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Help With Prevention

Water Damage

Appliance Related Water Damages

Appliances can sprout leaks because of aging materials, improper connections or ruptured hoses. Water damage from appliances can be prevented by conducting routine maintenance of appliances that use water. Here are some general tips;

  • Be on the lookout for the first signs of leakage to catch the problem early on
  • Call a plumber at the first signs of rust-colored water, backed-up toilets and sinks, and cracked or warped flooring
  • Investigate the source of musty smells and stains appearing on ceilings and walls
  • Inspect pipes for condensation and corrosion
  • Pay attention to any sudden, significant increase to your water bill, which could indicate a leak
  • Never operate the machine when your home is unoccupied
  • Turn water supply valves off when not in use
  • Leave a three-inch gap between the back of the washing machine and the wall to avoid kinking the hose near the valve connection
  • Inspect the water supply line hose for cracks, kinks or blisters every six months
  • Ensure the connection is secure and replace the hose every five years. Use mesh hoses, which are more resistant to leaks and cracking
  • Leave a three-inch space between the back of the refrigerator and the wall to prevent the hose from kinking and if kinks are present, replace the hose
  • Inspect the hoses and water shut-off valve every six months
  • Ensure that the valve connections are secure
  • Shut off water when replacing filters and make sure they are seated properly before turning water back on
  • Inspect the flushing mechanism inside the tank and the supply line every six months. Ensure the connection to the valve is secure
  • Call a plumber if you notice intermittent or constant tank refilling when the toilet is not in use; the flapper or fill valve assembly may need to be replaced or realigned
  • Inspect plumbing beneath all sinks every six months including the valve to make sure the water supply will shut off
  • Ensure connections are secure and that there is no evidence of corrosion
  • Look for kinks in copper or plastic pipes

Frozen Pipes

The water inside pipes can freeze when outdoor temperatures drop below freezing. As freezing water expands, it causes the pressure inside the pipes to increase, possibly leading to bursting pipes. Here are some tips for preventing frozen pipes:

  • Insulate pipes, especially those close to outside walls, attics or crawl spaces where the chance of freezing is greatest
  • Seal air leaks surrounding or near pipes
  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage
  • Disconnect all outdoor hoses and turn off water to exterior faucets and sprinkler systems
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing
  • Keep heat at 55 degrees F. or higher even when you are out of town
  • During a cold spell turn on both hot and cold faucets near outside walls to allow a small trickle of water to run during the night
  • If you need to be away from home, leave the heat on and drain your water system before you go
  • Identify the locations of shutoff valves so that you are prepared to stop the flow of water as soon as possible when a pipe bursts

Ice Dams

Ice dams form when melting ice and snow refreeze above the eaves of your roof and subsequent melting backs up under the shingles. This causes interior leaks and water damage to interior walls and ceilings.

Proper ventilation, drainage and insulation are the only ways to prevent ice dams and can be achieved in the following ways:

  • Make sure your gutters are clear of leaves and debris
  • Check and seal places where warm air could leak from your house to the attic: vent pipes, exhaust fans, chimneys, attic hatches and light fixtures are all possibilities
  • Inspect, or have your roof and attic inspected for proper ventilation and insulation
  • Look for signs of inadequate ventilation: rust spots, rusty nails or a mildew smell are all signals that moisture has formed on the inside of your roof
  • If you have soffit vents in your eaves, make sure they are not blocked and insulation surrounding them is secured so that air can flow easily
  • Keep snow from accumulating on the lower three to six feet of your roof
  • Install snow and ice slides to prevent ice and snow from "bonding" to the lower roof
  • Install a rubberized ice and water shield beneath the roof shingles for the first three to six feet from the eaves up
  • Install heating cable along the eaves to melt ice

Water Backup

Water backup occurs when the water around the foundation of your home exceeds the capacity of removal systems to drain it. It can occur from surface water seeping into foundation walls or sewer systems overflowing up through drains in the basement. Below we have listed some tips for keeping your home safe from water backup.

  • Maintain gutters and downspouts, keeping them free of debris and leaves and repairing them if they are sagging
  • Inspect your gutters' capacity - after fifteen minutes of heavy rain, if water overflows the gutters, install additional downspouts
  • Extend downspouts at least ten feet away from the house
  • Adjust landscaping and irrigation so that water flows away from the foundation
  • Drain subsurface groundwater and storm water with a sump pump system that has battery backup and replacement warnings
  • Run your sump pump every few months and clean it annually before the rainy season
  • Prevent backflow of sanitary sewer water by installing backflow valves and standpipes at all basement drain locations, including sinks and toilets
  • Prepare your basement "just in case" by raising your washer, dryer, water heater, oil tank, furnace, all electrical wiring and personal items above typical water backup levels.

Mold

When excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unaddressed.

Preventing Mold

  • The key to mold control is moisture control
  • Fix leaks and seepage as soon as you notice the issue
  • Put a plastic cover over dirt in crawl spaces to prevent moisture from coming in from the ground
  • Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens to remove moisture to the outside
  • Vent your clothes dryer to the outside
  • Turn off certain appliances (such as humidifiers or kerosene heaters) if you notice moisture on windows and other surfaces
  • Use dehumidifiers and air conditioners, especially in hot, humid climates, to reduce moisture in the air
  • Raise the temperature of cold surfaces where moisture condenses
  • Use insulation or storm windows
  • Increase air circulation by using fans and by moving furniture from wall corners to promote air and heat circulation and keep doors open between rooms
  • Carpet on concrete floors can absorb moisture and serve as a place for biological pollutants to grow - use area rugs which can be taken up and washed often
  • Dry water-damaged areas and items within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth

Fire & Smoke Damage

  • Keep your home free of oily rags and trash build-up. Gasoline and other flammable liquids should be stored in approved metal safety cans.
  • Cleaning materials should be kept in a ventilated area, away from any heat source. Vapors given off by these substances can ignite when they come in contact with a heat source, such as a pilot light.
  • Check lamps, appliance cords and light switches to make sure there is no faulty wiring. Never overload electrical circuits.
  • Allow adequate ventilation space around televisions, stereos and other entertainment equipment.
  • Teach your children not to play with matches. Keep matches in a closed metal container away from heat sources and out of the reach of children.
  • Never smoke in bed. Carelessly discarded cigarettes are the leading cause of fire deaths in the United States.
  • Remove all weeds, tree branches and litter from your yard.
  • If you have a fireplace, make sure it is properly screened and install a spark arrestor with at least a half-inch mesh on the chimney.
  • Daily household trash should be kept in a covered can away from any heat source. Recycle newspapers frequently.
  • Be a careful cook. Never wear long sleeves when you cook -- they can catch fire. Keep the handles of your pots turned inward, so the pots can't be knocked over. Never put foil or other metals in a microwave oven.