Water damage is one of the most common causes of property damage.
You wouldn’t expect your refrigerator to ruin your kitchen and floors, or even destroy support structures in your home, but it’s actually very possible.
Home water damage can be caused by leaking fixtures and appliances or faulty pipes and hoses. These leaks can range from a trickle that can cause harm overtime, to a sudden burst that can cause immediate impact to your home.
Luckily, with a few simple precautions you may greatly reduce the chances of water damaging your home.
How Do I Prevent Water Damage?
We often forget just how much high-pressure water is flowing through our homes for use in cooking, cleaning and sanitation. Just one compromised conduit could result in heavy damage. That’s why it’s essential to make sure that your home is as safe as possible from water damage and that you know what to do if an accident occurs. With just a few routine checks, you could help prevent catastrophe.
Here are some steps to follow to help you easily protect your home from water damage.
Check Your Appliances
Appliances are capable of causing water damage that ranges from damp and moldy carpeting to ruined hardwood or—if left unchecked—possibly even devastating structural damage. You’ll want to make sure to inspect your home’s:
- Washing machine
- Water heater
- Air conditioning units
Be sure to check the hoses on your washing machine and refrigerator at least annually. If there are any cracks or bulges in the hose, you should have it replaced immediately. Regardless of the hose’s condition, it should always be replaced every five years.
Your entire refrigerator unit should be inspected annually to ensure that other piping isn’t compromised and at risk for causing a leak. Often, leaks can go unnoticed and seep into support structures. A plumber will know where to look to make sure that there are no leaks in, or damage to, the unit.
It’s also smart to check your AC units regularly. Window units will often drip water onto the outside of your house or on your yard. During times of increased usage, such as the spring and summer, you’ll want to ensure that this dripping isn’t causing degradation to the outside of your house, or causing a buildup in your yard that could seep into your basement or ground floor.
If you have a central air unit, you’ll want to check the drain lines to make sure that they aren’t clogged. A yearly check should be enough to catch any clog before it becomes severe.
Protect the Heating and Plumbing
Make sure your water heating unit is installed near a floor drain to mitigate any leaks. If your floors don’t have drains, you can place a small, submersible pump near the water heater. This submersible pump will turn on if it senses water and begin pumping excess water into a portable container. This may help lessen the severity of any damage from a leak that occurs before you’re able to find a professional to service the heater.
Any plumbing should be inspected annually, but here are some simple steps you can take to maintain its integrity and reduce the chances of a leak:
- Remove any hoses or attachments from outdoor spigots in the winter to prevent pipes from freezing and cracking.
- Never hang anything from a pipe as this will compromise the joints and supports.
- Add insulation to pipes in areas of your home that get cold easily (garage, basements or crawl spaces).
- Install shut-off valves for all appliances and fixtures to stop the flow of water during an accident and to make repairs easier.
Soften Water to Avoid Mineral Damage to Plumbing and Appliances
Homes with hard water need to be especially careful to prevent damage to plumbing and appliances. Minerals from hard water, particularly calcium and magnesium, can bind themselves to the interior of pipes and create blockages. In addition to creating jams, they can also eat through the piping, creating small holes that will leak and eventually cause the pipe to collapse. These minerals can also cause serious damage to appliances, destroying hoses and corroding metal, which can ultimately lead to water leakage.
You can soften the water in your home by installing a water softening device in your plumbing system. This device will release non-hazardous chemicals into your water that will help fight against the calcium and magnesium buildup. Because one of the main chemicals used to soften water is sodium, it may be wise to keep your “softened” water separate from your drinking water.
A Leak Has Occurred—Now What
Imagine you come home from a week-long vacation only to find an enormous puddle of water encircling your refrigerator. The water covering your kitchen floor has leaked through the floor and into the basement. Worst of all, there is still water coming out of the refrigerator. What should you do?
- Shut off the flow of water
- Report the claim
Reporting a Water Claim to Your Insurance Company
If you’re insured by The Hartford, call 1-800-243-5860 or visit our online claims center to speak to one of our Customer Care Team members. We will ask you to:
- Describe the incident
- Explain the damage to your property
- Confirm the phone number where we can reach you throughout the claim process
We’ll work with you to resolve your claim as quickly as possible so that you can restore your property and get back to your life. Within one business day of reporting your loss, one of our Claims professionals will contact you to assess the situation, answer any additional questions and offer key service options.
Our Claims professionals can help you:
- Estimate your damage or schedule an on-site inspection
- Arrange temporary housing if your home is seriously damaged
- Arrange for help in mitigating water damage to your home
- Identify a contractor or roof repairer in many areas around the country
- Create an itemized list of damage or loss to your personal belongings
Mitigate the Water Damage
The longer the leak continues and the water remains, the more severe the damage to your property will be. It doesn’t take long for carpeting and wood, even in support structures, to be ruined by mold caused by water leakage.
The Hartford will send one of our affiliate water damage mitigation companies to your property to begin cleaning up the water. They will reach out to you by phone, visit your home to assess the damage and schedule a time to clear the water from your home.
We understand that during a catastrophe, the last thing you need to be doing is managing billing and payments. That’s why we often pay water damage mitigation companies directly, so you can focus on getting your life back in order.
If a loss forces you from your home, The Hartford can help arrange for a hotel room, as well as long-term housing during the repair or rebuilding stages of a claim. We work with temporary housing specialists who maintain nationwide networks of housing options and a commitment to prompt service.
The Hartford is here to help you lessen damages, expedite repairs and have peace of mind. We know that life doesn’t stop just because of an accident and we’re here when you need us. Learn more about how your home insurance from The Hartford can help you during a loss.
Thanks for the information. It is very helpful to know what to do in case of an emergency.
A good helpful reminder.. Thank you.
I installed a water leak detector on my water meter. It lets me know if there are any leaks in my home on my phone. But it only lets me know if water has been running continuously for 2 hours. I don’t think it would catch a small drip or if my refrigerator was leaking. I should get something else for that.
Is it true that you are not covered for damage caused by a burst water heater or wash machine hose unless you have flood insurance?
Roger – Thanks for reaching out. For specific questions on coverage, you can visit our contact us page to reach one of our customer service representatives.
I don’t have Hartford home Ins.
But thanx for the info
When A huge rain caused a flood in our daylight basement home I immediately called The Hartford to see what was covered and was surprised to find out that Floods caused by nature were not covered. I need to look into a flood insurance policy.
Susan – Thanks for reading Extra Mile. For more information on flood insurance, you can contact one of our specialists by calling 800-296-7542.
Thank you for this information, greatly appreciated 👍🙏 U
A crew was sent to take up old flooring & remove wet walls, etc.
One estimate was submitted; required a more “detailed estimate,” which wasn’t satisfactory. A second estimate was submitted – still not accepted. After four months, numerous emails, phone calls (sometimes couldn’t leave a message, as the mailbox was full). Finally, a PERSON will be coming to do exact measurements this week. In the meantime, labor cost rising & winter is coming.
For the life of me, cannot understand why an adjuster wasn’t sent to begin with?!
I suggest using Smart home monitoring in key locations where leaks are prone. Areas with flexible hosing to supply fixtures such as toilets or sinks or washing machines, etc. Place a monitoring device at each location that communicates with a central hub. In the event of a leak, the hub processes these events and communicates with a main shutoff. This will quickly mitigate a potential disaster.
Also, shutoff the washing machine valve when not in use.
Great tip, Sebastian. Thank you for sharing!
Excellent post. I certainly appreciate this site. Keep writing!
My dad’s house was made in the ’80s and I think they were not able to waterproof it. Over the years it accumulated a lot of water damage as it was never maintained. Now I know that inspections in the plumbing should be done every year. We’ll definitely look into that now and we also hope to find services that simply ensure the protection of homes from water damage.
My dad’s home basement is flooded due to the typhoon that his neighborhood experienced the other week, which is why he has decided to start looking for a restoration service. I’m glad I’ve stumbled upon this article; I guess you made a pretty good point that adding insulation in the pipes would be a good idea too. I’ll also keep in mind to tell him that he must install shut-off valves as well.
Thanks for explaining that we need to fix the water damage quickly, since it doesn’t take long for the carpeting and wood to be affected from the leakage. My husband and I recently found a leaky pipe in our basement, so I’ve been looking online to help me figure out our next step. I read your article because you helped me see why it will be important to have the water damage professionally restored.
Daphne, we are glad we could lend a helping hand. Good luck with the leaky pipe!
Several years back I had contact my house Insurance Co. the Hartford thru AARP to check about if I had & if also was I covered for flood &/or water damage to my house/basement. I was told about flood coverage which I was not covered for as would have required me to be so to purchase a special flood rider as I’m not in a flood zone I declined. So figured as I was told nothing else about water damage coverage that I was covered for water damage if like my water heater burst/leaked all over,( this is just as an example). Now, with a recent sump pump failure while my water softener was doing a complete flush at my home & my basement became 99% covered with water from this,& damaging some of my personal property I called and submitted my claim. I got a referral for a Restoration Co. from my Insurance Co., & had them out the next morning for an estimate while in the mean time my son came to my home & he worked 7 straight hours that night & 5 more hours the next day with his large shop vac. having to carry very heavy amounts of water up stairs to the outside (thank God did not hire the Restoration Co.) BECAUSE was not compensated for anything from my claim as you need a special rider to cover this/these type damages. Long story short I was screwed & being 74 years old with lots of health issues, living on Social Security & an extremely small pension after working 40 plus years this incident left me strapped for a long time to come. I blame mostly the Insurance Co. for my situation here BUT also I take some responsibility for my ignorance of what my coverage covered. AAPR needs to explain what senior citizens need to know about house insurance & all the riders involved especially since AARP is sponsoring the Hartford/AARP for insurance coverage on homes, vehicles, & etc. for seniors. Also when you call & file a house insurance claim they do not tell you right then & there if your claim is covered by your policy you have to jump thru the insurance co. hoops over several days before an adjuster tells you you’re not covered for this, all you get reporting initial claim is an “ify” response on your coverage with them. To me they should be able to tell you when filing if you are covered or not right then and there.
Hi Jeanne- thank you for reaching out. A customer service representative will be reaching out to you.
Happy OUR insurance company is active in making us proactive.
We appreciate your feedback, Carol!
Greatly needed information for all home owners