A great benefit of owning a house is that your monthly payments go towards something of value—something you earned. Your home is yours. Naturally, you want to take care of it.
Well, an important part of proper home maintenance is preventing water damage. A hurricane, leaking pipes or appliances, or even a sink left on while you’re away can result in costly destruction.
But you can rest easy.
There are several steps you can take to prevent leaks in your home, protect against water damage, and maintain a safe place to live for years to come.
We’ll review these steps below, but remember: it’s best to hire a professional if you feel uncomfortable completing any of the following steps yourself. Protecting yourself and your home includes staying within your skill level and comfort zone.
How to Prevent Water Leaks Inside Your Home
It’s not uncommon for water leaks to begin inside the home, but regular maintenance and upkeep can help prevent them. While some tips are easy to handle yourself, like being careful what you put in your drains, others may require experience and know-how. For instance, checking a refrigerator hose is simple, but you could damage your water line while moving your refrigerator around if you don’t know how to do it correctly. In any instance where you’re unsure, hire a professional for tune-ups and advice.
Check on Appliances that Use Water
Many of the appliances that make our lives easier run on water. While this makes them susceptible to leaks, it’s easy to stay on top of them with regular checkups. Complete an inspection of your appliances that includes the following.
Refrigerators: If your refrigerator has an ice or water dispenser, check the hose for signs of leaking or old age. Refrigerator hoses should be replaced every 3 to 5 years on average.
Washing machines: Like the refrigerator, you will want to check your washing machine hose for leaks and corrosion. They also last for about 3 to 5 years.
Air conditioners: Air conditioners are a person’s best friend in the summer. Occasionally check your A/C to make sure it isn’t leaking water, and increase the frequency of your checkups in the summer when it’s working the hardest. To check for a water leak, confirm that there is no water collecting near your unit. A little bit of water may be the work of normal condensation, but it’s important to have a professional confirm the cause. You will also want to ensure that the drain lines are cleaned and remain clear to prevent water backup or A/C shutdown.
Water heaters: Standard water heaters last up to around 15 years before you need to replace them. During that time, it’s wise to check your water heater once a year for signs of leaks or corrosion. The best way to prevent leaks, though, is to get a tankless water heater! Also called on-demand water heaters, tankless water heaters heat the water as it moves through instead of storing pre-heated water. Yes, this means you’ll never run out of hot water again. Tankless heaters can be more expensive, but they also save energy because they don’t have to keep water heated 24/7.
Plus, with OpenHouse Home Insurance, a tankless water heater lowers your premium.
Be Kind to Your Plumbing
From sinks to toilets, plumbing is a common area for leaks, and the best way to prevent leaks in these areas is to keep them clean and be thoughtful about what goes in them.
Be sure not to flush or wash down anything that might clog your pipes—like grease, paper towels, and food—and clean your sink and bathtub drains every couple of months. We recommend investing in a drain snake to clean drains instead of intense chemical cleaners that break down pipes over time.
Like your appliances, it’s also wise to inspect plumbing pipes for leaks now and then. It’s easy to do—just glance around your toilet and under your sink after every few uses to make sure they are clear of water drips or accumulation.
You might be able to fix minor pipe leaks yourself if leakage hasn’t damaged the surrounding walls or flooring.
Maintain a Safe Water Pressure
While high water pressure makes for a great shower, too much can burst your pipes. Balance is key.
Luckily, it’s easy to check your home’s water pressure yourself. All you have to do is buy a pressure gauge from your local hardware store for about $10. Then, you’ll attach it to an outside faucet, like the one you would use for a hose. Turn the water to full force and look at the PSI.
A PSI higher than 100 is too much for the standard home.
If your PSI is over 100, you can pick up a water pressure regulator for about $50 at your hardware store. You can attempt to install it yourself or hire a professional for around $200 to $300.
Fix Caulking as Needed
Caulk is the material that seals the areas where water could leak inside your home, such as where your sinks, bathtubs, shower doors, windows, and doors meet the wall. Like all things, caulk ages.
If you’re wondering how to stop water leakage, check the caulking around your home for any cracks or peeling. If you see any, you can easily fill these spots in with a tube of caulk from the store. For windows and doors, check the caulking inside and outside your home to keep everything completely sealed.
How to Prevent Water Leaks From Outside Your Home
Disconnect Hoses in the Winter
The easiest tip for how to prevent water damage in your home is to disconnect any hoses outside your home at the beginning of the winter season. Water left in the hose can freeze in below 30-degree weather, and the resulting ice can limit your water flow. Limited water flow increases water pressure, and too much water pressure can burst your pipes, causing a severe leak inside the home.
Even in Florida, where winter hardly stops by, you should still disconnect your outside hoses when it reaches below-freezing temperatures at night to keep your pipes safe.
Clean Your Gutters
Your gutters collect rainwater from your roof and guide it away to prevent water damage, but they only work if they are clear of debris. Clogged gutters can overflow, causing water to seep onto your roof structure and down the side of your house.
To keep your gutters in working condition, pick twice a year to take out the ladder and remove any leaves, debris, or nests blocking them. It’s good to schedule your gutter cleaning; otherwise, they are easy to forget.
For safety purposes, use a sturdy ladder, non-slip shoes, and ask a friend or family member to stand watch and hold the ladder.
Give Your Gutters a Boost
You want to guide rainwater away from your home, so it doesn’t sit around the base of your home and seep into the foundations over time. Gutter extensions ensure the rainwater moves away from your foundation once it has left your roof.
The best part is that gutter extensions are an easy project that you can DIY in a single afternoon. A 90-degree downspout elbow and a couple of elbow extensions from the hardware store will do the trick.
When adding them to your gutters at the base of your house, aim to guide the water at least 2 feet away.
Maintain the Trees In Your Yard
If your gutters are getting clogged constantly, it might be because you have a tree too close to your house. You can trim, remove, or replant the tree further from your home to help keep your gutters clean for longer.
If you have a large tree with a hefty root system, find out how close it is to your sewer system. We love trees, but moving them may be necessary to prevent the roots from wrapping around and breaking the pipes.
Scout Your Roof
Your roof protects your home from the outside weather, but over time, water from storms may start to seep in.
When you clean your gutters, take the time while you already have your ladder out to scout for damaged or missing shingles. We also recommend taking this precaution after severe storms (once it’s safe).
If you notice a couple of loose or missing shingles, you can have them replaced without messing with your whole roof. However, unlike other parts of your home, we strongly discourage taking a DIY approach to fixing any part of your roof.
Roof repair can be dangerous, requires technical knowledge to do correctly, and your roof is too critical to your home’s safety to risk. Please get in touch with a roofing professional for an evaluation and further steps.
Take Care of Your Chimney
Own a chimney? You’ll want to check it while you scout your roof. Make sure your chimney cap, metal flashing, and brick and mortar are all in good condition. If you don’t have a chimney cap or flashing, it’s important to have them installed to prevent water from getting in your chimney or seeping in around it. Like your roof, we highly recommend having a professional conduct such repairs and installation for you.
Flashing is particularly hard to do, so repair and installation costs range from $300 to $1,500. Installing a chimney cap, including the cost of the cap, ranges from $300 to $600.
Stay Ahead of Leaks to Minimize Damage
If you take these steps to prevent water leaks, you significantly reduce the chances of having water damage in your house. Even so, it’s best to be prepared for a leak so that no matter what happens, you come out on top.
Keep an Eye on the Water Bill
Another thing you can do to catch a leak early on is to monitor your water bill. A sudden spike in water usage may indicate a leak in your home that you’ll want to pinpoint and repair. If your usage increases, check these places first, and you might be able to avoid paying for a professional to find the leak:
- Under sinks
- The water heater
- The refrigerator
- Behind the washing machine
- Under the dishwasher
- Outside water faucets
If you still don’t see the leak, look for discoloration or wet spots on your ceilings or walls. These indicate a leak behind the wall that will require professional help, but you can point them in the right direction.
Get to Know Your Water Main
You don’t have to become best friends, but you should familiarize yourself with your water main. You’ll want to know three things:
- Where it is located
- Where its shut-off valve is located
- How to shut your water off
Your water main is what provides all the water to your home, and the shut-off valve is what turns it off. If you can’t find your shut-off valve, you will want a professional to locate it for you.
If you don’t have a shut-off valve already, parts and professional installation cost between $200 and $250 on average, but being able to turn your water off could save you thousands in home water damage during a severe leak.
We also recommend turning your water main off when you go on vacation just in case there is a leak while you’re gone.
For extra credit, consider learning the locations of other shut-off valves in your home. Many large appliances will have their own installed, like your kitchen sink, so you don’t have to shut off all water to the house during a leak.
Invest in a Smart Home System for Water Leaks
You’ve probably heard of smart home systems for thermostats and security, but did you know there are smart home upgrades that protect against water damage?
In case of a bad leak or accident, these home additions are well worth the investment. Plus, if you have OpenHouse home insurance, they lower your premium too!
There are two kinds of smart water damage prevention tools:
- Automatic water shut-off valves: An automatic shut-off valve goes inside your water line right before the water enters the house. It keeps tabs on the amount of water going into your home and notifies you when there’s excessive or unexpected water flow. If the valve detects a leak, it automatically turns off the water to your house. These valves are also great for detecting unseen leaks, like those that hide in walls. The valve and installation together average between $300 to $500.
- Smart leak detectors: Also called leak sensors, leak detectors alert you when they sense water. There are two kinds of leak detectors: spot detectors go off when they touch water; area detectors cover a larger area with extensive wires. If you invest in smart leak detectors, place them by toilets, washing machines, dishwashers, water mains, and other higher-risk areas. They cost between $50 and $200 for various brands and packs.
There are also packages available that come with an automatic shut-off valve and several detectors.
Your Final Line of Defense: Home Insurance for Water Damage
Home insurance offers coverage when water leak prevention isn’t enough. However, not every home insurance policy covers water damage, so it’s essential to make sure yours does.
Different home insurance policies offer different types of coverage for sudden and accidental water damage. Other coverages like sewer and water backup are also available through insurance providers. At OpenHouse, we give you the option to include sewer and water backup and decide how much coverage you need.
Once you’re covered by insurance, be sure to act fast if you see a leak. Doing so is still essential to minimize any damage done to your home.