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. In fact, one of the most common causes of property damage is water caused by leaking fixtures and appliances or faulty pipes and hoses. These leaks can range from a trickle that can cause damage overtime, to a sudden burst that can cause immediate damage to in 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 damages. 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 of the ways you can easily protect your home from water damage.
Check the appliances
Washing machines, dishwashers, water heaters, air conditioning units and refrigerators are all capable of causing water damage that ranges from damp and moldy carpeting to ruined hardwood or – if left unchecked ‒ possibly even devastating structural damage.
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.
In addition, the entire refrigerator unit should be inspected annually to ensure that other piping isn’t compromised and at risk for causing a leak. Often times, 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
You should make sure that 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 that 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.
Mitigate mineral damage
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.
What do I do if a leak does occur?
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?
The first step you should take is to shut off the flow of water. Then, report the claim.
- 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, ServPro or ServiceMaster, to your property to begin cleaning up the water immediately. ServPro and ServiceMaster are industry leaders in water damage mitigation. Within one hour of being contacted by us, ServPro or ServiceMaster will reach out to you by phone. Depending on your availability, one of the companies will visit your home within four hours, with the goal of clearing the water from your home within seven days.
ServPro even offers access to an online portal that provides a status update on the dry out time for your property. You’ll be able to track where in the process ServPro is in regards to getting your property dried out and ready for repair.
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 ServPro and ServiceMaster 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.
Should I hire a contractor to repair the damage?
Once the water is removed, you’ll most likely be left with mold, warped wood, ruined drywall and carpets, and maybe even structural damage to your property. Don’t let just anyone repair these damages. It may be tempting to hire a local contractor who can get to your home that day to assess the damage, or who offers very low prices, but this may end up costing you more in the long run. Not all contractors are alike; here are a few red flags you should look out for when hiring one to repair your property damage:
Let The Hartford make it easier for you to find a contractor. When your property has been damaged, we can help you identify appropriately licensed and experienced contractors who can help you manage the estimating and repair process through our Contractor Connection services. Contractors participating in this network are reliable professionals who agree to align with The Hartford’s service standards and provide a three-year warranty on their work.
If you’re concerned about a contractor that you’re working with, contact The Hartford’s Fraud Hotline at 1-800-547-9276. Our Special Investigations Unit is dedicated to protecting you from questionable repair activities and will be happy to assist you with any concerns you may have.
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. That’s why we offer services designed to help you make payments, find contractors and even get temporary housing if you need it. Don’t let these great services go unused in the event of an accident. Learn more about how your home insurance from The Hartford can help you during a loss.
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