A surefire fix to interior water damage is a costly restoration process. This is avoidable with a few simple strategies protecting your single greatest investment; your house. An ounce of prevention here will save you the pound of cure.
Know Where The Water Shut Off Valve Is Located
Let’s start with the worst case scenario. You discover water inside your home, what next? About a decade ago, tenants called me frantic. “There’s a foot of water in the basement, help, what do we do?” I suggested they first turn the water off. They didn’t know where the water cut off valve was located. And, honestly, I wasn’t immediately sure either.
Knowing where your water valve for the house is located is critical.
Once the tenants were able to locate that valve, we discovered another disconcerting issue. The valve was frozen. Not in ice crystals and cold, but wrenched shut tight over years of disuse. It was an older cut off as well, looking much like the handle for your typical outdoor water spigot. Turns out, these are notorious for freezing up or worse yet, breaking when operated after years of disuse.
If you do have water damage, quickly pull the carpet & pad, remove drywall and bring in professional grade fans to dry out the impacted areas. Carpets can sometimes be saved, but the pad is a total loss once it gets wet.
We got lucky; the one in this rental was merely frozen shut. What to do? A plumber who said he could be there in four hours – I imagined by then the basement would resemble the set of The Titanic – suggested a great solution. Call the fire department. The Boulder fire department did indeed come to the rescue, getting the water shut off and then the owner started about the process of insurance water damage claims, drywall repair and whatnot.
Recommended Water Valve Maintenance
Label the shut off valve! If you have a sprinkler system, label that shutoff as well. If your your home is older, consider bringing in a professional plumber for maintenance. Swap out older valves before you have a problem. Be sure your toilets, sinks, hot water tanks and whole house point of entry are all equipped with reliable gear. Believe me, you don’t want to discover a problem while standing in a foot of water!
Update Plumbing At Appliances
When moving into a new home, this is a great opportunity to update the plumbing at the washer and dryer hookups. Some clients also opt to add a plastic bin underneath the washing machine. Why Not! In the event of a failure of the machine, this can prevent water from leaking everywhere. Same goes for under your hot water tank next time you replace that. Water tanks have a relatively limited life span as household HVAC systems go.
Take Precautions When Installing New Refrigerator
We saw our appliance company use a great trick of the trade. Our icebox has a water dispenser on the front door – super convenient. In the back is a water line. When the new Fridge arrived, it had to be rolled in & out on a special plastic mat to prevent damaging the floors, as modern day refrigerators are quite heavy and engineered flooring is relatively soft.
So we were concerned – we wouldn’t be able to roll the thing out ourselves to double check the water line wasn’t leaking after the hookup and delivery folks departed. What to do? Being in real estate, I’ve heard horror stories of water damage from improperly installed water refrigerator lines.
First off, the install crew persuaded us to change from the plastic tubing to braided steel. Better quality materials, far less likely to fail
Second, they placed a long, narrow strip of cardboard under the refrigerator. It reached all the way to the back wall. We just needed to check that strip after a few hours to make certain it was staying dry. Being paranoid we checked that strip several times a day for a few days – no problem!
Outdoors Water Resistance Just As Important
Our houses get wet. We have snow in Colorado, fierce rains, moisture! But we can also take a few simple steps to eliminate water damage before it ever happens. Spend time in the Fall preparing your house for winter (water plus cold temps = ice, not friendly to pipes!)
Move Water Away From Foundation
Add concrete extenders underneath your outdoor faucet spigots. This way, any water that leaks when hoses are attached or the spigot is simply turned on by your kids having fun is safely diverted away from the house.
As I’m blogging its one degree outside today. And it reminds me: be sure to detach hoses from spigots over the winter months. Water inside hoses can freeze and cause your pipes to burst inside the house.
Boulder Home Buyers: Hire A Professional Inspection Service
We all need water to survive – its an essential part of life. But we don’t need water damaging our homes. Colorado home buyers are well served bringing in a professional inspection as part of the purchase process. This is a good way to spot leaks, clogs, water stains under cabinetry (indicative of prior issues), bad roofs (water stains in attics or on ceilings) and more. Consider also having a moisture test – the inspector can use an infrared device on the interior walls.
Don’t be afraid to simply ask. The Hundred Year floods we experienced in 2013 damaged homes in the region. If buying today, ask if the property was impacted by prior flooding!
Do You Remember the 2013 Floods?
True MacGyver story! Do you remember that Eighties tv show? Well, during the Boulder 2013 floods, a client of mine battled all week to keep his home safe and dry. He saw water pouring through a neighbors house across the street. So he immediately dug trenches along the sides of his yard to move the water away from the house. That worked for awhile, but it wasn’t enough.
Then water got into a window well. He grabbed a shop vac, reversed the flow and placed that as a pump into the window well – it did the trick. But now he noticed the intense rains were leaking water into the house at the chimney. So we climbed up and secured a tarp over the fireplace chimney. In the end, this client only had a tiny bit of water damage in one small corner of his basement.
If you were in town during those floods, you remember, it was really something.
Water Damage Is Avoidable With A Little Effort
Okay, not everyone is going to dig up their front lawn to protect versus a flood. But you can take lots of little steps to protect your home. Now and again check the underside of your roof for telltale signs of water intrusion, bring in experts to maintain plumbing fixtures. Update water shut off valves. And landscape to move water away from the side of your house!