Protecting your home from water damage

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The first signs of water damage might seem trivial. But warnings like water stains on the ceilings or a leak under the kitchen sink can lead to real problems, like a weakened roof or rotten floorboards. A burst pipe can even damage your furniture and other personal possessions. Why take a chance? Learn where your home is most likely to suffer water damage, and what you can do to help prevent it.

Inside your home


  • Dishwasher – Periodically check for leaks under the sink where the hose connects to the water supply. Look around the base of the dishwasher for evidence of leaks, such as discolored, warped, or soft flooring materials, or water damage to nearby cabinets.
  • Refrigerator – If your refrigerator has an icemaker, make sure the hose connection is securely attached to the water supply line. Also, a wet spot on the floor may be a sign of a crimped icemaker line about to burst.
  • Sink – Replace deteriorated caulk around sinks, and check the pipes under the sink for leaks. A slow-draining pipe may indicate a partially blocked drain that needs cleaning.


  • Showers and bathtubs – Remove and replace deteriorated or cracked caulk and grout. Water can leak through these damaged sealants, causing stains or soft areas around nearby walls and floors.
  • Sinks – Check under the sink for leaks from water supply lines or drainpipes.
  • Toilets – Clogs can result from too much toilet paper or objects such as hanging bowl deodorants. Also, some chlorine tablet cleaners may corrode internal plastic or rubber parts, leading to a leak.

Basement, Laundry or Utility room

  • Washing machine – Check hoses regularly for bulging, cracking, fraying, and leaks around hose ends. Replace the hose if a problem is found or every three to five years as part of a proactive maintenance program. To help make sure the hose doesn’t kink, leave at least four inches (or 11 centimeters) between the water connection and the back of the washing machine.
  • Water heater – Most water heaters last eight to 15 years. Wet spots on the floor or a rusted tank may signal a leak. Water heaters should be installed on the lowest level of the home, next to a floor drain, or inside a drain pan piped to the floor drain.
  • Sump pump – Battery-operated back-up sump pumps can help protect against power failure or failure of the primary pump. Test the sump pump before the start of each wet season. Sump pumps are not intended to last more than 10 years and must have some components replaced or serviced within those 10 years.

Since water may still come through an overflowing drain or cracks in the foundation walls, make sure items stored in the basement are kept off the floor. Furniture should be on casters or shims and arranged away from floor drains.
Stopping leaks at the source

  • Check for hidden leaks. First, turn off faucets and all water-using appliances, and don’t flush toilets for one hour. Then, record the water meter reading. If the flow indicator (triangular or diamond-shaped rotating button) is spinning or the meter reading has changed while no water is being used, a leaking pipe may exist.
  • Make sure everyone in your household knows where the water shutoff valve is and how to open and close it. Check it frequently for problems, and shut off the water if you will be away from your home for several days or longer.

Outside Your Home


  • Keep the roof free from leaves, twigs, and other litter to allow for proper drainage.
  • Make sure air can flow freely through all soffit and roof vents. This will reduce the buildup of heat and moisture and help extend the life of the roof.
  • Consult a professional on using a preservative or cleaner (depending on the type of roof you have) to help limit the weathering effects of moisture and retard growth of molds and mosses.
  • Keep trees trimmed to prevent them from rubbing against the roof or providing excessive shade.
  • Replace missing, curling, cupping, broken, or cracked shingles.
  • Watch for damage in valley areas of the roof, and around the flashing at chimneys, vents, and other junctions.
  • Check your attic around flues, plumbing vents, and chimneys for roof leaks, especially if you’ve noticed water stains on the ceiling.

From the gutters to the ground

  • Clean debris from your gutters and downspouts, and inspect them regularly. Think about installing gutter shields if your gutters frequently fill with debris.
  • Place splash blocks at the end of downspouts to carry water away from the foundation, or add an extra length of downspout if necessary.
  • Every spring, have the air conditioning (A/C) system serviced by a qualified contractor. Make sure their service includes inspecting and cleaning the A/C condensation pan drain line. Change the air filters on a regular basis.
  • Before winter starts, disconnect garden hoses from all spigots and turn off each spigot’s water supply.
  • Replace any damaged caulk around windows or doors.
  • Repaint wood siding as needed.
  • Fill in any low spots next to the house to help water drain away from the foundation.

Hardware that can help

Even after taking the preventions we’ve discussed here, check frequently around the house for signs of leaks. It’s important to find them before they cause serious damage. Of course, it’s impossible to keep watch for signs of trouble 24 hours a day. Fortunately there are water leak detection systems that can help.

Water alarms

  • These systems are usually battery-operated, stand-alone units. The moisture sensor on the device will sound an alarm when it senses moisture.
  • Water alarms are inexpensive and easy to install. They can be placed on the floor or mounted on a wall. They should be located in high-risk areas such as under sinks and near appliances and equipment that use water.
  • This device can help only if someone is inside the home, hears the alarm, and takes action.

Individual appliance systems

  • These systems are installed on a specific appliance and will automatically shut off the water supply in case of a leak.
  • Depending on the type of device, you may be able to install this system without any special tools. However, in some cases, a qualified plumber may be needed.

Whole-house systems

  • These systems feature a shut-off valve that is installed on the main water supply pipe. When a leak is detected, the system will automatically shut off the entire water supply.
  • If you travel often, this type of system could help you rest assured while you are away from home.
  • Whole-house systems typically take between four and six hours to install and a qualified plumber is normally required. For a product list, visit®..

Put a stop to the drip, drop

Be sure to consider the basic steps outlined here, and file this sheet away for future reference. Just by keeping an eye out for problems, you could save your possessions from damage, spare yourself costly repairs, and even keep your insurance premiums low.

For more information on how to prevent water damage and improve home safety, please contact your State Farm® agent.

The information was obtained from various sources. We believe it to be reliable and accurate, however, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information contained herein. We do not endorse, recommend, or guaranty any products. The information provided is not intended to replace any manuals or other instructions provided by the manufacturer. Further, State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of information contained herein. The information contained herein does not affect any policy contract. We assume no liability in connection with either the information contained in this material or the loss control suggestions made. Moreover, we caution that not every acceptable loss control procedure is contained in this material. When appropriate, you should consult a licensed qualified professional to perform various loss control measures.

* Information above was gathered from

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