Most leaks escape notice at first, beginning as moisture-seeps along roof lines or in other hard-to-spot areas of the house. By the time the leak reveals itself, the damage is often substantial. Five simple steps go a long way to keeping your home safe.
1. Inspect washer hoses. Most laundry machines have hoses that supply water to the machine. The hose, which is constantly under pressure, can burst, sending rushing water everywhere, flooding floors, ruining carpets and causing expensive repairs. AAA recommends you replace rubber hoses every three years. For less than $15 you can get six feet of woven steel hose from your local home improvement store-a simple upgrade that could save your home from serious water damage problems. Reminder: before leaving for a vacation always shut off the water lines to your washing machine.
2. Clean your gutters at least once a year. Your gutters may not be the most glamorous feature of your house, but they are essential to its well being. Rain gutters perform two important functions: First, they catch and reroute water runoff so it doesn't damage your home's exterior. Second, they direct water away from your home's foundation, where it would otherwise collect and possibly seep under the house. But invariably, gutters clog or fail.
If you live is an area that sees a lot of rain or snow it never hurts to clean your gutters and downspouts twice a year, in the autumn and the spring. If tree branches overhang your house, take time now to prune them back to reduce leaf litter. Consider installing gutter screens to prevent clogs. Also, make sure gutter drain-spouts extend out at least three feet from your foundation. Be sure to wear sturdy gloves and be attentive to ladder safety.
If you'd rather not clean them yourself, gutter services typically charge between $75-150, depending on the size of house and number of floors.
3. Check for moisture, sleuth out leaks. Once a year, during a driving rain storm, conduct a thorough top-to-bottom inspection of your house for leaks. Your inspection will be most telling during a rainstorm. Start in the attic. (If you're working in an unfinished attic that's insulated with unfaced fiberglass, wear protective clothing, gloves, goggles, and a dust mask.) Listen for drips while you use a flashlight to carefully inspect all the various nooks and crannies. If you spot a wet area, try to determine where the water originates. Water will often travel a considerable distance before becoming visible. Mark the spot with a pen or crayon for your later attention. Place a bucket under any visible leaks.
Elsewhere in the house, check around window casements and doors. In the basement inspect the foundation walls, floor and window wells for cracks and leaks. Mark active leaks. Once you find the leak, your fast response can keep the leak from growing into a nightmare. Most leaks are fairly simple and inexpensive to repair. If you've spotted the origin of the leak and you're handy with tools or caulk, you can probably fix it yourself. Consult your local library for expert guidance. Else, contact a professional immediately.
Caulk Talk For exterior applications, silicone caulk is usually the best choice, offering superior flexibility and durability. Most silicone caulk is not paintable, so it is available in several colors. And while it costs a dollar or two more per tube than acrylic, it lasts up to ten years longer.
For large gaps, consider expandable urethane foam, which also adds some insulation value as it fills the gap. It is available in low- and high-expansion formulas. The low-expansion type is better for most applications. Both set very quickly, so work fast.
5. Inspect sump-pumps. If you have a sump pump, clean out any debris that may have fallen into the sump pit, clean debris from the pump's intake screen with a rag or tooth brush, and make sure that the pump is firmly seated on its base. Then use buckets of water to fill the pit with enough water to activate the pump.
6. Spot rot. Contrary to its name, dry rot begins and spreads where wood meets water. In a wet environment, moisture loving molds are able to infect wood and feed on it. Rot can spread through the air to all areas of your house-for this reason it's important to stop rot early.
Look for rot in any place that wood meets the ground or where water might pool on wood, e.g., window sills and casements. Potential Problem areas:
Rotted wood should be replaced immediately to prevent the damage from spreading further.
You can find a qualified contractor through the AAA Direct Repair Network.
7. Know your water valves. To prevent damage from sudden leaks, everyone in your household should know how to turn off water at its various control points throughout your home (e.g., at the main valve, as well as at individual valves beneath sinks, at toilets, and in the laundry room). Open and close these valves regularly to keep them operating smoothly.
8. Consider Flood Insurance. Protection from flood waters is not included in homeowners, renters or rental property insurance policies, but separate flood insurance is available in many communities through AAA from the National Flood Insurance Program. Flood insurance is available to both AAA Members and nonmembers. To request a quote, contact an insurance sales representative at your nearest AAA office.
Learn more about the risks and prevention of water damage at http://www.ibhs.org.