Preventing Water Damage From Appliances
The story is all too common: you’re sitting in your living room enjoying a quiet evening, and suddenly water starts pouring from the ceiling. Or you walk into your basement to discover water everywhere from a broken water heater.
Common culprits for water damage are washing machines, water heaters, and other appliances in your home. About 30% of all home water damage situations are caused by appliance failures.
SERVPRO is equipped to handle any water damage, but we would prefer to help you prevent those unfortunate situations. Here are some practical things you can do to keep your dishwasher, washing machine, and water heaters from causing problems in your home.
Most water heaters hold between 40 and 120 gallons of water (unless you have a tankless water heater). That amount of water can cause significant damage. A broken water heater may also be a fire hazard. And, if too much pressure builds up in the tank, it can explode!
A common culprit for water heater malfunctions is sediment buildup. When sediment collects at the bottom of the water tank, the heating element has to work overtime and water can get trapped as it heats up and moves through the sediment.
If you have a gas water heater, sediment buildup can cause the heating element to overheat, damaging the tank or leaving burn marks. Sediment buildup in an electric water heater can cause the heating element to burn out.
Signs you should have your water heater serviced:
- Popping sounds: All appliances make noises, but if your water heater is making sounds like popcorn popping on a stove, that is an indication that sediment is building up in the base of the water heater.
- Cold showers: if you seem to be running out of hot water faster than usual that is a symptom of sediment buildup or that the heating element inside the tank burned out.
- Rotten egg smell: Hydrogen sulfide has a potent rotten egg smell and very unpleasant taste. It doesn’t pose a health risk and usually occurs in well water, but water heaters have been known to cause the offensive odor when the magnesium rod in the water heater mixes with bacteria in the water to produce hydrogen sulfide. If the smell comes from both hot and cold water, then it’s likely your water. If the foul smell is only coming from the hot water, then your water heater is likely to blame.
75% of water heaters fail at or before 12 years of age. On average, water heater leaks and failures cause between $3,000 and $5,800 in damages. Routine maintenance on your water heater will prevent catastrophe and keep it running strong for many years.
Washing machines—both front loaders and top loaders—are one of the leading causes of water damage in homes and rank among the most expensive causes of water damage, averaging over $5,000 after the insurance deductible is paid. Mold is often a secondary problem after washing machines leak.
There are several things you can do to avoid costly washing machine catastrophes.
Avoid overloading and using too much detergent: One of the most common causes of a washing machine leak is shoving too much into the washer. Similarly, using too much detergent can cause excessive suds that will spill out of the machine and cause water damage.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions about maximum load sizes and recommended amounts of soap to use. If you do find a leak, clean up all the water, then run a quick cycle with no clothes and no laundry detergent. If you don’t see any leaks, the load of laundry was probably too big, or you used too much laundry soap.
Supervise your laundry: Avoid running the washing machine while you are away or asleep. If catastrophe strikes, you want to be around to react quickly.
Turn off the water supply: Did you know washing machine manufacturers recommend turning off the hot and cold water supply after each use? People rarely do this, but it is an excellent way to avoid water damage. If you don’t turn off the water supply after each use, you should at least turn off the water supply when you plan to be away for an extended length of time.
Inspect the hoses frequently: Washing machines have three rubber hoses: one for hot water, one for cold water, and a drain hose. One ruptured hose can let hundreds or even thousands of gallons of water into your house! Mark your calendar to inspect the hoses regularly. Look for cracks, kinks, blistering, or signs of leaks.
Even if the hoses are still in good condition, consider replacing the rubber hoses every five years. Stainless steel braided hoses last longer and are much more resilient than standard rubber hoses at an affordable price.
Install an emergency shutoff kit: The emergency shutoff kit is a device that installs directly onto the water supply valves. It senses when the washer is turned on and opens the water supply valves, then closes the water valves at the end of the wash cycle. A sensor also sits on the floor and closes the valves if it detects a water leak.
For around $150 you can have peace of mind that if your washing machine malfunctions the emergency shutoff kit will prevent water from flowing freely into your home.
Dishwashers make life so much easier… until they malfunction and spill gallons of water all over your kitchen. Often tile or linoleum in front of the dishwasher prevents water from leaking out into the kitchen. That means a slow leak under the dishwasher can go undetected for months or years!
Taking the kickplate off and inspecting under the dishwasher twice a year will ensure everything is in good working order and avoid costly water damage.
Here are a few simple things you can do to prevent water damage from your dishwasher.
Use the right soap: Using the wrong kind of soap can cause too many suds to develop during the wash cycle. This usually results in water dripping out from the edge of the dishwasher door. If you open the door during the wash cycle and see a lot of suds, you should use a different detergent or you might be using too much detergent.
Check the water valve: Remove the kickplate and inspect the water inlet solenoid valve. If there is any corrosion or rotting around the valve, turn off the water supply and have the valve replaced.
A bad water valve usually starts with a slow leak under the dishwasher that is difficult to detect. If the water valve breaks, the anti-flood switch cannot close the water valve, and water will fill the dishwasher and continue to run until the water supply is turned off.
Check the door seals: Over time the door seals wear out or become damaged. Sometimes soap scum can prevent the dishwasher door from sealing properly.
To clean soap scum and residue off the door seals, use white vinegar or Lime-Away. Pay extra attention to the bottom of the door; this is where soap scum, hard-water calcium buildup, and food particles tend to collect and cause problems.
Developing a habit of regularly checking and maintaining your appliances will help you catch problems before they become serious. But, if disaster does strike and you experience water damage caused by an appliance (or any other source), call SERVPRO. We will restore everything to normal as quickly as possible!