Prevent Water Damage in Your Home
February 13, 2007
(ARA) - When Robert and Rosalinda Wells moved into their new home in West Linn, Ore., last Thanksgiving, it was the realization of a dream. After a three-week trip back to California to pack up their belongings, they were looking forward to enjoying their new home.
Instead, thanks to a faulty rubber hose, the first months in their new house turned out to be more of a nightmare than a cause for celebration. It was dark when we got in, so what I noticed first was the musty smell and the way the hardwood floor felt sticky, says Wells. Then we turned on the lights and saw that water had run down the walls from upstairs, covered most of the first floor, and dripped on down into the basement.
At some point during their three weeks away, a simple $5 rubber hose connected to the washing machine in the upstairs laundry had started to leak, soaking everything in its path. Water damaged the Wells maple hardwood floors and the subfloor beneath. It soaked carpet padding all over the house and insulation in the walls, all of which had to be torn out and replaced.
We were fortunate because the repair costs were covered by our homeowners insurance policy, Wells says, but what should have been a happy and exciting time for us ended up filled with disappointment and stress. We had contractors in the house making repairs for months, and for a week we even had to move out and into a hotel. We lost two months of our introduction to Oregon because of a $5 item.
Water repair costs soar
The Wells experience is a common scenario, and its one that more home owners need to prepare for, points out Jim Swegle of Safeco Insurance. Water is the most common cause of home damage today -- even more likely than fire; and of all the appliances found in the home, the water heater and washing machine are the most likely to cause serious damage. Some water damage is covered under homeowners insurance, but some damage is not.
To help home owners pinpoint trouble spots, Safeco analyzed information from more than a million customers in 44 states. The company found that hot water tanks and washing machines were the appliances that caused the most damage, followed by refrigerators with water or ice units, dishwashers and air conditioners located in attics. The survey also found the cost to repair water damage is getting steep -- typically about $5,000.
This is a huge hassle, Swegle says. Home owners who fail to maintain appliances and plumbing systems may face thousands of dollars in repair costs and weeks of invasive home repairs.
Home upgrades one reason for the rise
The biggest difference today is where were putting our appliances, he notes.
The hot water tank and washing machine once relegated to the basement or garage are now found in utility rooms right off the family room or near finished living areas. When leaks occur, water runs through ceilings and walls, damaging finished areas of the home. In addition, as home owners upgrade kitchens and bathrooms, water damage repairs become more expensive. In the 1980s, we had stock cabinets and vinyl floors in our kitchens and laundry rooms, Swegle says. Today, the kitchen is an entertainment center, with hardwood floors and expensive cabinets. When the dishwasher hose fails, its more expensive to fix the damage.
Home owners can identify potential problems and avoid costly losses by logging on to Safecos online water damage prevention guide at www.safeco.com/drip.
In most cases, home owners can save themselves a lot of time and money by adding a few simple protective devices and doing routine maintenance, says Swegle. These tasks usually take just a few minutes and the parts often cost less than $20."
Five easy ways to avoid water damage
Replace old water heaters. Water heaters do damage when they get too old and the tank rusts and bursts, allowing water to pour into adjacent rooms. On average, water heaters last 10 to 12 years. Don't wait for them to fail; replace your tank once a decade. Today's energy-efficient systems will also be cheaper to operate.
Switch to stainless steel hoses: Consider replacing standard rubber or plastic hoses with stainless steel-braided or mesh hoses. Worn out hoses with kinks, cracks or bulges need to be replaced immediately.
Don't leave dishwashers and washing machines running if you leave the house. If something breaks while a home owner is away, what could have been a small mop-up job often turns into a thousand-gallon mess best left to professionals.
Check attic air conditioners and swamp coolers. When attic systems fail, water damages everything that lies below. At least once a year, go up to the attic or roof to check these appliances before they wear out. Look for wear and tear and loose connections -- particularly if the unit is mounted on the roof and exposed to sun and rain.
Consider water alarms: Home owners can install water alarms for a quick alert when an appliance isn't working right. Hooking up the system to an appliance is usually as simple as hooking up a hose to an outdoor faucet.
Article courtesy of ARA Content