We don’t see it but our home is filled with pipes that bring water in and out of our property. A constant flow of water is needed for taking a shower in the bathroom, flushing the toilet, cleaning clothes in the washing machine and other essential household tasks. But this amount of water inside the home raises the possibility of water damage when one of those pipes break.
Severe storms and cyclones can cause flooding. These natural disasters are not only a threat to life but also to property. Properties in low-lying areas are especially vulnerable to flooding. When flood water comes into the home, it could damage the furniture, appliances and even the basement and the foundation of a property.
When you know how water damage can happen, you can take precautionary steps to avoid a leak or flood. You’ll be aware when water accumulates in an area where it shouldn’t be and enable to address the problem immediately.
Causes of water damage
Leaking pipes: Backed up drains and toilets can cause severe pressure in the pipe, which can cause it to burst or leak. Roots from shrubs or trees in the yard that pierce sewer lines can also cause pipes to burst or leak. Watch out for aging or rusty pipes as these are more likely to leak.
Faulty plumbing: It is impossible to detect some plumbing issues within the walls. However, they are commonly caused by hoses and pipe joints not being completely connected. Check under your sink periodically to identify any plumbing issue quickly.
Crawl space, basement and attic issues: These areas in a home are more prone to water damage. It is where piping and electrical wires within your home are located. If any of these areas collect moisture, mould and rot can occur. Have your home checked periodically to ensure there are no drippings or moisture.
Damaged home appliances: It is common for the pipes of aging home appliances to starting rusting and cracking and their hoses starting to weaken. Washing machines, refrigerators and dishwashers will naturally deteriorate, so keep an eye on them.
Heating, ventilating and air conditioning units (HVACs): Water damage can also be blamed on HVAC. Air conditioners especially need regular servicing and maintenance to prevent moisture build-up. Mould can grow inside the unit when moisture cools and interact with mould spores in the ducts.
Typhoons and other natural disasters: We have no control over natural disaster. The only way to minimise the damage to our home is take all the necessary preventative measures.
The effect of water damage in your property
The effects of water damage can either be felt or seen within minutes or it can take a few days or weeks. Here are the health and safety hazards that water damage can cause to a property and to the people living in it.
Moulds and Health problems: When water build-up is left untreated, it can encourage mould growth because mould thrives in a damp environment. Moulds pose risk to your health. If you sense that your allergies are acting up more frequently, the first thing to check is mould presence.
Mould can also destroy the aesthetic of your home. Mould growths can leave black or green marks in the form of fungi. You will see them grow on the surface of your wall.
It will take a few weeks before the effects of moulds on the health become obvious. These health issues may include respiratory troubles such as allergies, asthma and bronchitis.
You can also tell if there is mould growth through smell. The quality of air starts to become poor once mould starts to grow.
Damage to furniture and appliances: Flood can damage your valuables including your furniture and electrical appliances within minutes. For wood furniture, exposure to water can weaken their structure and promote mould growth. Other types of furniture are also sensitive to water. They can swell or their colour starts fading. With electrical appliances, they can malfunction if they get soaked in water. Certain damages can still be fixed, but more often than not, you have to buy a replacement as the risk of electrical hazards is too high.
Structural damage: Water build-up can weaken the structural integrity of your home. If you have wooden floors, water can make it swell. These damages, if left unrepaired, can make living in the property dangerous. The walls also cannot avoid the destruction that water brings. Being soaked in water can cause discolouration on your walls. For example, white walls can show yellow marks from flood waters, especially if it took a long time for water to be removed.
Signs of water damage in your home
Some signs of water damage are easily spotted, while others will need a professional eye. Pay attention to the following signs if you suspect water damage:
- Dark or wet marks on the walls or ceilings
- Flakes or cracks on drywall
- Drips or pools of water around the pipes, sinks, toilets, etc.
- A damp or musty odour that appear all of a sudden
- Water dripping sound even when taps are turned off
- A sudden increase in water bills could be due to an unseen leak
- A sudden feel of dampness or humidity inside the home
Tips to prevent water damage
“An ounce of prevention is better than cure.” This is very true for water damage. It is much cheaper to take preventative measures than make repairs. Here are ways to prevent water damage in your home:
Plant away from water lines: Invasive roots can damage pipes and water lines. Be careful where you plant and research the type of plants or trees you’re planning to plant.
Keep your roof gutters clean: Leaves, sticks and other stiffs can accumulate in the roof gutters if you don’t clean it regularly. A clogged gutter can send rain water spilling into your home’s foundation and down to your basement. That can seriously weaken your home’s structural integrity. So include your gutter in your list of seasonal cleaning. If it’s too high, hire a professional to do it.
Monitor your water bill: A sudden increase in your water bill can signal a leak. Since you can’t see the various pipes that intersect your home, it is a good idea to keep track of your water usage. If it suddenly increases with no reason, you may be looking at a possible leak somewhere.
Never use unclogging chemicals: Use a drain snake instead when unclogging your drain. These caustic chemicals may be an effective unclogging solution but they will eat away at your pipes and may be not be good for your health. A drain snake is inexpensive and similarly effective without giving you red and watery eyes.
Avoid pouring grease down your sink: Don’t do this whether you’re pouring the grease with hot or cold water. The grease will solidify and stick to the pipes and could block or destroy them. What you can do is pour the grease in an empty can and store in the fridge. Once it hardens, you can just throw it in the trash.
Who is responsible for water damage in a rental property?
Under the Residential Tenancies Act, the landlord’s responsibilities include keeping the property in a reasonable state of cleanliness and a reasonable state of repair.
Repairs are the landlord’s responsibility. However, if the renter or a guest of the renter caused the damage, the landlord can ask them to arrange or pay for repairs.
This is the general rule that must be followed when it comes to water damage.
The rules on water damage caused by flood and other natural disasters are more specific or clearer.
If the home has flood insurance, any damage must be reported by the landlord to the insurer. It makes sense to have flood insurance, in addition to the standard homeowner’s insurance, if your property is in a flood-prone area. This is necessary because most homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover most flood damage.
Any damage to the tenant’s property is not the responsibility of the landlord. It should be covered by renter’s insurance, which all tenants should have. Landlords must be forthcoming with the tenants if the property is located in a flood-prone area.
It is important for the tenant to check that the property is clean and in reasonable good condition before moving in, and complete the condition report. If the tenant is not satisfied, contact the landlord immediately to discuss. Make sure to get the landlord’s agreement for repairs or cleaning in writing.
What to do if you find water damage?
If you find a problem area, take steps to prevent further damage. You may need to soak up still water on the floor with towels, or shut off the water supply.
This is where your home insurance comes in handy. Contact your insurance company to report the problem. Then call professionals to do the clean-up. The evaluation from the water damage restoration company will help you determine your plan of action.