Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Avoid the Disaster of a Home Water Leak

One of my clients recently went on a business trip for a couple of days. Naturally, he did all the normal things you would do when leaving a home unattended for a period of time. He made sure that all the doors were locked, that the TV, computer, and other electrical items were turned off, and that the mail would be picked up.

He told me that whenever he'd have to leave his home unattended that he would normally turn off the water main. For some reason he did not turn the water main off this time around. Would you?

Several days later he got back home from his trip and saw a puddle of water by the front door. At first he thought the sprinkler system must be leaking but you can imagine the thoughts running through his head as he slowly opened the front door....

As soon as he walked into the house his worst nightmare came to life. His entire lower floor was covered by an inch of standing water. The carpeting, the padding, the baseboards, the wallboards, the kitchen cabinets, his furniture, and anything else he happened to have on the floor all ruined to the tune of some $30,000 in damages. Apparently, a water pipe came loose at the joint and flooded his house for days while he was away.

Was there something he could have done to prevent this from happening? Yes, and there are things you can do too.

You shouldn't have to turn off your water main everytime you leave your home unattended. Opening and closing a water main may actually wear it out over time. Yet, its cheaper to replace it than coming home to a flooded home.

One thing you may want to do immediately is to check the water pressure coming into your home. So many times I'll encounter a home with very high water pressure. High water pressure could stress the water pipes throughout your home and cause them to burst over time. Your appliances like the dishwasher, clothes washer, water heater, and water softener are all affected by this and any one of them could cause trouble. High water pressure can be caused by a bad water regulator-- that funny cone shaped device next to your main water shutoff. You can easily check the water pressure with an inexpensive pressure meter that you can buy at any hardware store. Normally the water pressure should not exceed 80psi but check with your local codes. If you discover that the water pressure is off, you may be able to adjust the water regulator--- it has a small pressure adjustment screw or knob. But many times it turns out that the regulator needs to be replaced. That will cost you about 30 bucks for parts and maybe another $100 dollars for labor.

For the ultimate peace of mind, you may want to do what I did in my own home. I installed an automatic water shutoff system. Whenever water is detected on the floor throughout my home, a radio signal is sent to a receiver in my garage. The receiver will shut off the main water supply as soon as trouble is detected. The way this works is very simple. A sensor and transmitter is placed in strategic locations throughout the home. Places like the bathrooms, kitchen, laundry room, and anywhere really. The sensor constantly scans for water. So if the sink overflows and water reaches the sensor, a wireless signal is sent to the receiver. The receiver tells an electric valve to shut off the main water to the house. The system is easily reset for example when you accidently spill a bucket of water on the bathroom floor. But it works 7/24 and I don't have to worry about coming home to a flood.

Various manufacturers make these water sensor systems and some only sound an alarm when water is detected but don't turn the water main off. You can search the internet for the various manufacturers of water and flood sensors. If you're curious about what I have, its called the WaterCop. It cost me under $700 bucks complete and I was able to install the whole thing myself. You'll have to cut into the water main so if you don't know how to solder copper pipe you'll need to hire a plumber for that part of the installation. The individual water sensors located throughout the home are very easy to install.

Bursting water pipes and the resulting water damage doesn't happen very often. When it does, it can be very very expensive. If thats not the worst of it, your insurance company will probably raise your insurance rates and red flag the property. If you intend to sell the home, you'll have to disclose the flood and any resulting mold damage. This may cause potential buyers to avoid your home altogether.

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