Question: I recently purchased my first home and have concerns about the cost of maintenance. What is the most important preventative step for me to take?
Answer: While water is a necessity of life, it is also a cause of major destruction to a house. It is imperative to keep an eye out for small warning signs, like stains on the ceilings or leaks under a sink, which can lead to real problems.
Water damage can occur in your home in a number of different ways and the truth is, most of them are entirely preventable. The bathroom and kitchen are particularly at risk since there is a large amount of water that passes through these rooms every day. More than likely you had an inspection when you purchased your home. Read the inspection report and see if there were any recommendations made for plumbing repairs. If so, you should do them right away.
The bathroom is a top priority. Make sure that the grout and calking around the floor is completely sealed. If water does get through the floor and, you sell your home in the future, more than likely you will have to pay to have the joists and subflooring replaced. Also, make sure that the grout around the tub and shower stall is not cracked. Steam from the bath or shower floats upward and has nowhere to go, so it becomes absorbed by the drywall. Eventually, the tape that hides the seams of the drywall will start to lose its adhesive properties and begin to detach itself from the walls. The drywall starts to crack after this happens. Have an exhaust vent installed in the bathroom, especially if the room does not have a window. Check under the sink for leaks from water supply lines or drainpipes. Toilet clogs can result from too much toilet paper or objects such as hanging bowl deodorants. Also, some chlorine tablet cleaners may corrode internal plastic or rubber parts, leading to a leak.
In the kitchen, periodically check for leaks under the sink where the hose connects to the water supply. Look for evidence of leaks on the floor, such as discolored, warped, or soft flooring materials, or water damage to nearby cabinets. If your refrigerator has an icemaker, make sure the hose connection is securely attached to the water supply line. Replace deteriorated caulk around sinks, and check the pipes under the sink for leaks. A slow-draining pipe may indicate a partially blocked drain that needs cleaning.
In addition to plumbing leaks, another important way to prevent water damage is to check all household appliances. The hoses on any appliance that features them should always be inspected. They should always be maintained and kept in tiptop shape. Any hose that shows signs of wear and tear should be repaired or replaced immediately. Hoses should also be firmly attached to the connectors to prevent leaks. Make sure that the drainages and filters are clear and free from debris. They can easily cause water damage if they are not able to drain properly and completely. Once an appliance takes noticeably longer to drain, then it is a sign that the drain or filter is clogged and needs to be changed. It is not normal for any household appliance to leak or cause moisture to form in its surrounding area. If it does any of these, it might be time to bring it in for repair or to shop around for a new replacement.
All doors and windows should be properly installed in a home. If they are letting too much air or rain in even when they are closed, then they need to be removed and reinstalled. Ensure that all seals are closed tight so that water is not able to seep through them.
It’s important also to water proof your home’s exterior. Many homeowners underestimate the value of rain gutters. Without them, water can enter through the windows and do damage to walls, sometimes resulting in mold. Always make sure the gutters are clear of dirt and debris. Water should be able to drain from the roof without any obstructions. The gutter downspouts should be placed away from the house, thereby carrying away water from the foundation. Even without gutters, slopes should always force water to flow away from the perimeter of the house. Repairing cracks, even if there isn’t any structural danger, will prevent other foundation damage caused by water infiltration. Conduct a periodic inspection of the roof to replace anything that has cracked and cover anything that has opened up. Check your attic around flues, plumbing vents, and chimneys for roof leaks, especially if you’ve noticed water stains on the ceiling.
A good option is to invest in an inexpensive water alarm that gives off a warning sound when it senses moisture. These are very effective when placed in an area with high water damage risk such as under sinks or in the bathroom. Some water alarms can be connected directly to household appliances. Once it senses that the appliance is producing more water than it is supposed to, the water alarm immediately shuts off the appliance’s water supply. A similar alarm that shuts off the main water supply can also be used for the entire house.
Simple skills and helpful habits will help keep your home in good shape.