Water is the giver of life, but it’s also the destroyer of homes.
According to property & casualty insurance company Travelers, water damage is as much as 10 times more common than fire damage in American homes and causes, on average, nearly 30% of all household property claims. In 2015, water damage and freezing caused more than 45% of all homeowners insurance losses, nearly double the second-most-frequent type of damage, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
We’re not talking about floodwaters here, either – although floods happen nationwide and 90% of all natural disasters include some type of flooding – but rather preventable household maintenance issues like leaky plumbing and improperly installed appliances.
Water damage is all about excess water pooling in places where it shouldn’t. If that sounds unusually broad, it’s because it is. Water is everywhere in the home and water damage can occur due to everything from bursting or leaking pipes, plumbing issues, drainage buildup, collecting water, malfunctioning household appliances, problems with the HVAC system and even natural disasters. If water finds its way into your house and can’t find a way out, typically that’s when you start to see water damage to floors, ceilings, walls and other structural components.
Where to look
Leaking washing machine hoses: Inspect them annually and replace them every five years
Leaking from a water heater: Inspect every year and install a floor drain near the unit if possible
Leaking refrigerator: Ice maker lines are often the culprit here and should be inspected annually for signs of wear
Clogged air conditioning drain lines: Inspect every year and clean out as needed
Staining on ceilings and walls: Brown, rust-colored spotting on ceilings and walls is a telltale sign of water damage.
Soft spots: Spongy floors are another common sign of water damage, especially in bathrooms, kitchens and near doorways. The above photo is an extreme example, but anywhere that water can gain access to a home’s subfloor soft spots may be present.
Warped flooring: In addition to soft spots, hardwood and tile floors can warp and crack as a result of water damage. Feel for uneven boards or for lifting under carpets.
Rust: Rust spots on the floor near a hot water heater tank might indicate a leak inside the system, creating further problems should it rupture. The same holds true around appliances and bathroom fixtures.
Drainage issues: A yard that does not drain away from a home’s foundation can often lead to water damage inside the basement or under the subfloor. Look for pooling near the foundation and anywhere that water is not flowing away from the home.
Roof damage: Missing or damaged shingles can allow rainwater to penetrate a home’s roof, leading to water damage on ceilings and on walls. Looks for stains on the home’s upper levels and on the underside of the roof deck itself from the attic.