by Christelle Fourie

Homeowners handbook

Handy tips for Wild Winters

Christelle Fourie
Christelle Fourie.jpg
With the cooler winter months bringing a lot of rain to certain areas of South Africa, homeowners need to be aware of the responsibility to protect their home against water damage. 

By performing regular checks and carrying out comprehensive maintenance to relevant areas of the home, homeowners can not only minimise damage but also mitigate the risk of having an insurance claim rejected.

Water damage can occur almost anywhere in the house and is increased through the use of water-bearing appliances. Slow leaks from appliances are sometimes impossible to see until it is too late, which can lead to rotting in the house frame and can release several hundred litres of water resulting not only in costs to repair the damage but high water bills and unnecessary water wastage.

Whether water damage is caused by long-lasting rainfall, old appliance hoses, rusty and corroded pipes or clogged drains, it is generally extremely inconvenient and can be very costly. By giving certain areas of the home particular attention and conducting routine maintenance, homeowners can end up saving a lot of money in the long run. 

Protecting your home’s interior from water damage:

When it comes to preventing water damage, the most important thing all homeowners need to know is the exact location of all shut-off valves for the following: the main water supply, appliances that utilise water (i.e. dishwasher, washing machine and icemakers), sinks and toilets. This will ensure that in the event of a leak the water supply can be quickly shut off before it causes further damage before the plumber can arrive to fix the problem. It is also wise for homeowners to turn off their water supply if they are planning a trip away from home for an extensive period such as longer than a week.

It is also important for homeowners to conduct regular inspections along plumbing lines for any leaks, damage or corrosion. The sooner these problems are detected, the sooner the homeowner can contact a licensed plumber for further inspection and repairs to avoid higher costs of damage.

The average lifespan of a geyser is approximately 7-10 years so it is important to regularly check the geyser for any signs of leaking. If any are detected, a plumber should be asked to inspect the geyser immediately. It is also essential to drain the geyser in order to remove sediment from the bottom of the tank; although this can be done as a DIY project it is advisable that the expertise of a plumber is used. 

All appliances that use water to operate, including the washing machine, dishwasher, ice maker, air conditioner and garbage disposal, should be regularly inspected for leaks and should periodically have the supply hoses changed. It is also important to ensure that all drain lines are unhindered and flowing freely. 

Utilising vents will facilitate in preventing moisture from damaging walls caused by moisture-producing appliances. It is always a good idea to use exhaust fans or open windows when cooking or running the dishwasher. 

An extractor fan located in the bathroom will assist greatly in reducing moisture from hot water usage which can lead to unsightly mould and deterioration of the walls. One should also check for caulking around tubs and showers to ensure that a watertight seal is maintained.

Always check for leaky taps located in kitchens and bathrooms. If the taps are leaking from the spout it is most likely that the washers need replacing. Bear in mind that when working on leaking taps it is crucial to ensure that the water supply is cut to avoid unnecessary water damage and flooding.

Regularly inspect foundation walls and floors for cracks that might allow water leakage, particularly when living in an older home or an area with poor soil drainage. One should also avoid storing valuable items in a basement; however, if absolutely necessary, items should be stored on racks and shelves above the floor level to minimise damage.

Protecting Your Home’s Exterior:

A home’s roof is one of the most important parts of the home as it protects the occupants, belongings and the structure of the building. Therefore, it is crucial to regularly check the roof for missing, worn or broken roofing materials that can allow water to infiltrate and weaken the roof’s structure. Look around for any water spots, standing water or mould. Dampness on ceilings or walls can signal leaks that are just getting started. After a severe storm, inspect your roof thoroughly or contact a licensed roofer for further evaluation and repairs.

Clean gutters and drain pipes to avoid leaves and other debris from clogging them up and damaging your exterior siding. It is also vital to ensure that the water is draining away from your house. Clogged gutters can cause water to pool on the roof which will result in rotting and leaks. Gutters should be checked at least twice a year; the best time to do so is during the transitional seasons of spring and summer. 

Windows and exterior doors are subject to wear and tear, due to constant use and exposure to weather conditions. Over time the door frame materials can deteriorate and fail. Sealing drafty doors and windows by replacing the seals not only keeps the cold of winter outside, but could add to the resale value.

Regular checking for cracks, holes and peeling in the cladding and paint of the home is important as it may reveal early signs of a leak. Where needed it is advisable to replace the caulk to avoid water and mould from seeping in to crevices.

For homeowners with a holiday or seasonal home, it is essential to shut off the main water supply and have all water pipes drained by a plumber if the home will be locked up for a lengthy period. During this time it might also be a good time for the plumber to inspect all water lines, the geyser and appliances that use water to avoid any nasty surprises when the home is reopened for use.

By being proactive and inspecting these key areas of the home on a regular basis for water damage, homeowners can experience great savings, not only by detecting signs of water damage at an early stage, resulting in fewer costs to repair; but maintenance will also be kept up to date, mitigating the risk of possible insurance claim repudiations. 

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