain valve is malfunctioning, is clogged or broken. This would require the replacement of the faulty part.

One of the most dangerous, also expensive situations is if there is a hole in the storage tank, which usually happens due to corrosion. In such a situation, there is nothing you can do about it because the tank is beyond repair, so you should get a new unit.

Leaky appliances

Water can also leak from appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers, refrigerators, water softeners, and other devices that use water. Water can drip due to damaged gaskets and seals, loose fittings and connections, or pinched/punctured hoses. Different appliances can develop different problems and often require different maintenance. Also, regular and proper maintenance, so as following the manufacturer’s instructions, is important for every device.

When you suspect that there is a leak, turn off the water supply immediately and remove the appliance from the power source.

Look for the wet spots on the floor around the appliance as the sign of a water leak. Dry off the area immediately.

Thankfully, sudden and accidental discharge or overflow from home appliances or the plumbing system is usually covered on standard home insurance policies.

Clogged gutters and downspouts

Properly installed and functional gutters protect your home by directing rain and melting snow away from your home.

If the gutters are not working as they should, they will accumulate water which will eventually overspill. This will cause accumulation of water near the house, leaks into the basement, and through the cracks of the foundation. A large amount of cascading water can produce erosion to your home exterior, ruin landscaping, even deform and break gutters.

Clean the gutters and downspouts before and after the winter or twice a year (weather depending). The point is to prevent or remove any blockages which can prevent proper water flow and cause overflow. Be aware that siding cannot resist a continuous cascade of water from the gutters - resulting in seepage. Even if it can, an overflowing gutter will saturate the ground and find its way under the foundation and infiltrate into the basement.

Make sure to maintain trees and vegetation that can block the normal water flow or even break the pipes.

A recommendation is to install gutter guards that can help to reduce the accumulation of the dirt, leaves, branches, and debris inside the gutters, and therefore prevent blockage of the downspouts.

Also, make sure the gutter downspouts discharge water 5-10 feet away from your house.

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Water main issues

Check the pressure of the incoming water, and if it is too high, check with your utility company. The gauge, where you can measure your home’s water pressure is where the main shut off valve is. The typical reading in your home should be between 40 and 70 psi. If you find that the water pressure is often high (usually above 100 psi), install a pressure regulator.

If you have to leave your home for an extended amount of time, shut the water off.

Sump pump failure

Your sump pump can break anytime. As mine failed a few years ago and caused basement flooding, with two-three inches of water. The sump pumps will take the greatest hit during the snowmelt and heavy rain and when the groundwater level is high. The sump pump activates automatically when the water level is high, and that triggers the switch. If you pick the right size, the sump pump will quickly remove the water beneath the foundation and reduce or eliminate the risk of water intrusion. For an average home size, a pump with 1/3 horsepower is sufficient, but it depends on the water bed level, climate, and exposure to surrounding water.

And if you don’t have insurance, you might end up with tens of thousands worth of damage. So make sure to check the device often and replace it after 5-10 years (depends on its condition).

A recommendation from the experts is not to rely on the electric pump alone. Install water or battery-powered sump pump as a backup, or buy a generator which can easily run your electric one during the power outage.

Test the system often by activating the pump, checking the discharge pipe, check valve, float switch, and removing debris from the sump pit.

Sewer backup

Consider installing a backflow valve to protect your basement from the sewage flowing backward through the sewer line and toward your house. There are many reasons for this problem, such as the overloaded sewer system due to heavy rain, blockage, overflow of your home’s drainage system, and others.

Plumbing leaks

There are many reasons why there is a leak in your home plumbing. Some of them include loose joints, pipe ruptures, defective faucets, tub, and toilet leaks, and others.

If the water is dripping from the faucet most of the time, the problem can be solved by replacing the defective or worn washer or O-ring.

While some can flood your home, others are not as damaging.

Depending on the leak type, the approach to stop the leak can also be different. But what is common is to take care of an issue on time and correctly.

Punctures in plumbing pipes and fittings can be easily fixed by replacing the damaged section/connection. If you cannot find the leak, look for the sagging spots near the tubs and sinks, wet spots on the ceiling, or floors, as those might indicate the presence of water. So start from there.

As the temporary solution for pipe leaks, you can apply an epoxy putty, use repair clamps, waterproof tape, or any other pipe repair kit. Either way, you go, your home water supply must be turned off.

How and where to check for water damage

  • Check for the puddle of water under the appliances, HVAC system, plumbing, tubs, toilets, and sinks.
  • Check for dark spots under pipes, in showers, stains on ceilings, and toilets that rock.
  • Replace cracked caulking.
  • Check for warped and cracked flooring.
  • Check for soft and sagging spots around sinks, tubs, dishwashers, washing machines, and a water heater.
  • Inspect your roof and repair missing, loose and damaged shingles.
  • If you smell musty air, it might be the sign of higher humidity due to water leaks.
  • Check out the color of the water. Clean water is from rain and leaky plumbing; gray water is usually coming from dishwashers, washing machines, even toilets. Black water is the most contaminated because it is coming from a sewer or flooding.

Tips for cleaning your home after water damage

  • Make sure all electric and gas services are turned off.
  • Start with the cleanup and drying as soon as you can. Properly drying out the area will help lessen the damage and speed of mold growth.
  • Open doors and windows, and use the AC, furnace, fans, and dehumidifiers continuously to circulate the air, remove humidity and prevent mold growth. The mold usually develops inside the walls and floors.
  • Disinfect the objects, walls, and floors.
  • Clean mildew outdoors if possible to reduce spreading mold spores indoors. Serious mold contamination needs the attention of a professional.
  • Dispose of damaged items.
  • Wet objects begin to develop mold after 24 hours.

Conclusion

Water damages are not only expensive but can cause structural problems and lead to the development of mold and mildew, which presents a health risk. To keep your home’s air clean and healthy, make sure to prevent mold growth by removing all the water and drying out affected areas.

It is important to know what the signs of water leaks are and how to fix it fast to avoid future problems. Make sure to monitor your water bill often. If you see significant differences from month to month, and you didn’t fill up your pool, look for leaks.

Related articles

How to maintain a tank-type water heater
Maintaining an electric water heater
How to drain a water heater
How to flush a water heater
How to extend the life of a water heater
How to winterize a tankless
Cleaning tips
How to vent a gas water heater
How to improve water heater safety at home
How to prevent water damage and avoid costly repairs

› How to prevent water damage

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