October 11, 2012

Inside Insurance: Maintenance prevents home water problems

We are now in “Kitchen and Bath Month.” That may sound like a promotion to remodel, but it’s actually an opportunity to share important information with the public, encouraging property owners to take time to inspect their interior plumbing to identify potential problems and do preventive maintenance.

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) warns that water damage in a kitchen or bathroom can lead to expensive repairs. Small leaks become big problems if necessary repairs are overlooked or ignored. Renters can check for these problems and notify the landlord if any are discovered.

Plumbing problems can lead to increased monthly water bills, banging pipes, rust stains, moisture in the walls or on floors and sign of wet soil erosion near the foundation. Also, avoid winter frozen pipe issues by setting your thermostat at 60 degrees or higher and letting faucets drip during cold weather. A house leak detection system can also help.

A plumbing supply system failure averages about $5,000 after the insurance deductible is paid, according to an IBHS study. Toilet failures cost more than $5,500 per incident, and one-third of all toilet failures result from an overflowing or clogged toilet. You should inspect your toilet twice a year, checking the fill, supply and flush valves as well as the supply line.

Another common problem is water heater failure, which can be caused by a slow leak, sudden burst of the tank or a supply line failure. Inspect valves to ensure proper operations and use ball valves in place of gate valves whenever possible. Know the age of the water heater, life expectancy and warranty.

The plumbing drain system failure can also be a problem. IBHS reports plumbing system failures are often the result of sewer backups. Southern states seem to have the most problems, and the cost of repair averages $4,000 per incident after the deductible is paid.

A backflow prevention assembly is recommended for older homes on municipal sewer systems below street level. Also, do not plant trees near lateral drain lines to reduce the possibility of root damage.

A major problem can result from a washing machine failure and the ensuing water damage. Rubber hoses should be replaced every three years, and consider upgrading to braided steel hoses. Also, when leaving the home on trips, turn off the hot and cold water supply to the washer.

Finally, do not try to cut corners by overloading your machine. It is also best to wash when someone is at home.

Notice that many of these costly actions will be paid for by your homeowner’s insurance only after you have paid your deductible. It is best to check your policy or check with your insurer to make sure you understand your coverage and know how much your deductible will be.


David Colmans is executive director of the Georgia Insurance Information Service. Contact him at (770) 565-3806 or by email at

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