Norton Seal Image of a homeowner making repairs to plumbing under the sink.

At Home

How to Prevent Water Damage

You may not realize it, but that leaky faucet is trying to tell you something, and it’s probably not what you think. Slow leaks can lead to corrosion issues, which can result in compromised plumbing and eventually hidden water damage. Prevent water leaks by staying on top of your plumbing, checking for warning signs and acting quickly when you find trouble.

Because your homeowners insurance only covers water damage in specific ways, you can best prevent water damage by knowing what to look for. And by performing routine maintenance on your water supply and plumbing systems, you’ll have a better idea of when an issue is big enough to justify hiring a contractor.

How to Spot Early Signs of Water Damage

It’s a great idea to get in the habit of exploring your plumbing on a regular basis. Burst pipes are easy to spot, but your nose can also help you sleuth out problems.

  • Moldy smells and musty odors near damp areas are a telltale sign that trouble is nearby
  • Discoloration and water stains may be indications that water is leaking inside your walls
  • The visible presence of mold and mildew speak loudly to humidity issues
  • Paint that’s peeling, cracking or blistering are indications that water is leaking behind the scenes
  • A higher than usual water bill may be the first indication that burst pipes are to blame for a water leak

How to find your water main

The first thing you need to know is how to turn off the water in case there’s an emergency and you need to stop water flow quickly. Usually located in the basement, the water main will have a shut-off valve close to it and your water meter. Sometimes, it’s found near the water heater or furnace, other times it’s just outside your home or in the crawl space.

How to inspect your faucets for leaks

Leaking faucets and pipes can do a lot of damage so put on your detective hat, grab a flashlight and look at exposed pipes for clues of corrosion or leaks.

  • Check the condition of pipes, hoses and valves under each sink
  • Look for evidence of water marks, drips or corrosion
  • Feel for dampness or dripping at the bottom of the sink’s gooseneck
  • Safely remove plumbing access panels and look for leaks or corrosion when possible
  • Inspect the ceiling under your bathroom and look for leaks
  • Use your kitchen’s garbage disposal sparingly as materials can build-up and cause blockages

How to inspect toilets for plumbing issues

Toilets see a lot of daily use and if left uninspected, they can cause a lot of trouble over the years. Take a look at these tips to keep your toilet operating safely.

Look in the basement — underneath the toilet — for signs of leaks, water stains or corrosion.

  • Inspect the base of the toilet for leaks or discoloration
  • Check the toilet’s water-source valve for dampness, corrosion or condensation
  • Examine the water tank for leaks or cracks and use a hand mirror to get a look at the back

How to check your water heater

Lasting about 10 years or more, your water heater can potentially be a big source for water damage in the home, but other issues may emerge too. Here are a few ways to explore your water heater for signs of trouble.

Consider relocating your water heater if leaking or flooding may damage or destroy expensive nearby items.

  • Smell for gas leaks or have a home inspector check gas valves and unions for leaks
  • Be sure that no flammable items are stored nearby
  • Inspect the base for rust or sediment
  • Review the condition of the tank for signs of corrosion
  • Look at the cold-water supply valve for rust or leaks
  • Check in on the temperature/pressure relief (TPR) valve for corrosion near the elbow
  • Use the drain valve to annually drain off a gallon or so of water to keep in-tank sediment down

How to inspect appliances for plumbing issues

Your domestic appliances can quietly make trouble, slowly leaking and hiding the evidence. Look for the following water damage clues when reviewing their condition:

  • Inspect water feeder lines that “tap” into water pipes to make ice and filter water in refrigerators
  • Check in on the condition of water hoses of your dish washer and washing machine
  • Replace those hoses every two or three years since they can get brittle
  • Verify that water shut-off valves are operating well

How to find leaks in your plumbing stack

The stack is your home’s outbound waste pipe which connects your home to the outside world. It typically runs directly up and down and into the basement floor. Take a careful look at these tips to verify it’s not leaking.

  • Inspect each union, where one-piece nests into the next and, look for corrosion, mold or slow drips
  • Review the unions where pipes connect into the stack for trouble

How Do Smart Water Leak Sensors Work?

Another great preventative measure is to install a smart water sensor in the basement or other low lying areas. You’ll be alerted when the sensor detects water leaks. You’ll feel better knowing that you’ve got monitors to help you know about trouble when you’re away and a leak is detected.

How to Prevent Cold Weather Water Damage

It’s too late once your pipes freeze and burst. But there’s a lot you can do to help insulate yourself from winter weather plumbing issues.

  • Turn off exterior pipes before the first freeze of the season
  • Always keep your thermostat above 60 degrees
  • Set faucets to a slow drip to keep them from icing up on very cold days
  • Protect pipes with ethafoam or fiberglass insulation in areas that are exposed to cold temperatures
  • Clean your gutters before the cold weather sets in to prevent ice dams from forming

What Is Water Damage Cleanup Coverage?

Home insurance typically covers appliance or plumbing-related water damage — that occurs due to sudden and accidental events — and originates in your home. It’s additional coverage that helps to cover the costs to remediate water damage and rebuild your home after a covered loss.

Our emergency water removal program will work with the claims department to help get your life back on track in no time.

Get the Water Damage Coverage Your Home Needs

From flood emergencies to burst pipes, you’ll need an insurance company that can help you protect what matters most. If you’re worried about seasonal flooding, consider picking up added flood insurance protection, provided by the National Flood Insurance Program.

While you’re inspecting your plumbing, take a few minutes and review your homeowners policy with an American Family Insurance agent. You can customize a policy that helps to protect your finances from the unexpected. You’ll feel great knowing you have the right insurance coverage in place to help keep your home safe from plumbing troubles.

How would you rate this article?

Related Topics: Home Insurance , Smart Home , At Home , Home DIY