With the devastation of tornadoes, hurricanes and floods sweeping through the United States the past few years, we are all reminded of the need to be prepared for disasters. October is Disaster Preparedness Month, so there is no better time to get ready.
Disasters aren’t limited to hurricanes and tornadoes, however. They can occur in our own homes, from something as simple as a leaking water pipe. Fortunately for us, the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” really rings true. Prevention can help us dodge the financial, physical and emotional stress involved with water damage.
Most water disasters are controllable and easily preventable. They most commonly occur in the following places:
• Old supply hoses for washing machines and dishwashers that burst due to old age
• Water supply tubing to ice makers that split, causing small leaks that may go unnoticed for some time, allowing the water to soak into the walls below
• Frozen pipes that leak when they thaw
• Water heaters that begin to leak due to old age and corrosion
• Improper or deteriorated caulking around tubs and showers that allows water to seep into the floor below
• Air conditioner drain lines that become plugged and develop a slow leak that soaks into the floor or wall before it is found
Paul Heckman of Lynchburg’s Servpro, a fire and water cleaning and restoration company, says that by taking a few proactive steps like turning the water off and having a neighbor walk through your home while you’re on vacation can also save you from a major water disaster. He shares a few other preventive suggestions:
Replace old water heaters. On average, water heaters last 10 to 12 years. Don’t wait for them to fail; replace your tank once a decade. Today’s energy-efficient systems will also be cheaper to operate.
Replace standard rubber or plastic hoses with stainless steel-braided or mesh hoses for your washing machine. At a minimum, inspect hoses for kinks, cracks or bulges, and replace damaged hoses immediately.
Don’t leave dishwashers and washing machines running if you leave the house. If something breaks while you’re away, what could have been a small mop-up job often turns into a thousand-gallon mess requiring a professional.
Not surprisingly, the two most common culprits of water damage are the dishwasher and the ice maker. “Many times people don’t notice it right away, especially if they have hardwood flooring in the kitchen, because it seeps between boards and doesn’t appear wet,” says Dan Taylor of Lynchburg’s Kidd’s Cleaning and Restoration Services. The ice maker connector can eventually go bad and leak, and the dishwasher water supply line can also wear out. A great way to prevent this is to purchase leakproof connectors. Taylor says that these preventive measures are well worth the time and money.
Experts at Consolidated Construction Services, a local restoration company, say that in a water disaster, time is of the essence, and that homeowners should know where their main shut-off is located. The first thing they should do is turn off the main water supply to the house.
Water damage not only causes a financial burden, but it can pose a significant health and safety risk. One of the biggest concerns after water damage, according to Taylor at Kidd’s Cleaning and Restoration Services, is microbial (mold) growth. New building methods have created an environment in homes that can be more inviting to mold, according to Taylor.
“New home construction over the years has become so good at building a ‘tight’ house related to air containment that it can create a growth environment for mold—especially if indoor air is not exchanging frequently with outdoor air,” Taylor says. As a result, the state of Virginia began a program which regulates mold inspections beginning July 1.
Homeowners often mistakenly assume that the possibility of mold is eliminated if the floor is dry to the touch. However, mold is much more complicated than that. Cleaning and restoration companies can use state-of-the-art equipment to tackle this problem, including psychometric charts to plot moisture levels, thermal imaging to locate wet areas, and moisture meters to help guide them with a plan of action.
Electric shock is also a major concern. In the event of a water disaster, it’s important to turn off your electricity. Consolidated Construction Services says that this is another reason for homeowners to let the pros deal with damaged rooms containing standing water.
Before allowing a company to work on your home, it is vital to confirm that they are qualified and certified to deal with water losses and mold issues. Check references, ask friends, and confirm that the company you’ve chosen to help has the needed industry certifications.
While the chances of being hit by a tornado or hurricane may be low, the chances of having water damage in your home are very real—particularly if you don’t take steps to prevent it. Remember to inspect your hoses and drain pipes, replace items that are damaged and identify your main water shut-off valve and your main electricity disconnect to be prepared for an emergency. Finally, review your insurance information to know whom to call if disaster strikes. A professional water damage restoration company will work with your insurance agency to make sure that your water damage is properly corrected.