Water damage is one of the most common, and costly, misfortunes your home can suffer. In fact, homeowners and renters across the country lose billions of dollars because of it each year.
But you’re not powerless. There are plenty of simple tactics you can use to stay snug and dry no matter what nature—or your pipes—throw at you. In this post we’ll show you the best ways to protect your home from water damage.
Typical Causes of Water Damage
Water damage can happen any time water pools somewhere it’s not meant to be, whether that’s within a room or inside your walls or roof. There are several situations that can cause water damage in a home. These are some of the most common:
- Severe storms, floods and other extreme weather.
- Leaky or burst pipes.
- Malfunctioning dishwashers or washing machines.
- Cracks in your foundation or walls.
- Roof damage, such as missing shingles or cracked flashing.
- Drainage problems on your property.
- Problems with your HVAC system.
What Are the Signs of Water Damage?
Water damage is obvious when it’s caused by a flood, but other causes are harder to spot. If you don’t know what to look for, it can be easy to miss until it becomes a major problem. Here are the usual signs of water damage in a home:
- Peeling paint.
- Warping of your floors.
- A strong musty smell in a room.
- Sagging in parts of your walls or ceiling.
- Stains or discolored patches on walls or ceilings.
- Water pooling in your yard after a storm.
- Mold growth (which can look like dark discoloration) on any surface.
Now that you know the causes and signs of water damage, it’s time to learn how to prevent it.
5 Tips for Preventing Water Damage
1. Inspect Your Roof
After all, your roof is constantly exposed to sunlight and precipitation. If it begins to deteriorate, roof leaks can develop without you noticing. But you can stay ahead of water damage by inspecting your roof regularly — especially after big storms.
Use a pair of binoculars to look for any missing or broken shingles, cracked flashing or large debris on the roof.
2. Clean Your Gutters
Ensuring good drainage is essential to protecting your home from water damage. Poor drainage weakens your foundation, leading to cracks, uneven settling and pathways for water to find its way inside.
How often should you clean your gutters?
You should clean your gutters at least twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. You should also throw in an extra cleaning after a big storm to remove wet leaves, branches and other debris that could be clogging up your gutters and downspouts.
How to Clean Gutters
- Begin cleaning near a downspout.
- Remove large debris (leaves, twigs, etc.) with a garden trowel or your hands (wear gloves!).
- Flush the gutters and downspouts with a garden hose.
Install Gutter Guards
Gutter guards are a device used to protect your gutters from leaves and other debris. There are many different types of gutter guards, including reverse curve, mesh and nylon. Prices vary depending on what kind you get and how many feet of gutters you need to cover.
3. Caulk and Seal Your Windows
Caulking and sealing your windows regularly is one of the easiest ways to protect your home from water damage. You can also apply caulking to bathtubs, ceiling fixtures, drains, faucets and other plumbing fixtures to keep water from seeping in where it doesn’t belong.
How to Apply Caulk
- Choose the right caulk: For a long-lasting seal, choose 100 percent silicon, which is permanently waterproof, flexible and shrink/crack-proof. Avoid using acrylic caulk, which can shrink and crack over time, leading to water seepage.
- Clean the surface: Remove old caulk and loose particles with a caulk-removing tool.
- Prepare the tube and seal: Insert the tube of caulk into a caulking gun and seal around cracks. Squeeze with even, consistent pressure to control the amount of caulk applied.
- Smooth the seal: After applying the caulk to the desired areas, use your finger or a caulk-smoothing tool to even out the bead.
4. Check Your Pipes
It’s a good idea to inspect all the pipes in your home at least once a year. Over time, pipes gradually corrode, rust, and decay, all of which can result in leaks. In severe cases, you could be facing a flood of water or raw sewage into your home, causing extensive—and expensive—damage. According to Ford a “failure to understand the required maintenance” often leads people to neglect their pipes.
Consider Installing an Emergency Pressure Release Valve
If you live in a cold climate, this could one day save you thousands of dollars and lots of hassle. By installing an emergency pressure release valve in your plumbing system, you’ll be able to quickly relieve the pressure caused by freezing pipes, thus preventing them from bursting.
5. Test Your Sump Pump
A sump pump is your first line of defense against basement flooding. They’re used to pump water that has accumulated in a sump basin away from a home to a municipal storm drain or dry well.
How to Test a Sump Pump
- Locate the exit pipe on the outside of your home where the sump pump directs water out of the basement. Inspect the pipe for damage and remove any clogs if necessary.
- Locate the sump pump in your basement and check that the electrical cord is still plugged into a functioning outlet.
- Remove the lid to the sump pump, if it has one, and clean out any debris.
- Pour approximately 5 gallons of water into the basin of your sump pump. Pour slowly until the pump turns on and begins to pump out water.
Now that you know how to protect your home from water damage, all you’ll need to worry about during the next heavy rain is remembering your umbrella on the way out the door. Need more home maintenance tips? Check out the Home Improvement section of our blog. Ever dealt with water damage? How did you fix the problem?