Insurance and Finance

4 Top Causes of Water Damage in Your Home

By Mitch Gruen 7.22.19

A burst pipe is bad news. Unchecked leaks can wreak havoc on your home, leaving hardwood floors warped, Sheetrock crumbling, and furniture discolored and swollen. But it’s not just burst pipes that can leave you at risk of water damage.

Fixing water damage can be a costly undertaking. Paul Townsend, a Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent in Hidalgo County, once saw a homeowner’s water rise so high it covered kitchen countertops. Luckily, they were able to file a claim for it. In many cases, Townsend says, these disasters can be prevented with simple preventative maintenance.

Here are four places to watch for possible causes of water damage in your home:

Your Water Heater

The danger: Townsend sees many claims related to water heaters. New heaters usually don’t pose water-damage risk, but aging heaters can begin to leak and eventually need to be replaced.

The fix: Make sure your water heater is properly set up with a system to retain leaking water; this will prevent moisture from seeping into the area around the water heater and causing damage. A professional can also set up a moisture sensor in the drip pan to automatically shut off the heater’s feeder line if high levels of moisture are detected.

Your Dishwasher

The danger: Most homeowners have never pulled out their dishwasher to check the water lines — many dishwashers haven’t been moved since the day they were installed. That means water damage could be hiding back there.

When rubber water lines get old, they begin to crack and leak. And the dishwasher itself can leak if it’s old or poorly maintained. These leaks aren’t always obvious. The lines that connect dishwashers, washing machines, and other appliances can develop “pinhole leaks,” which, left undetected, slowly eat through Sheetrock and seep behind walls.

This slow dripping adds up more quickly than you might think. If these persistent leaks go undetected, “you can have a pretty good-sized water claim on your hands,” Townsend says.

The fix: A major preventative step is to implement braided line for all of your appliance connections. Though rubber lines tend to be less pricey than braided lines, they don’t offer the same level of leak protection. Townsend swears by braided lines, which come in both nylon and stainless steel varieties. He made the switch with all the appliances in his own home and has helped his son and daughter do the same.

Your Water Lines

The danger: It can be hard to know until it’s too late if your water lines have cracked. “The issue is that people get complacent,” Townsend says. “It’s stuck in a cabinet and you forget all about it. You don’t go look to see if it’s cracking or something. And then before you know it, you’ve got a water leak.”

The fix: Having a professional inspection done is an easy way to assess your current risk of water damage. If you’re not comfortable pulling out appliances and inspecting water lines, a plumber can help you do a water-damage risk assessment. The key is to be proactive.

Your Water Supply

The danger: If you leave your house unattended over a long vacation, you may know to turn off your main water supply. But if you turn that off and leave your water heater on, water in the heater will gradually descend below the heating element. With no water to offset its heat, the heating element can burn out.

The fix: If you shut off the master feeder, it’s critical that you also shut off the water heater too before you leave on vacation.

Protecting Your Home

When it comes to protecting your home from water damage, insurance is key. It’s important to recognize the distinction between “rising water” and “sudden and accidental discharge of water.” “Rising water” refers to flooding that comes from natural disasters (think heavy thunderstorms or hurricanes). No property insurance policy covers flood damage — you need separate federally-administered flood insurance.

Most Texas Farm Bureau Insurance policies cover losses that result from a bursting pipe — “sudden and accidental discharge of water” — that include not the maintenance costs to fix it, but the damage caused by the leak. The specifics will depend on the specifics of your policy.

If you have any questions about your policies, call your Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Agent to ensure you have the coverage you need to protect your home and belongings.

Wondering about the water outside your home? Read our tips for pool party safety.

Coverage and discounts are subject to qualifications and policy terms and may vary by situation. © 2019 Texas Farm Bureau Insurance