Tips to Help Prevent Water Disasters Inside Your Home

If you’ve ever discovered water where it doesn’t belong in your home, you know it can be more than a nuisance. The destruction to surfaces and furnishings that often follows can be distressing and expensive.

In fact, water damage is one of the most common misfortunes that affect U.S. homes: one-in-50 homeowners filed a water-related claim each year between 2015 and 2019, with claims averaging $11,098.1

Water damage that occurs suddenly, accidentally, and unexpectedly may be covered by your homeowners insurance. Burst pipes, wind-driven rain, and roof-top ice dams are examples of perils that are typically covered. Issues that result from normal wear and tear, however, and gradual damage are often excluded.

Damage from floods, resulting from the temporary inundation of dry land caused by overflowing river or tidal waters, requires a separate flood insurance policy. Flood policies are available from the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and some private insurers.

As a homeowner, you should pay close attention to maintenance issues and protect your financial interests with the appropriate amount and type of insurance coverage. Read your policies carefully to understand the situations in which water damage will or will not be covered.

Here’s a rundown of the water problems that often strike homes, as well as some tips for avoiding them.

H2O Hazards

Pipe leaks. In the cold winter months, the increased pressure caused by freezing pipes can cause them to burst. It’s best to keep your home sufficiently heated, with the thermostat set no lower than 55° F (12° C) when you’re away. If you leave home for an extended period, you may want to turn off the water and/or have the system drained. Consider insulating pipes in crawl spaces and the attic. You can also install a pressure release valve in the plumbing system.

Water intrusion. Wind-driven rain can cause leaking from a damaged roof, window, or elsewhere. Regular maintenance such as caulking windows, checking regularly for roof damage, and clearing debris from rain gutters and downspouts can help prevent water from reaching the home’s interior surfaces during a storm.

Dripping hoses. Water lines running to appliances such as refrigerators, icemakers, water heaters, dishwashers, and washing machines have been known to crack, leak, and cause damage to nearby walls, cabinets, and floors. Consider replacing hoses every five to seven years; checking annually for deterioration may help head off a disaster. Also, know the location of the main water shut-off valve so that you can reach it quickly and limit the damage in the event that you find water flowing from a hose or pipe.

Backed-up drains or sewer lines. Some standard policies cover these dirty messes, whereas others do not. Sewer backup riders may be available when they are not standard. You might also consider installing a backwater valve, which allows sewage to exit but won’t let it flow back inside the home.

From Moisture to Mold

To help prevent the growth of mold, you will need to remove any standing water as quickly as possible and dry any drenched carpets, pads, or upholstery within 24 to 48 hours. Any surfaces that do not dry sufficiently may need to be replaced.

Although homeowners insurance policies generally exclude mold from their standard policies, your policy may provide for professional help to clean up a waterlogged interior and minimize any permanent damage in order to avoid future mold growth. The elimination of mold may be covered if it resulted directly and recently from a sudden, covered peril. If you do not file a claim for water damage and find out later that mold is present in your home, it could be considered a maintenance issue and probably will not be covered. If your home suffers water damage, you will want to contact your insurance company as soon as possible.

Time is of the essence, and your agent may be able to recommend a qualified restoration contractor and answer any other questions about water damage, mold, and what is covered by your specific homeowners policy as well as policy limits.