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Water, Water Everywhere

To avoid swimming in damage, keep water in its place

March 5, 2010
By Kim Kaercher

Water EverywhereThere’s nothing like waking up at 2 a.m. to the sound of running water. Not the relaxing sound of ocean waves or tropical waterfalls on your sound machine, but the whoosh of water pouring through your roof during a late night rainstorm. Trust me—it’s not relaxing.

What started out as a few trickles once at my own house quickly grew to a gush from my ceiling. It happened while our roof was being fixed, and it was devastating.

The fact of the matter is: water damage can happen to anyone, anytime, whether you live in a floodplain or you’re just in the midst of doing laundry. It’s also messy to clean up. (So I’ve learned.)

The best defense really is prevention. Here’s some information to help you know what causes water damage and how you can keep it from happening to you.

Common culprits
According to the American Association of Insurance Services (AAIS), water is the second leading cause of homeowner losses. (Fire is number one.) The most common sources of water damage are:

  1. Faulty washing machine hoses
  2. Dishwasher malfunctions
  3. Backed-up drains
  4. Pipes that burst when the weather gets cold
  5. Roof problems (old shingles, wind damage and ice dams)
  6. Leaky faucets and pipes
  7. Toilet and refrigerator water lines that are not properly connected
  8. Polybutylene plumbing pipes that tend to break

Easy solutions
The good news is most, if not all, water damage can be minimized or avoided by routine maintenance. Here are a few things to add to your spring or fall clean-up routine:

  1. Inspect washing machine hoses for damage. Look for soft spots, bulges and brittleness near the connection or crimping in the hose. Replace hoses every five years. Choose a high-quality hose for best results.
  2. Inspect water lines in your refrigerator and toilet. Look for kinks and cracks that might obstruct water flow or allow leaks. If you find one, replace the entire tube.
  3. Inspect your roof for normal wear and tear. Do it from the ground to be extra safe. Use binoculars if needed.
  4. Clean out gutters and downspouts. They direct water away from your foundation and roof.

More tips for avoiding water damage,
year-round

  1. Maintain a temperature of at least 55 degrees in the winter to avoid frozen pipes. Also be sure to properly drain pipes going to the exterior of your home and insulate any pipes that are outside during the cold winter months.
  2. Turn the water off at the main shutoff valve when you leave for vacation. (Turning the water off won’t freeze pipes. Pipes freeze only when the heat goes off in your house).
  3. Install a sump pump or French drain to prevent wet basements.

Mold prevention
When water spills, act quickly. Cleaning up wet or damp areas within 24-48 hours can help prevent mold. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers these tips for eliminating mold from your home.

  • Keep humidity levels around 40 percent to avoid condensation. If you see condensation or moisture collecting on windows, dry the wet surface and eliminate the source of water.
  • Use air conditioners and/or de-humidifiers when needed. Keep air conditioning drip pans clean and the drain lines unobstructed and flowing properly.
  • Ventilate rooms with high moisture, such as bathrooms. Be sure to vent appliances that produce moisture, such as clothes dryers and stoves to the outside where possible. 

Kim Kaercher, a senior communications consultant for Erie Insurance, has dealt first-hand with the aftermath of water damage. She’d much prefer to prevent it than experience it again.

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