When you discover water dripping or gushing into your home, it’s easy to panic. Even a small leak can quickly damage property and run up your water bill. That’s why it’s important to stay on top of things to prevent the leaks before they begin.
Water Leak Prevention
You may not be able to prevent water leaks from ever happening in your home, but there are a few steps you can take to detect leaks before they become worse.
Your homeowners insurance may help cover damage caused by leaking plumbing if the leak is sudden and accidental, such as a pipe burst. However, homeowners insurance does not cover damage resulting from poor maintenance or faulty repairs. Taking action as soon as you discover a problem is critical.
1. Visual Inspection - Taking a few minutes to visually inspect the areas where water is likely to leak from plumbing pipes, valves, or appliances is the best way to prevent future leaks. Using a flashlight, take a look at the pipes and valves of the following fixtures and appliances at least once a month:
- Washing machines
- Garbage disposals
- Water heaters
Small leaks can be hard to detect, so run some water down the sink while you shine a light under the sink to check the pipes. Run your hand underneath drain pipes to feel for moisture. Many leaks start small, so you might actually feel a small leak before you see it.
Other signs to look for include dripping washing machine hoses, water pooling underneath a hot water heater, and signs of moisture damage under sinks. Mold and mildew are also common signs that water is leaking somewhere in your home. If you notice any of these signs, further inspection by a plumber is recommended.
2. Water Detection Alarms - Even if you were to do a visual inspection weekly, a leak could go undetected for several days. For an immediate alert when water is leaking, you can install a water detection alarm in the locations mentioned above.
A water detection alarm is a small device that is battery operated and has a moisture sensor. When the sensor detects moisture, it will sound an alarm.
There are a range of models available. Some can connect to your WiFi and send you an email when moisture is detected. Other models can be tied into home automation or alarm systems. A variety of water detection alarms are available at most home building supply stores.
3. Upgrade Your Plumbing Components - Plumbing leaks at sinks, toilets and appliances are much more common if the valves and hoses are either very old or of poor quality. Cheaper plastic valves and hoses deteriorate more quickly over time, especially in hot, dry climates.
A common source of home flooding happens when an old washing machine hose suddenly splits and water starts pouring out. If your laundry room is located on an upper level, a burst hose can quickly result in serious water damage to multiple levels of your home. Replacing an old rubber hose with a braided stainless steel auto-shut off connector hose is an effective way to prevent costly water damage.
If your home is older or your hoses and valves appear to be deteriorating, having a plumber swap them out for new ones is a good preventative measure. Prevention is always better than dealing with the extensive damage of an undetected water leak..
What to Do until the Plumber Gets There
Plumbing leaks are a common problem and can happen for a number of reasons including age, wear and tear, or lack of maintenance. Pipes and plumbing connections can develop a small leak and it may be some time before the problem is noticed, especially if it's happening in your basement or inside a wall.
As soon as you discover a leak in your home, it’s important to take steps to minimize the damage. Ignoring even a small leak can lead to expensive property damage.
If you discover a leak or broken pipe in your home, having it professionally repaired as soon as possible is always the best way to mitigate the damage to your home. However, until the plumber gets there, there are things you can do to mitigate the damage.
Turn Off the Water Supply
Before an emergency happens, make sure you know where the water shutoff valve to each appliance or fixture is located. Any plumbing valve that does not get used for a long time will likely be hard to turn.
It might seem obvious, but step one when you discover a leak is to turn off the water source. If a toilet or sink starts leaking, you can probably just turn the water off to the fixture and clean up the water until a permanent repair can be made.
A broken pipe is a bigger emergency and you will need to turn off the main water shutoff valve to your home in order to minimize the damage. Gallons of water could be gushing into your home every minute you delay, so turning off the water main is your first priority.
To ensure shut-off valves work as intended, you should get in the habit of testing every single one of them at least annually. Check that they are working properly by turning them off and back on again. If they do not move or if they start leaking, call a plumber and have the valve replaced.
Minimize Water Damage
Once you’ve stopped the flow of water, mop up the water and clear any belongings out of the area. Depending upon the amount of water, you may be able to use a few old towels or you may need a shop vac.
If a lot of water has accumulated, be careful about cleaning it up - electricity should never be mixed with water! Only a shop vac designed to handle water should be used to vacuum up water.
If a pipe is broken, a DIY repair is unlikely to be a permanent fix. In almost all cases, it’s best to replace the area of damaged pipe. This is a big job which the average homeowner is unlikely to successfully tackle.
Unless you are experienced with cutting and soldering plumbing pipe and have the right supplies and tools on hand, it’s best to leave permanent repairs to an experienced plumber.
Small leaks or cracks in pipes can be temporarily repaired using duct tape until a professional repair can be made. There are also silicone tapes available at home improvement stores that are designed specifically for emergency repairs of pipes and hoses. Silicone tape provides a waterproof seal when applied correctly to a leaky pipe.
Call for Emergency Plumbing Service
Even a small leak can turn into a catastrophe if it's not handled properly. That’s why Simply Green Plumbing, Sewer & Rooter offers emergency plumbing services at no extra cost.
Our Los Gatos technicians have over 30 years of plumbing experience and they are ready to help you with all of your plumbing problems no matter how big or small.