Part I: Home Maintenance to Avoid Water Damage
Approximate 1 in 15 homeowners will file an insurance claim each year. And though the majority of claims are due to bad weather such as high winds and hail, many are due to mechanical failures around the home or lack of maintenance.
“Many homeowners insurance claims can be avoided,” says Katherine Williams, Vice President and General Manager of General Southwest Insurance Agency. “A lot of people don’t realize that by keeping their home in good repair they can greatly reduce their chances of having a claim,” she adds.
Homeowners insurance claims that aren’t the result of weather fall into three main categories: Water damage, fire, and accidents/injuries. This week, we’ll take a look at the first of these three categories.
Water ,Water Everywhere
Water damage, unrelated to weather, is the second most common reason for a homeowners insurance claim, according to Travelers Insurance. Fortunately, it is also the easiest to prevent.
Check this list to see if you’re taking the proper precautions, or if your home maintenance schedule needs a bit of a boost.
- Check water supply lines to your toilets, sinks, washing machines and any other appliances. Hoses should be replaced every 5 years or sooner if they show signs of wear. Experts recommend braided stainless steel, high-pressure flex connectors. Hoses need to be the appropriate length—long enough to reach without stretching, but short enough to avoid kinking.
- Turn off water when you travel. If your home will be unoccupied for a length of time, turning off the water to your washing machine, sinks and toilets is an easy way to minimize your risk of a house flood due to a broken water line.
- Keep your dishwasher in good order. In addition to the water line, check the gasket to make sure water can’t leak out. Most dishwashers also have a filter that needs to be periodically cleared of debris. And if you have hard water, consider descaling with vinegar or a commercial cleaner to prevent mineral deposits from clogging the drain line.
- Test your shut-off valves at least once a year, including the one to your water heater. If they don’t turn freely, you should have them replaced.
- Know where your water main is and how to shut off the main valve to your home. Being able to completely turn it off the water during an emergency could save you thousands of dollars.
- Inspect your water heater regularly for signs of leakage. Make sure to flush it according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Also be aware that though the average lifespan of a water heater is 8 – 12 years, in hard water areas like Arizona they can give out in as little as 5 years. If your unit is older, you might want to replace it proactively.
- Regrout and recaulk showers and tubs when needed. If you see cracking or crumbling around your tile or surround, water could be leaking out of the shower area, or worse, seeping behind the scenes. Inspect your bath area frequently and repair problem areas. Also make sure to wipe up any accidental leaks quickly.
- Consider a water softener. Arizona (along with many other locations) has extremely hard water. The increased mineral content creates build-up in supply lines, faucets, washing machines and other appliances, leading to shorter life spans—and unexpected failures—that can cause leaks.
- Inspect your roof. If you notice missing shingles or other damage, have it repaired promptly. If you have gutters, keep them clear of litter. And make sure downspouts are directing water away from your home’s foundation.
- Be careful when moving your refrigerator, so not to stress or accidentally disconnect lines running to your icemaker or water dispenser.
- Keep a shallow tub under your sinks, or use a mat with a lip to catch leaks before they cause damage.
- Test your sump pump, if you have one, at least once a year. Frequent testing during storm season is recommended.
- Watch your water bill. If you notice a spike in usage, you may have an undetected leak. If you suspect an issue, hire a qualified professional to diagnose your problem.
Hold Back the Tide
Because water damage is so pervasive, it represents one of the biggest risks for homeowners. And where there’s water, there can also be mold, leading to further complications. A regular maintenance schedule, combined with a few common-sense precautions, can save you the headache and expense of a water damage claim.
What happens if, despite your best precautions, you experience water damage in your home? “Accidents happen,” says Williams. “We encourage all our clients to do an insurance review with us at least once a year, to make sure they have adequate coverage in the event that they suffer a loss.”
Contact your GSW agent if you have any questions or would like to review your current homeowners insurance policy.
Check back next week for the second in our series, Minimize Your Risk of a House Fire.