It is the middle of the night. Suddenly, you hear something that sounds like a waterfall. You leave your bedroom and walk out into the kitchen. Your feet start going “squish”. Water flows over your foot. You look up. The ceiling has turned into a waterfall and your home is flooding.
Water leaking into your home can result from several different factors:
- Roof leak
- Failed Caulking
- Failing Facade
- Water Heaters
- Pipes (leaking or breaking)
- Toilets/Sinks (overflowing, clogged, failure)
Many homeowners are unable to control the exterior maintenance of their unit or home if you live in an apartment, condominium, co-op, or some homeowner’s associations (other than contact your property manager or volunteering to serve on your community’s Board of Directors). Today, we are going to focus on what you can do to prevent leaks on the interior of your home.
Top 13 Key Tips for Preventing Water Leaks
1. Water Bugs. No, we aren’t talking about the American Cock Roaches that can also be known as a water bug, as they usually follow cracked water pipes and appear near water sources. Here we are talking about water sensors that will send an alarm if they detect any source of water. You can easily install these “bugs” in a drip pan under your water heater, heater, or air conditioning system. They can also be placed next to toilets or under a sink. When you hear their shriek, you know that they are sensing moisture and action is required. Smart water bugs will also communicate to your smart phone or electronical device of your choice to let you know that a problem is occurring.
2. Drip Pans. Drip pans can help catch drips which lead to floods. The pan can be installed under water heaters, heating, and air conditioning units that sit near ground level. The pans should be inspected to ensure that they are in good condition. A rusted pan can still allow water to penetrate through and under the pan. These pans should be inspected semi-annually with any filter changes or changing of batteries in your smoke detectors.
3. Toilet Flappers. Toilets aren’t meant to run! If the toilet is constantly running, it is wasting water and energy. Running toilets often become clogged and overflow. If your toilet is running, check the flapper to see if it needs to be reset, or have it replaced.
4. Non-Burstable Hoses for Washing Machines. Washing machines are often purchased or installed with rubber hoses. The hoses wear overtime, crack, or burst. All washing machines should have non-burstable hoses which are often made from a braided material.
5. Shut-off Valves. Do you have a shut-off valve next to each of your areas that has a plumbing hook-up? A shut-off valve should be installed under each sink, toilet, and near a washing machine. A shut-off valve to a specific area in your home will enable you to turn off that leaking (or flooding device). If you have shut-off valves already in place, remember that they should be exercised regularly. A shut-off valve is only good if it works, and a valve that is not exercised regularly may fail or lead to a greater catastrophe.
6. Turn Off Water When You Aren’t Home. If you are going to be way from your home for an extended period, turn off the shut-off valves. If water is not supplying a fixture or an appliance, and the fixture or appliance fails, then a leak cannot happen. It can also lead to a peace of mind while you are traveling knowing that a problem isn’t occurring at home.
7. Replace water heaters before their life expectancy expires. Depending on the manufacturer, a water heater may have a life expectancy of 7-12 years. They should be checked annually for any corrosion, damage, or leaking. Water heaters should have a drip pan installed with water bugs in the drip pan. But it is important to plan ahead. A water heater might hold 30-40 gallons of water which will create a small flood for you (and potentially neighbors around and below you) when it breaks. Want a variation that can help save energy? Try going tank-less.
8. Repair Leaks when they occur. Do you see water damage to a ceiling tile, drywall, or paint? This leak will not disappear on its own. It is best to find the source of the water before it gets even bigger. If a pipe is leaking that has been repaired before, it may be time to ask your plumber to replace an entire section of the pipe (or the whole pipe itself).
9. Don’t leave running water unattended. You start to fill the sink to wash the dishes, or the bath to take a tub. The phone rings. The team on television is scoring. Something distracts you, and poof. You forget. Before you know it, your neighbor below is knocking on your door, and you are wondering why your feet are starting to feel wet. Before you leave running water unattended, be sure to turn it off.
10. Caulk is your friend. You are sitting in your nicely filled tub with bubble bath poured. You open a bottle of wine, light a candle or two, and start to read your book. A knock occurs at the door. You put on your robe and answer the door. Your neighbor says that water is coming down into their bathroom. You walk your neighbor into your bathroom to see that your tub is not overflowing. You go down to their unit to see the drip occurring. Old or cracking caulk is the culprit. Once you start to see the caulk wearing, remove it, and have it replaced. Be sure to caulk or seal around tub spouts and handles, too.
11. Don’t run appliances when you aren’t home. Many leaks can easily be resolved and fixed, such as an overflowing dishwasher or washing machine, if you are at home when it occurs. You see suds coming out from the dishwasher, so you turn off the dishwasher. The washing machine sounds weird or off balance, and you turn it off. Imagine if you were gone for hours and the water just continued to pour. What was a nuisance is now tens of thousands of dollars in damage. Prevent these water leaks by only using appliances when you are home.
12. The sink and toilet aren’t your trash can. Two things can be flushed: human waste and toilet paper. Likewise, many items are not intended to be poured down the drain. Grease is a big culprit that lines pipes creating a buildup, which eventually results in a backup. Place trash in the trash to avoid clogs, floods, and damage to your pipes.
13. Perform Regular Inspections. Inspect appliances, plumbing fixtures, water heaters, heating, and air conditioning units at least on an annual, if not semi-annual basis. This is the perfect time to change filters and/or replace your smoke detector batteries, too. Check for any sign of condensation, drips, leaking, or corrosion. Contact a local service provider for repairs or replacement as needed.
Summary: As a homeowner, interior maintenance to appliance and many plumbing fixtures is your responsibility for maintenance, repair, and replacement. Some items can easily be adjusted by paying attention (don’t leave the water running), but routine maintenance and inspections can save you tens of thousands of dollars.
Where items are the responsibility of the apartment owner or the homeowner’s association: hold them accountable. Make sure that routine inspections are occurring to the common elements including roof, façade, windows, and caulking. And, ask them for help. If you are away, they may have a leak check service, where they come into and check your unit, to provide peace of mind for you during your travels.
At Bricck Property Management, we pride ourselves in our ability to respond quickly and efficiently to emergencies. We train our team members and Association employees and have an extensive list of preferred vendors who will respond quickly to emergencies. Let us help you today, by requesting a proposal for hourly consultation, staffing, or property management services.