With the advent of spring and the rainy season, many parts of the country are heading into the wettest part of the year. Water damage — whether from rain, flooding or a plumbing leak — can be swiftly damaging and quite expensive.
The average water damage restoration job costs about $3,100. Two efforts can save serious amounts of money: preventative maintenance and fast cleanup. Here’s a rundown of how to protect yourself.
Prevent the leaks
Your most effective tool against a flood or leak is being ready ahead of time. Keep your gutters and downspouts clean, as they can often contribute to a leaky basement. Check your appliances regularly for leaks and fix any problems promptly. Even a very small leak can cause tremendous unforeseen damage.
When you replace appliances, make sure you replace the hoses as well. A shiny new washing machine won’t help you if a brittle old hose still connects it to the wall.
Consider installing water detection or flood-stop devices near a water heater, sump pumps, washing machines and other appliances at risk for leaks. These inexpensive devices shut off the water supply and sound an alarm when they get wet. If your basement starts to flood or a washing machine hose bursts, they could save you precious hours and hundreds in repairs.
Keep an eye on your water bill. Sometimes, a sudden jump in usage can give away a mystery leak.
Clean up fast
As bad as water damage can be up front, it’s compounded by mold. When you leave standing water for any length of time, it allows mold to grow — even in places that might not be visibly wet — and causes additional damage to surfaces. Water does its first round of damage within minutes, but after the first hour it can swell, add unpleasant odors and spread humidity all around the house. After several hours pass, wood and other surfaces can become unsalvageable.
The first thing to do in a leak emergency is to shut off the water source. This is an easy one to miss in the course of a disaster. But obviously, if you have a water leak, you need to shut it down as quickly as possible. Find the shutoff valve for the fixture or pipe causing the leak and close it off. If you can’t find or reach it, use the main shutoff valve, which is usually beneath your home or near the water meter.
Do whatever you can to mitigate damage right away. Use tarps and buckets to intercept water. Move furniture away from the water. As soon as the water stops flowing, start removing stagnant water with buckets and towels.
Once the immediate danger has passed, your first call should be to your insurance company. You want to begin documenting a claim, and they might have preferred contractors to help with the work. If it’s after hours or you can’t reach a claims rep, contact a water remediation company directly anyway. Those first minutes and hours count. These pros can assess and repair any damage caused by the flooding. They will know how to determine whether there’s any risk of long-term damage or mold growth below the surface – and how to stop it.
While you’re at it, stay away from electronics or appliances until you’ve verified they’re safe to use.
When to hire an expert for home projects
Pro or no
Installing a ceiling fan
Installing a ceiling fan is not extremely difficult but may take a few hours (depending on your home maintenance experience and the size of the fan).
If you don’t enjoy standing on ladders and craning your neck for hours, bring in the experts.
Replacing a door
A new door can help brighten up a space and cut down on heating and cooling costs.
But these savings are best spent on making sure the installation job is done right.
Painting your home’s exterior
Painting the exterior of a house is a big job that requires extensive use of tall ladders (and sometimes climbing up on the roof).
Homeowners should consider safety requirements before tackling an exterior job.
The challenge of hanging wallpaper is keeping it straight and matching up the patterns correctly.
Sometimes bubbling can occur, and that strip of paper will need to be removed and replaced. This can result in running out of wallpaper and needing to order more.
Don’t want to risk it? Hire a professional.
Installing a light fixture
Electrical repairs and installations are at best expensive. Taking a little time to research and understand your electrical system can give you the necessary skills to do some electrical projects yourself.
When installing a light fixture, low-voltage projects can be safely performed by a homeowner, as these are less likely to cause structural or bodily harm.
Stick with a professional for anything over 50 volts.
Fixing a running toilet
A running toilet can be comfortably fixed by a DIY-er with a toilet rebuild kit from any hardware store. These kits typically contain straightforward and easy-to-follow instructions.
On the other hand, one-piece or specialty toilets can be tricky and might need the professional touch.
Fixing a leaky pipe
One DIY fix for a drain pipe may be to simply tighten a slip-nut near the P-trap. If the leak is coming directly from a hole in the drain pipe, you could try a flexible coupling with hose clamps.
Consider calling in a professional if the leak is from a drain pipe inside the wall.
Fixing a clogged garbage disposal
A clogged disposal may be cleared by using a small specialty wrench that fits into a hexagonal opening on the underside of the disposal while the disposal is turned off.
Patching a hole in drywall
Nearly any homeowner can patch nail holes.
Using a spackle knife, fill in each hole with lightweight putty and scrape the excess off the walls. Wait for the putty to dry, and sand down the spot until it’s smooth. Then, paint the repaired spots with primer.
Larger holes in drywall require more steps to repair and may be best left to the professionals.
Replacing a faucet
Installing a centerset-type faucet is something you may be able to do yourself — just follow the faucet manufacturer’s instructions.
If it’s a more complicated faucet with several hose connections, you might want to hire a professional.