HOW YOU CAN BEST PREVENT WATER LEAKS IN YOUR HOME
A flooded home is every homeowner’s worst nightmare. However, much of the water damage in American homes comes from inside the house. Roof, pipe, and slab leaks can cause thousands of dollars in damages and require extensive cleanup. In this article, we’ll review what commonly causes indoor leaks, what their economic consequences are, and how you can work to prevent them from occurring in your own home.
WHAT COMMONLY CAUSES HOME WATER LEAKS?
Most indoor water leaks have one of two origin points: your roof or your pipes. As you might imagine, roof leaks are caused by an issue with your home’s roof. In most cases, this problem starts small—a few missing shingles, or a piece of flashing out of place—but soon evolves into a major mess. Your roof’s shingles or tile are its protective shield against the elements. Any gaps in this armor exposes the underlayment, and then the roof structure itself, to moisture from rain and snowmelt. Under these conditions, a roof leak is only a matter of time.
Pipe leaks are generally caused by either the deterioration of the pipe—which can happen to metallic pipes in older homes—the shifting of the home, or, perhaps most commonly here in the Midwest, the pipe freezing on a cold winter night. As the water in your pipes freezes, it expands, putting incredible pressure on the pipe itself. This stress can cause the pipe to pop open like a frozen soda can, sending water flooding into your home. As we’ll discuss below, frozen pipes require the intervention of a professional who has the right tools and slow approach to safely thaw the pipe out.
Some pipe leaks occur underneath your home’s foundation slab. Appropriately, these are known as “slab leaks,” and they can be difficult to access or detect. Most homeowners first notice a slab leak when they see massive usage increases on their utility bill. As with other pipe leaks, you’ll need to bring in a professional plumber to help you pinpoint the leak’s location and access it.
WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF WATER LEAKS?
In a home, water is a highly destructive force. A pipe leak, burst pipe, or leaking roof can damage your floors, foundation, drywall, ceilings, and furniture—nothing in your home is immune. Indoor water damage creates the ideal conditions for mold to grow, causing a potential safety hazard for you and your family. All-in-all, insurance claims for water damage and leaks top $2.5 billion annually, making it one of the most expensive home repairs out there. What’s worse is that insurance doesn’t cover every type of leak, which means homeowners end up paying about $2,800 out-of-pocket for cleanup and repair.
PREVENTING WATER LEAKS
Just like all home problems and needed repairs, not every leak can be prevented. Some things are just out of your control. However, the right preventative maintenance and proactive forethought can make a difference and help you avoid many potential disasters.
Preventing roof leaks is as simple as keeping your home’s roof in good shape. We recommend you have a roofer out to your home at least once-per-year in the spring to assess your shingles and make sure your roof made it through winter okay. Then, in the other seasons of the year, get up on a ladder and take routine looks at your roof. If you notice ripped-off shingles after that latest storm, it’s time to take action. Call a roofer and get it fixed before the underlayment is damaged.
If you own an older home, it’s probably a good idea to talk to your local plumber and get a report card on the property’s pipes. Most metal pipes need to be replaced every 70-80 years. If your home was built in 1950, for instance, you’re probably coming up on the maximum lifespan of your copper, brass, or galvanized steel pipes. A home plumbing inspection might be a good idea.
To keep your pipes from freezing, you should schedule your annual furnace tune-up with an HVAC professional. This inspection and preventative maintenance ensures that your heater is in its best-possible condition heading into the freezing nights of winter, making it far less likely to break down and expose your pipes to below-freezing conditions. For long-term added protection, you might also want to talk to your plumber about sheathing your pipes in insulating material. This slows down the temperature exchange, buying your pipes many extra hours in the event your heat goes out on a January night.
As it turns out, there’s a lot homeowners can do to prevent water leaks and avoid major problems. Be sure to check out the infographic below,, for even more advice on avoiding water damage and expensive cleanup costs.
Guest Contributor: Amanda L