Marie-Claude Dulac

By Marie-Claude Dulac

March 20, 2015

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11 Useful Tips for Preventing Water Damage

Article revised on 19 June 2017

According to the Insurance Bureau of Quebec, water damage is the reason for half of home insurance claims filed in Quebec. It tops the list of causes of losses, well ahead of fire and theft. Among the culprits: plumbing problems. Did you know that several plumbing problems can be prevented by taking a few simple steps?

Here are 11 things that you can do to avoid ending up… in hot water!

  1. Never leave home when household appliances that use water are on.

    Only use the washing machine or dishwasher when you are at home. In the event of a problem, you’ll be able to react quickly. Get into the habit of checking your pipes every year. If you see any signs of weakness, have your pipes replaced as soon as possible.

  2. A proper seal is essential!

    Check the joint sealings around your showers, bathtubs and sinks often. If you see signs of change, reapply sealant.

  3. Replace your water heater every 10 to 12 years.

    A water heater lasts 10 years on average. A few telltale signs to watch for: rusty water running from faucets and seepage or leakage from the water heater. A water heater should be installed in a recovery plate connected to a floor drain to allow water to drain in the event of leakage. Also make sure that the appliance is installed in compliance with the manufacturer’s requirements. If you don’t, the manufacturer may waiver liability in the event of a defect.

  4. Leak detectors help limit damage.

    You can have leak detectors installed on your household appliances that use water. The principle is quite simple. Small sensors are set up where water damage is more likely to occur. As soon as they detect water leakage, a warning is issued to stop the leakage. Depending on the model, detectors can issue an audio alarm, send an email or a text message (SMS), or shut off the main water supply automatically. Other devices are linked to a central monitoring station that contacts the home owner or any other designated person if a leak is detected.

  5. In winter, take extra precautions.

    To prevent pipes from freezing or bursting, heat your home well. It is also wise to slightly heat garages attached to a house if they are equipped with indoor or outdoor plumbing fixtures. Lastly, in case of a prolonged breakdown in heating during a period of intense cold, experts recommend letting water trickle out of a faucet. Water freezes more slowly when left running in pipes.

  6. Leaving home for a long period during the cold season? Prepare your home!

    Will you be away several weeks? Shut off the water supply and drain pipes to prevent freezing. You may lower the home temperature to save money, but make sure to maintain sufficient heating to prevent freezing. Pour plumbing antifreeze down toilet bowls, sinks, bathtubs and showers as well as on the bottom of the dishwasher and washing machine. Ask a friend or neighbour to check in on your home once in a while to make sure everything is under control.

  7. Shut off outdoor faucets… before water gets inside.

    Before winter sets in, make sure outdoor faucets are secure. If your home was built recently, it probably has frost-free faucets. If not, older faucets will need to be drained. There are three steps involved. First, turn off the shut-off valve inside the house, turn on the outdoor faucets until the water has completely drained, then turn off the faucets and cover them.

  8. Turn off the main water supply valve to limit damage.

    When there is a plumbing problem, the first thing to do is to shut off the water supply by turning off the main water supply valve. Make sure you know where it is located. The better prepared you are, the better you’ll be able to limit damage to your home.

  9. Galvanized steel pipes? Beware!

    If built prior to the 1950s, your home may be plumbed with a galvanized steel system. This type of system is likely to rust and result in slower water flow and pipe freezing and bursting. It might be time to invest in your peace of mind and consider replacing your plumbing fixtures.

  10. Keep sinks, traps and sanitary appliances in good working condition.

    Keep a strainer (round metal mesh basket) in shower, bathtub and sink drains to prevent hair or any other debris from clogging the pipes. Too late? Pour some baking soda into a clogged drain and wash it down with at least 500 ml of hot vinegar. Use a plunger to unclog the drain until water flows freely again. You can also use products specifically intended for this purpose.

  11. Keep your ears open!

    Any strange noise from your home plumbing fixtures must be taken seriously. For instance, “water hammers” are knocking sounds that appear to come from the walls when turning off a faucet or flushing a toilet. This problem can be corrected by a plumber.

Remember that not all types of water damage are covered by your home insurance. In addition, the benefit paid in the event of a covered loss is limited to the amount specified in your contract. Contact your insurance representative to make sure that the coverage you have chosen is sufficient to meet your needs.

But please remember: in case of a problem, it’s important to act promptly. If you’re not sure what to do, seek advice from a professional plumber!

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