Preventing Water Damage

Preventing Water Damage

Water damage causes HOAs and individual homeowners many thousands of dollars each year in the United States. Not only are HOA boards faced with limited budgets, they are also faced with higher insurance deductibles that make addressing water claims more difficult. HOA boards must face the ramifications of filing insurance claims and how these claims can affect future premiums.

Water damage within HOAs can be caused by a multitude of events, everything from rain to frozen pipes bursting. However, no matter the cause, most water damage is expensive. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the average annual insurance water claim was $7,479 in 2013. Fortunately, regular inspections and preventive maintenance can help prevent water damage in many situations. The following guidelines can help identify potential problems and help avoid water damage altogether and should be communicated with the HOA membership.

Know the Water Supply

  • Water Shutoff Valves. Know where all the water shutoff valves are located throughout, especially the main water supply. In the event of a leak, this will enable you to quickly shut off water. The best time to locate all these shutoffs is before you have a leak. Consider shutting off your water supply if you will be away for an extended period of time, especially during the winter.

Maintaining Major Appliances

  • Water Heater. The average lifespan of a water heater is 7-10 years. Make sure there is a overflow pan under your water heater and, if you see water collecting, it is generally time to replace the water heater.
  • Appliance Water Hoses. Washing machines, dishwashers, icemakers, air conditioners and garbage disposals all use water to operate and all either have hoses or gaskets that can leak. Inspect these appliances for leaks and periodically replace hoses. Washing machine hoses are a large percentage of all water claims. It is a good idea to shut off the washing machine water supply before leaving for an extended period of time.
  • Sump Pumps. Sump pumps are located where water has a tendency to accumulate, such as basements and crawlspaces. Generally, sump pumps last around 10 years and it is important to keep them well maintained and tested regularly. Besides regular testing, the next most important thing to do is keep the areas around the sump pump clear of debris. In certain instances, when power outages are common, a battery backup is recommended to ensure proper operation.
  • Air Conditioner. Drain pans and pan drain lines need to be inspected annually for standing water and to make sure the drain lines are clear and flowing properly.
  • Basement. Periodically inspect foundation walls and floors for cracks that might allow water seepage, especially in older structures or an area with poor soil drainage.
  • Roof. Missing, worn or broken roofing materials may allow water to penetrate and deteriorate the roof structure. Inspect your roof periodically, especially after severe storms.
  • Roof Flashing. Flashing is located at the intersection of all roof and wall lines, as well as along chimneys and roof valleys. Flashings may separate from adjacent surfaces and allow water to leak inside.
  • Gutters/Downspouts. Clogged gutters can lead to water backup that can damage your exterior siding.
  • Grade of Property. Soil should be graded from the foundation so that water flows away from the house during rain storms.
  • Outdoor Hoses. Turn off exterior hose bibs during the winter or insulate to prevent frozen pipes.
  • Exterior Drains. Regularly remove all leaves and other debris from exterior patio, sidewalks, and driveway drains.

Water Detection Devices

Water detection devices can detect even small amounts of water. These systems can shut down appliances or be wired into an alarm system that will notify you in the event of a leak. Such alarm systems may allow for insurance discounts as well. There are a variety of water detection systems.

  • Leak Detection Systems. These systems cannot only detect leaks, but can be electronically tied to the shut-off valve on water lines. When one of these sensors is activated due to a leaking pipe or an appliance overflow, the shut-off valve closes and prevents additional water flow.
  • Water Flow Sensors. A broken water line or a frozen pipe could result in water flowing, sometimes unnoticed, for a long period of time. A flow sensor can be installed on the main water line. These sensors are programmed to allow continuous water flow based on your water needs during a given timeframe. If the flow of water exceeds this programmed amount of time, a valve will automatically close to stop the flow of water. These sensors can be programmed for varying times, depending on whether you are home or away for an extended period of time.


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