7 Key Tips to Protect Your Home from Costly Water Damage
Smart Leak Sensor Kit, Hedge App, 24/7 Issue Escalations, Water Damage Prevention, Home Protection & Security, Home Maintenance, Home Tips
Published: September 22, 2021
Water damage is among the most common and expensive types of insurance claims, which may come as no surprise: water flows throughout every area of your home, and your bathrooms, kitchen, basement, and laundry room are most susceptible to damage. To complicate matters, water damage can start small — a dripping sink here, a leaky pipe there — but can quickly become much more serious over time.
So how do you protect your home and belongings from water damage? The best approach is a defensive one: taking proactive steps to prevent water-related issues from happening in the first place. Here are seven tips to get started.
Outside the home . . .
#1: Inspect your roof
Your roof is fortified to protect you, your family, and your belongings from the elements. But even in the absence of extreme weather, like thunderstorms and floods, normal wear and tear can lead to cracked, damaged, or missing shingles. This can leave your home susceptible to a wide variety of water-related problems — the worst of which can actually compromise your home's structural integrity.
In the roofing industry, the standard rule of thumb is to have your roof inspected twice a year — once in the spring and once in the fall, before entering the more extreme weather conditions of summer and winter. It's also a good idea to have your roof inspected after any major weather events (think severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, or heavy hail) that could have potentially damaged your roof.
We don't recommend climbing onto your roof to inspect it yourself — it can be dangerous to work on your roof without proper training, and conducting a quality inspection is more intensive than you might expect. Instead, consider these recommendations to take a proactive (yet safe!) approach to caring for your roof:
- Know when your roof was originally installed (the average lifespan of a roof is roughly 30 years, although this depends on your roof type plus a number of environmental factors)
- Know when your roof was last inspected (again, the roofing industry recommends twice-yearly inspections)
- If it's been awhile, aim to have your roof inspected more regularly — especially as it reaches the end of its lifespan
- Following a major weather event, consider whether you should have your roof inspected (to help with your consideration, take a look at other homes in your area and ask your neighbors if they've experienced roof damage)
- Look out for water spots on your ceilings or walls (especially in the attic) that could indicate a water leak through the roof
- Use binoculars to check from the ground for damaged or missing shingles, mold, or rust on your roof (while this shouldn't be a stand-in for a full-fledged inspection, it can be an effective way to check that your roof is in good condition in between professional visits)
#2: Clear your gutters and downspouts
If you've hired a professional to take a look at your roof, ask that they also inspect your gutters and downspouts. Leaves, sticks, and other debris like shingle pieces can collect in your gutters and downspouts, preventing proper water flow and causing water to build up and potentially cause leaks.
Not due for a roof inspection? Checking that your gutters and downspouts are clear of debris is something some homeowners feel comfortable doing themselves. If you're up for the job, wear the right attire (long sleeves and gloves!), make sure you have a good, extendable ladder set on a flat, sturdy surface, and use a small scoop to remove debris (pro tip: set up a tarp beneath your workspace to collect all the gunk you remove from the gutters).
To clear your downspouts, remove the extension to expose the bottom opening and insert a garden trowel to dig out debris. Rinse the downspout from the top opening (after you've unclogged your gutters); if the water flows out the bottom, carrying all remaining debris with it, you're good to go! Last step — make sure your downspouts are funneled away from your home, so that water doesn't pool around the base of your home (if that happens, there's potential for it to seep in!).
#3: Check the grade (or level) of your yard nearest to your house
Does the area of your lawn closest to your home slope directly toward it, causing water to pool near the base of your home and potentially seep inside? If so, it might be time to consider regrading the lawn directly next to your home. Proper grading near the base of your home will allow water to drain away from your home's foundation rather than toward it, helping you avoid potential water damage.
#4: Seal your windows and doors
If your windows and doors are old and seem to be a frequent source of water leaks, it might be time to have them replaced. However, if they're newer and in relatively good shape, a little bit of caulk should help to seal out future drips.
Some homeowners prefer to leave resealing windows and doors up to a professional; but if you're more of a DIY-er, be sure to choose a 100% silicone caulk (which is more long-lasting and effective than acrylic alternatives), thoroughly clean the area before applying the caulk, and use a smoothing tool post-application to spread it evenly.
(Pro tip: Caulking isn't just for your home's exterior; inspect your bathrooms and kitchen and reseal any cracked or missing caulking around your sinks, toilets, showers, and bathtubs.)
Inside the home . . .
#5: Know the location of your water shut-off valve
What's worse than having a pipe burst in your home? Having a pipe burst and not knowing where the main water shut-off valve is. Make sure you and every member of your family can quickly locate the shut-off valve (if you have a basement, you'll typically find it there, near the hot water heater or furnace; if you don't have a basement, you'll typically find it in the garage, utility area, laundry room, or an interior closet), and show family members how to turn the valve clockwise to cut off the water supply in an emergency situation.
(Another pro tip? Turn the water off if you're going to be away from home for an extended period of time, just in case.)
#6: Regularly check your home's appliances
The four areas of your home most susceptible to water damage — your bathrooms, kitchen, basement, and laundry room — earn the distinction in large part because they house your home's major appliances. Old or faulty toilets, dishwashers, refrigerators, washing machines, and hot water heaters can leak or overflow for any number of reasons.
To protect these areas from water damage, regularly check for signs of leaks — like discoloration on nearby walls and floors. Another great option? Set up a water leak sensor near your major appliances (more on that below . . . )
#7: Set up water leak sensors in strategic locations
Water detection devices like the Leak Sensor from Hedge are an easy, inexpensive way to protect your home and belongings from water damage. They can help you catch water early — before it has the chance to damage your home and belongings.
These devices typically emit a beeping noise when they come into contact with small amounts of water accumulation. Hedge's Leak Sensor does this while also sending an instant alert notification via the Hedge App on your phone, and activating the 24/7 issue escalation pipeline: a series of additional notifications, texts, and calls made to you and other users on your Hedge account, followed by your emergency contact.
So — where to place your leak sensors? Consider again those four areas of your home most at-risk of water damage: your bathrooms, kitchen, basement, and laundry room. Here are our top placement recommendations for each space:
In your bathroom, place your Leak Sensor . . .
- Near your shower or tub
- Near your toilet
- Near or under your sink
In your kitchen, place your Leak Sensor . . .
- Under your refrigerator (if it has a water supply line)
- Under your dishwasher
- Near or under your sink
In your basement (if you have one), place your Leak Sensor . . .
- Near your hot water heater
- Near your sump pump
- Near small cracks and holes where water can infiltrate, or any "low points" where water can accumulate
In your laundry room or utilities area, place your Leak Sensor . . .
- Under your washing machine
- Near or under your sink
- Near your hot water heater (for people without basements, these are typically located in the garage, utility area, laundry room, or an interior closet)
(Pro tip: If you've already purchased Hedge's Prevent Package or Protect Package, check out our easy setup guide for tips to get started with your Leak Sensors!)
Start with these tips to tackle some of the most common sources of water damage.