Sooner or later, a water source in your home will fail. Water damage is one of the most common home insurance claims, and the average cost of these claims in a year is more than $9,000. Water damage can be avoided, but knowing what signs to look for is important.
Common Places to Check for Water Source Failure
- Water Valves: Look for leaks or areas where it appears a leak has occurred in the past on your valves. Valves come out of the wall and connect your faucets, toilets and washing machines. Common signs of failure of these valves could be efflorescence on the pipe or fitting. It may appear white, green or yellow. This is a mineral buildup from water that is deposited when the water dries. If you suspect a valve is failing or connection is becoming corroded, have a plumber change these out. This can also be an easy do-it-yourself project if the valve is the screw-on type, not connected to the pipe with solder. Additionally, the cost of this repair is under $5.
- Drain Failure: From time to time, stick your head in your crawl space. Crawl spaces will show exposed drain pipes as well as your other ducting and water pipes. Drain pipes are typically large black pipes up to 4” in diameter and will have no insulation on them. An easy way to scan for leaks is to look at your vapor barrier. Vapor barriers stop moisture from coming up into your home, so if your drain pipes are leaking, the water would be deposited on top of the vapor barrier and leave a stain as it dries. Correcting a failed drain could be a simple as resealing.
- Broken Pipe: Broken pipes are most commonly caused from exposure to freezing temperatures. Pipes inside of walls can freeze if a home’s heat source fails in cold weather, a house is left vacant or if unusually cold weather gets to an under-insulated home. Protecting your pipes usually means keeping the heat on and insulating exposed water pipes. If you plan to leave your home vacant for some time, it would be wise to turn off your water in case a pipe does burst, water will not fill your home while you’re away.
- Washing Machine Hoses: Washing machines require a supply hose to fill them. These hoses hold an incredible amount of pressure — and more than half of the claims involving washing machines are caused by hose failures — so regularly checking them is important. You’ll want to look for bulges, cracks or other signs of wear. One of the best ways to help avoid a claim is to purchase the braided stainless steel water supply hoses. While more expensive, they have a longer life and can save you from a costly claim. Your dishwasher uses a similar hose, so consider replacing that one as well. Most dishwashers are held into place with just two screws and can be easily removed.
- Hot Water Heaters: Water heaters can last up to 13 years, but over 75 percent fail before 12 years. Proper maintenance, including an annual inspection, can help ensure the longevity of your water heater. The most common causes of water heater failure include slow leaks or sudden bursts in the tank, so do a simple visual inspection to check for leaks, corrosion, obstruction in the piping or strange sounds such as whistling or crackling. A plumber can inspect the inside of the tank for you, but if you're going to drain or flush the tank yourself, be sure to wear protective clothing and gloves to guard against burns. The thermostat should be no more than 120˚ F. They are hot water heaters!
Following these maintenance tips can help you avoid a water claim, not to mention, the loss of personal property and the ability to stay in your home. Many homeowners are forced out during home repairs.
Do you know how much protection you have from water damage in your homeowners insurance policy? Contact our personal insurance experts to find out.