Living in Southwestern Florida (Collier & Lee County), we are no strangers to water. While we love the beaches and the pools that cool us off on a hot day, water is not always a good thing, especially for our homes. Water damage is the second most common cause of home insurance claims in the United States and the most common home insurance claim in the state of Florida.
As the percentage of most home insurance claims have been static or decreasing, the percentage of water claims are increasing! It is important to understand how to actively take steps to prevent water damage from occurring in your home as well as steps you can take to help mitigate the damage if it does.
Our goal at Halo Home Watch is to introduce you to different types of water damage, where your home is most vulnerable, and some critical steps you should take to protect it.
There are several different types of water damage that can occur in our homes and it is important to understand how these different types can arise and their effect on our homes.
Clean Water Damage – The most common type of water in our homes, this water is uncontaminated and originates from a pipe or rain.
Grey Water Damage – This is water that is contaminated with soaps or chemicals, typically originating from appliances.
Black Water Damage – Water polluted with hazardous materials, such as sewer waste. This type of water damage commonly occurs from sewer pipe leaks. It is the most dangerous type of water damage as it often contains harmful bacteria.
Different areas of the country are more susceptible to different types of water damage than others, for example in Southwest Florida one of the most common types of water damage arises from the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Condition) system. Due to the tropical climate we face, the HVAC is running almost constantly throughout the year putting our HVAC units under a lot of stress. Summers are known to exacerbate these issues further as the daily averages of humidity often reach above 85%, burdening the unit further.
It is vital that these units are well maintained throughout the year to prevent future problems that can arise. HVAC units should be checked annually at minimum though many service professionals recommend semi-annual checks, including a proper inspection. This check should take place right before the summer.
When HVAC units are leaking it is most often the condensate drain line. If these become clogged the unit will either shut off completely, creating fertile conditions for mold, or begin to overflow.
If you are away for a more than a week you should have your home watch service professional inspect this every time they perform a home check. However, this can be very difficult or impossible depending on where the unit is located. Many air handler units in Naples and in Marco Island are in the attic and are not as easily accessible to be inspected. The reason air handler units are often put in the attic is to prevent issues with flooding due to many homes in Southwest Florida being built in flood zones or at low elevation.
You and your HVAC professional should have a plan in place to take care of your HVAC system. Other items to consider are the refrigerant levels and the status of your condensate pump, drain pan, and air filter. These should be examined by your HVAC professional during your routine maintenance check.
Another area that can be an easy point of entry for water into your home is your roof. We recommend biannual roof checks as well as an additional check after any large storm by a professional, licensed, and reputable company.
Remember a damaged roof is an easy entry point for unwanted water, and one that often goes unnoticed.
Gutters can be a major vulnerability for your home if not handled correctly. The three most important aspects to gutters are the material quality, their installation, and their ongoing maintenance. The material is very important and can add decades onto the life of your gutters. However, improperly installed gutters can cause water damage, as well as foundation damage. Therefore, if possible, seamless gutters hung with internal hangers are preferable. Another option for those who would like to make gutter cleaning easier is gutter covers/gutter guards. While these do not prevent all debris from entering the gutter, they can reduce the needed frequency for cleaning.
Gutters should be cleaned at least bi-annually, with environmental factors (e.g. pine trees) determining the increased frequency. Further, routine maintenance and cleaning are important to gutter longevity besides preventing water damage to your home. Gutters that are installed and maintained properly should last up to fifty years.
Home appliances such as washing machines and refrigerators can be some of the main causes of clean and grey water damage in your home. The main issue with washing machines is their hoses. This is because most people choose reinforced rubber hoses and these hoses are the most likely to burst or leak and not suited for indoor use. Therefore, the hose you choose is very important to prevent water damage.
Stainless steel braided hoses are the minimum quality hose homeowners with indoor washing machines should be looking for. The hoses are braided steel on the outside with a rubber hose inside and include a burst-resistant mechanism. Though these steel braided hoses are more expensive than their rubber hose counterparts they are worth the added cost.
An even better solution are auto-shutoff hoses which are stainless steel braided hoses that have a shut-off mechanism as an additional layer of precaution. The connector in these hoses can identify a change in water pressure and will stop the flow of water, these hoses can be the difference between a flooded home and a puddle on the laundry room floor.
However, regardless of the hose you choose it should be thoroughly inspected bi-annually and replaced every three to five years.
Refrigerators are especially important as they are the only major appliance left on when a homeowner is gone for an extended amount of time. This means that refrigerators can be a major source of water damage. Water damage from refrigerators is typically clean water damage but can lead to mold.
It is recommended that you turn off your ice maker before you leave for the season or vacation, as melting ice due to power surges can cause water damage to your home. A great technique to tell if a power surge occurs is to put a bowl of ice in your freezer and check its form after every home watch visit or upon your return.
Another simple way water can get into your home is through windows and doors. These easy-access points are often not thought about. Because of this, homeowners should periodically inspect every door and window on their property for various forms of damage. If using a home watch company, ensure they are doing this for you during every home watch visit.
Doors should be checked for cracks, as well as checking the weather stripping for peeling and gaps. The door itself should swing easily with the hinges being tight and the door fitting securely in the threshold.
Windows should be checked for cracks in the panes, as well as making sure the seal around the window is functioning and of good quality. If need be, tighten casement window cranks and be sure to lock all windows and doors when you’re done with their routine maintenance.
Finally, the easiest way to prevent water damage is to be cognizant of the happenings in your home whenever you are away for a week or more. Here are some of the simple but impactful things we recommend based on our experience at Halo Home Watch:
1. Watch your water bill – If your bill has increased drastically from one month to another and you’ve been away from home, something is using the water! The sudden increase in water usage may be a sign that there is a leak in your home, and it needs to be taken care of as soon as possible.
2. Know where your water shut-off valve is – If you’re going on vacation or gone for the season, turn it off and put a lock on it. However, if you are gone for more than a week or so at a time, make sure to have your Home Watch Professional run your water, turn it off when they leave, lock it up, and take a picture of the valve for your peace of mind. We recommend this being done at least once every other week.
3. Invest in a water leak detector – Water leak detectors are extremely beneficial if you live in a home with older pipes, or just want to keep an eye on your home while you’re away. Electronic water leak detectors work by identifying the sounds coming from leaking pipes and alerting you when they sense these noises. These detectors can find leaks in water systems, toilets, drains, and much more. The quicker you know of the leak, the easier it is to fix!
4. Invest in an automatic shutoff valve – Much like a water leak detector, automatic shutoff valves are used to monitor the water coming into your home. However, automatic shutoff valves do this through pressure instead of acoustics. This valve monitors the pressure of your plumbing system and cuts the water off when it detects a pressure imbalance. These valves save many homes from water damage each year and may even get you a discount on your home insurance!
Whether you are a full-time resident or seasonal, keeping a well-maintained home is key to your investment. We have had the opportunity to discuss several different types of water damage, several of the most common ways issues can arise, and steps you can take to prevent or mitigate that damage to protect your home. If you need a home watch company or concierge services in Naples, Marco Island, Bonita Springs, or Estero Florida, contact us at Halo Home Watch!
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