How to Avoid Water Damage

December 7, 2015

With storms and flood season upon us in North Texas, it is time to consider some different ways to avoid water damage in your home. There are so many ways water can get into your home and destroy your house and belongings. Take a look at these simple steps to avoiding a disaster.

First avoid 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.

Preventing 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


Recovering From Water Backup

  • Remove standing water to prevent structural damage

  • Dry all wet carpets, rugs and personal belongings to prevent mold growth

  • Sanitize all areas and materials in contact with sewer water

  • Consult with a licensed building professional who can determine the extent of repairs if necessary

Mold Prevention is also a critical component of moisture damage. 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


Dealing with Mold

  • Get rid of the excess water or moisture

  • Fix leaky plumbing or other sources of water

  • Absorbent materials (such as ceiling tiles & carpet) that become moldy may have to be replaced

  • Contact a mold remediation specialist

Invariably, there will be extended periods of time when no one is at home to monitor things. Pipes, water heaters and other appliances can break and leak. In freezing weather, pipes can freeze and both plastic (PVC) and copper pipes can burst, causing major damage in a home left unattended.


Preventing Water Damage When Leaving Your Home Unattended

  • Close and lock all doors, windows, skylights and vents to keep out wind and wind-driven rain

  • In colder climates, don't turn the thermostat off, instead leave it set to at least 55 degrees F.

If leaving for an extended period of time, the best protection is to shut the water off and drain water lines. In addition:


  • Shut off the gas to the water heater (or the gas company can do this for you), or turn the temperature control to a vacation setting

  • If your house has a water softener, shut off its supply line

If you choose to leave water service on, take the following precautions:

  • Insulate pipes in your home's crawl spaces and attic and especially in a garage or basement next to an outside wall during the winter

  • Wrap heating tape or cables around water pipes to prevent pipes from freezing

  • Turn off the water supply to individual fixtures like your washing machine, icemaker, toilets and sinks

  • Consider installing an electronic leak detection system

  • Don't leave appliances (dishwasher, washing machine or dryer) running when you leave, and check to make sure toilets aren't running

  • Make sure the sump pump is working, especially in late winter or early spring when melting snow or heavy rain increases the risk of basement flooding

An important step to avoiding water damage in the home is to keep your appliances well maintained. 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.

Water Heater

  • Schedule a professional plumbing inspection of the anode rod at least once every two years, and once a year after the warranty has expired

  • If the rod shows significant signs of corrosion, replace it immediately

  • Flush the tank every six months to remove sediment by attaching a garden hose to the valve at the base

  • Refer to manufacturer's instructions for further maintenance information

Washing Machine

  • 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

Refrigerator with Ice Maker

  • 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 hose and water shut-off valve every six months

  • Ensure that the valve connection is secure


  • 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

Tips for Limiting Water Damage From Appliances

  • 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

And finally, it wouldn’t be winter in Texas without random pipes bursting at temperatures barely below freezing. 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.

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


What to Do When Pipes Freeze or Burst
If pipes freeze:

  • Open all faucets

  • Remove insulation and wrap pipes in rags

  • If all else fails, call your plumber

If pipes burst:

  • Shut off the water immediately to prevent additional damage

  • Take proper precautions to avoid an electrical shock from being in or near standing water

  • Take an inventory of any damaged property or possessions

  • Contact your local claims office to help you locate a vendor specializing in emergency water mitigation services that can properly dry out the damaged area








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