Checking For Water Damage

Your home protects you from the elements, but heavy rains can weaken that protection. With a little maintenance and a lot of vigilance, it’s not hard to stay safe and dry.

Spring rainstorms are a fact of life in many areas of the country, and they help keep things green, even if they keep you inside. But when they get heavy, it’s time to start thinking about the potential impact all that water has on your home. The first step is finding and fixing any immediate problems as soon as it’s safe to do so. Then, you’ll want to take measures to prevent those problems from happening during the next downpour!

Where is all that rain going?
Your roof and gutters form a key line of defense for your home – and in a storm, they’re vulnerable, because so many things can damage them. Trees, hail, and other objects can create weaknesses that might lead to leaks in your roof, so check for missing shingles and other issues. And keep your gutters clear so all that water drains properly.

Are you checking everywhere?
Water dripping from the ceiling is hard to miss. Water in your crawl space, however, can easily go undetected because hardly anyone ever checks there. Don’t forget to look down there after a storm (or have a professional do it) to make sure everything is nice and dry. If you do see moisture, you’ll want to get it out with a sump pump as soon as possible.

And don’t just look up – another place to check is your home’s exterior, whether it’s siding, brick, or another material. Weak spots can be hard to see, so look at various times of the day in different lighting conditions.

Of course, you’ll want to make sure your doors and windows are properly sealed to keep the elements out, too.

What about around your property?
Storm water has to go somewhere, and if your property doesn’t drain well, or if runoff goes toward your foundation, you could have problems. So watch for patterns, and grade property so it drains away from your home if possible. Always be wary of hillsides and tilting trees after heavy storms, because the land might not be stable.

And don’t forget to keep storm drains clear of leaves and other debris. This can prevent flooding both on the streets and your own property.

What should you do during the storm?
During powerful storms, stay inside. This is not the time to check your roof, your exterior, or your property unless there’s an emergency and you know it’s safe to go out. Monitor your interior, making sure no water is getting in. If it is, do what you can to alleviate the situation in the moment, even if it means just placing something under a leak to collect the water. For more serious problems, though, remember that safety is the most important thing. If your basement is flooding, for example, don’t go down there – you could be trapped and even drown.

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What Can Happen

Ignoring the importance of regular maintenance to your gutters and roof could eventually lead to several thousand dollars worth of interior damage.  This damage could result in mold growth, and structural issues within the home.  As seen in the pictures below, a clogged gutter, (filled with just leaves), resulted in severe interior water damage and mold growth, while also compromising the sheathing.  The drywall and insulation needed to be removed, the sheathing had to be treated and the interior was structurally dried, all because of poor maintenance.  Remember, the coming of summer doesn’t just mean a change of weather.  It also is a reminder of several household maintenance items that should be addressed.

Termite Damage Signs

Although termites are ecologically beneficial in that they break down detritus to add nutrients to soil, the same feeding behaviors that prove helpful to the ecosystem can cause severe damage to human homes. Because termites feed primarily on wood, they are capable of compromising the strength and safety of an infested structure. Termite damage can render structures unlivable until expensive repairs are conducted.

Structural Property Damage

Homes constructed primarily of wood are not the only structures threatened by termite activity. Homes made from other materials may also host termite infestations, as these insects are capable of traversing through plaster, metal siding and more. Termites then feed on cabinets, floors, ceilings and wooden furniture within these homes.

Because termites are often not identified before considerable damage has occurred, it is advised that homeowners experiencing a termite infestation contact a pest control professional before attempting to address the problem on their own. Professionals will conduct an inspection in order to correctly identify the problem and will then discuss possible avenues of treatment with homeowners.

Signs of Subterranean Termite Damage

Subterranean termites dwell underground in loose, damp soil. Although subterranean termite species in Africa are famously aggressive and known for the obvious mounds above their colonies, signs of subterranean termite damage within the United States are much less obvious.

Interior damage may not become apparent until infestations are full-blown. Termite damage sometimes appears similar to water damage. Outward signs of termite damage include buckling wood, swollen floors and ceilings, areas that appear to be suffering from slight water damage and visible mazes within walls or furniture. Termite infestations also can exude a scent similar to mildew or mold.

Subterranean termites also access above-ground food sources through mud tunnels they create from saliva, mud and feces. These tunnels are located near the foundation of infested homes.

  • Termite Damaged Wallpaper
  • Termite Damaged
  • Wallpaper

Signs of Drywood Termite Damage

 
Drywood termites build their colonies within wooden structures on which they feed. They can be found inside of walls or furniture. Drywood termite infestations may only become apparent after a colony has burrowed so deeply into an infested item that the veneer cracks and the maze-like tunnels beneath become visible. Such damage is common in antique furniture pieces. Should this occur on new furniture or the floors or walls of your home, contact a pest control professional to discuss the severity of your infestation, as well as extermination options.

Water Damage in Philadelphia

Pictured here is a set of photos from a dishwasher leak that caused major damage in a kitchen.  The cabinets and walls behind the kitchen both had to be removed because of water damage and mold.  The flooring also had to be removed, as the subfloor was soaked through.

Washer & Dryer Maintenance

Washers and dryers were involved in one out of every 22 home structure fires reported to U.S. fire departments between 2006 and 2010. Incidents of clothes dryer fires are higher in the fall and winter months and peak in January, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The leading cause of clothes dryer fires is a failure to clean the dryer of dust, fiber and lint. Lint is highly combustible and can lead to reduced airflow, posing a fire hazard in clothes dryers.Here are several safety tips for properly maintaining your washer and dryer:

Ensure proper installation
Be sure to have your washer and dryer installed and serviced by a professional. Check your washer and dryer manuals to ensure that your electrical outlet is appropriate for your plugs. If you have a gas dryer, have it inspected by a professional to make sure the gas line and connection are working properly and don’t have leaks.

Maintain the lint filter
Always clean the lint filter before drying each load of laundry. If you are drying a new item that creates a lot of lint, such as a bath towel or bath mat, consider drying it for half a cycle and then pause to clean out the lint filter before continuing to dry the item. Regularly check the dryer’s drum for lint accumulation.

Inspect the vent
The dryer vent is located outside of your house. It’s a good idea to periodically check to make sure air is coming out of the vent while clothes are drying. If no air is coming out of the vent, turn off the dryer and inspect the vent for blockage. Accumulated lint, a bird’s nest or even small animals can block vents.

Check the exhaust duct
Make sure the duct that runs from the back of your dryer to your wall and outside to your dryer vent isn’t clogged with lint or debris. If there is a blockage, you may have to remove the duct to clean it out. Consult with a professional before making any changes to your dryer’s exhaust duct.

Basic washer and dryer safety tips
Follow these basic safety tips when using your washer and dryer.

  • Don’t overload.
  • Read and follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions.
  • Don’t run the washer or dryer when you aren’t home or when you are sleeping.
  • Keep the entire area clean and free of clutter, boxes and other materials.
  • Don’t store items on the top of the washer and dryer.
  • Consult the operating instructions prior to washing or drying an item that has been soiled with chemicals such as gasoline, cooking oil or paint.

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Minor Kitchen Leaks

Sometimes what appears to be a small leak, can result in major water and mold damage. These photos show a kitchen in Newtown PA, where a leak under a sink caused major damage not only to the cabinets, but the walls behind them and the sub flooring.  Some of the cabinets had to be removed, while the back splash and walls needed to be cut out in order to properly clean and dry the home.  This is just a few of the photos, as more cabinets and the ceiling in the basement below, also needed to be removed.

Preventing Water Damage

If you think about water damaging your home, you might conjure up an image of a hurricane, torrential rain or other natural catastrophe. The unfortunate reality is that damage that is caused when ordinary household appliances fail can be just as destructive as an extreme weather event. According to the Insurance Industry Institute, water damage accounts for billions of dollars in losses to homeowners and renters each year. It is also responsible for about 25 percent of all property insurance claims. In fact, data suggests that water is ten times more likely to damage your home than fire.

Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to help prevent water damage from appliances, and protect your home. It is helpful to understand some of the common causes of water damage, which include leaky baseboard heating, air conditioning condensation drains, and failed water heaters, washing machine hoses and plumbing.

These household appliances do not always offer warning signs until the damage has already occurred. That is why it is important to check them regularly. The simple steps below can help you protect your home from the most common causes of water damage:

  • First, know where the main water supply is located in case of emergency.
  • If you will be away from home for an extended period, shut off the water supply and drain the pipes. During the heating season, if your home is heated by an older steam heating system, consult with your heating professional to determine if it is safe to turn off the water supply for your particular heating system. Also, if your home is protected by a fire sprinkler system, do not turn off the water to this system, and maintain sufficient heat to prevent a freeze-up.
  • Consider having your air conditioning system inspected regularly by a professional. Check the drain lines annually and clean them if they are clogged.
  • Inspect water heaters, showers, tubs, toilets, sinks and dishwashers annually, and have them repaired if there are any signs of leaks or corrosion. When possible, install water heaters in areas with floor drains to minimize damage if leaks should occur.
  • Check caulking around showers, bathtubs, sinks and toilet bases, and make repairs as needed.
  • If your refrigerator has an ice machine or water dispenser, the hose between the wall and the refrigerator should be made of braided copper, which has greater cracking and corrosion resistance.
  • Check pipes for cracks and leaks. Have pipe damage fixed immediately to prevent more costly repairs in the future.
  • Check appliance hoses and plumbing fittings for breakage, crimping or bending.

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