Water damage as a result of freak weather conditions can be very difficult to predict and prevent. Heavy rain and the resulting flooding can catch out even the best prepared, causing considerable damage and disruption to homes and businesses alike. The resources required to prevent flooding caused by natural events are mostly beyond the reach of individual homeowners and businesses.
Domestic plumbing failures can be equally catastrophic, causing misery and financial problems for the households in which they occur. Water can be particularly destructive. Water damaged goods and appliances can rarely be saved and must be discarded and replaced. Personal belongings with sentimental and irreplaceable significance can be lost forever.
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome after severe water damage is trying to dry out the water soaked building fabric. Air is essential in the drying out process. Where the air is absent or drying takes too long, microbial action produces unpleasant odours, which are very difficult to get rid of. Waterlogged carpets and water seepage under lino or wood laminate floorings make them particularly susceptible to such deterioration. Walls and plaster will also crumble and boarding will warp and distort. Severe water damage requires professional attention.
Apart from natural causes, water damage can be caused by burst pipes and leaks from appliances. These leaks usually occur as a result of poor workmanship, accidental damage or just normal, but un-noticed, wear and tear.
When a leak occurs, the severity of the damage is often compounded by a lack of awareness by householders of the location of the mains stopcock and how to use it. Around fifteen litres of water per minute will gush from a severed mains pipe. Any delay in closing off the water supply can be disastrous.
Washing machine hoses are high on the list of failures resulting in insurance claims for water damage. Although the hoses are designed to last around ten years, they should be frequently inspected for signs of deterioration. Any visible cracks or hardening of the rubber should cause concern and the hoses should be replaced. Some washing machine manufacturers advise replacing hoses every two years. Many homeowners turn off the isolation valves supplying water to the hose connections between each use of the washing machine as an added precaution. However, this may not always be practical and is dependent on ease of access.
Dishwasher hoses and draining pipes require similar inspection, as do the door seals around both appliances.
Old pipes, particularly galvanised ones, corrode over time. Galvanised pipes were used widely up until the 1970′s but are rarely used in domestic property now. They have an expected working lifespan of about thirty years, so if your property still has them it might be a good idea to replace them before problems occur.
Accidental damage frequently happens to pipe work, particularly when it is concealed within walls and beneath floorboards. It is very easy to inadvertently puncture a pipe when hammering a nail into a wall or wooden floor. Occasionally the punctured pipe can go unnoticed for some time, slowly leaking water into its surroundings and causing considerable unseen damage.
Water damage caused by poor plumbing practices and incompetent workmanship is often associated with DIY enthusiasts and their over ambitious projects. When attempting any plumbing work it is essential to familiarise yourself with the procedures and to ensure that all the necessary parts and tools are available. Failure to shut off the water supply prior to starting work is a big cause of water damage. Never cut corners or attempt to modify pipes and fittings beyond their original purpose. If in doubt, get a professional plumber in to do the work.
However, what might appear to be a professional plumber may not turn out to be one. Although it is a good idea to consider a plumber recommended by relatives and friends through word of mouth, never take on a plumbing engineer at face value. Always thoroughly check the credentials of a plumber. Ideally, they should belong to a recognised trade body, such as The Association of Plumbers and Heating Contractors. Being a member of such a body can give added protection should the plumber’s work be called into question. Do background checks on the plumber to establish the authenticity of the business and the length of time the business has been trading.
Remember to ensure that the plumber has adequate Public Liability Insurance. Insist on seeing proof of it prior to engaging their services. Remember that in the absence of suitable insurance, you are vicariously liable for third party damage if things go wrong. Having to claim for damage on your own contents insurance can cause future premiums to rise considerably.
Getting a written contract reflecting the work requirements and timescale for completion is essential. The contract should also clearly state all terms and conditions. Do ensure that the terms and conditions do not contain any unfavourable clauses. It may seem a little over precautionary, but if things do go wrong and subsequent water damage occurs to your property, a written contract will be more secure than a verbal one when seeking compensation. In dealing with a plumber, or any tradesperson, what might have been said cannot be verified. When it is written in black and white and signed by both parties, unless the wording is ambiguous, the contract is binding.
A good plumber will always produce workmanship to the satisfaction of a client. If things go wrong, first take the matter up with the plumbing engineers and give them a chance to rectify the situation. Where damage has occurred, their insurance will cover the cost of putting right the damage.
Always take photographs or videos of work in progress, damage or any evident faulty or questionable plumbing practices. These will be of great importance should you ever need to pursue a rogue tradesman through the small claims court.
Remember that if a plumbing and heating contractor is engaged to carry out gas work on a gas appliance, they must be registered with Gas Safe and competent to undertake the particular work. Always check that the ID card and photo match the engineer.
Water damage caused by plumbing issues may not be entirely preventable, but can be minimised by taking adequate precautions. There are devices that will produce an audible alarm if leaking water is detected. Some of these are simply strips of water sensitive electronics, which are often self-contained and simple to install. Other more sophisticated devices can be installed inline on the water pipe and will detect abnormal or extended water flow patterns. They then activate to turn off the water, limiting damage.
No householder likes to have to deal with water damage caused by plumbing issues. With a little forethought, the chances of such issues occurring are substantially reduced. Knowing how to deal with them if they should occur will help to make the procedure a little less disheartening.