Protect Yourself From Water Damage

pipes burstWater is possibly a property owner’s worst nightmare. As a homeowner and the owner of rental properties, it’s a constant threat.

I’m trying to remember if we’ve ever had a pipe burst because of freezing weather. I don’t think so. We email all our renters when we’re due for a freeze, asking them to disconnect hoses from outside faucets, keep cabinet doors under sinks open, and to watch/listen for running water.

One time, when we had a condo under contract, we went by and found that the balcony door had not been properly locked (despite a sign we had posted there). The wind had blown the door open and it had, essentially, rained all over the hardwood floors – which we had to fix. We knew the agent had let the buyer in without scheduling a showing. But he wouldn’t ‘fess up to it, of course. He let the cat out of the bag during the closing when he referred to the time the buyer had taken her parents over to see it. The look on his face! But it was “water under the bridge” by then.

I also recall our water heater springing a significant leak one year. We were a little freaked out because we had very recently returned from a week in Mexico. Had the water heater failed then, we would have come home to a disaster. Ever since, we’ve been cautious about turning the water off when we go on vacation.

And I recall the sewer pipes backing up and filling the downstairs shower with sewage at our old house. Jay had left, the day before, to go kayak fishing in Cabo. I refrained from contacting him. I didn’t want to ruin his vacation. I called a plumbing company. They roto rooted the pipe AND cleaned up the mess. I can’t remember what they charged me for the cleaning. It wasn’t much but Jay wasn’t too thrilled to find out I paid extra until I told him I’d have paid $2,000 if they’d wanted it. I thought he should have been thrilled that I’d dealt with it and hadn’t called him! (Whenever I go out of town, on the other hand, I usually get 2-3 bad news calls and I don’t appreciate it.)

Anyway, it wasn’t the first time we’d had a problem with the sewer line. The clay pipes were failing. Ultimately, we had a company come fix it – which required digging up a huge swath of our front yard to replace the pipes. But Jay is really competent about this sort of thing and we weren’t having it done in the middle of a sewer emergency – so he wasn’t about to be taken advantage of. They scheduled it when they had a convenient time slot. Jay kept a close eye on it. I think we paid half what many of the neighbors paid. Everybody’s pipes were failing within 5-10 years of each other.

Just the other week we noticed, before going to bed, that there wasn’t any hot water. Jay went downstairs and found that one of the pipes has sprung a leak. Just a little one, but enough to put out the pilot light on the water heater. We filled a few jugs with water for the morning – breakfast, brushing teeth – and then turned it off. Jay had it fixed by 10:00 am and then went on to work. We think the pipe was probably twisted or tweaked when the furnace guys raised our furnace a couple of months ago (it had been improperly installed years ago), thereby weakening it.

We probably have another 6-10 water stories from over the years – roofs leaking, water coming in via a basement window due to improper grading, ice maker water line failing. With rental properties and having flipped 50 properties, we’ve run into lots of scenarios.

Know where your water shutoff valve is. Turn off the water when you leave town. Learn to recognize when you hear water running in the house, especially when it shouldn’t be running! Routinely check the basement for water in the furnace room and showers/baths. Notice signs of water damage on ceilings and walls. The list goes on…

We’re even thinking of getting water detectors for each of our properties.

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