Water damage is one of the main causes of home insurance claims, and the bathroom is one of the rooms at highest risk for it. Here’s how to look for signs of water damage and stop it before it starts.
Follow your nose. Smell something musty after you shower? That’s a hint your bathroom may have water damage. Try scrubbing the shower clean first. If the musty smell remains, there might be a leak inside a wall.
Look up. If you see cracks in the paint on your ceiling or walls or if the walls look warped, that may indicate your drywall is absorbing water.
Look down. Stains or uneven spots on your bathroom floor may signal a hidden leak. Ditto for water stains around your toilet.
Beware of backups. Bathroom backups happen all the time, and they can cause significant damage. Play it safe: Don’t leave the bathroom if the toilet keeps running. Keep sink drains clear. Keep little ones away from plumbing fixtures.
Check vents and pipes. Improper ventilation in your bathroom can trap water, and faulty plumbing can cause leaks. Clean your vents and check your plumbing once a year to guard against potential problems.
Use a sensor. A water alarm or shut-off system can keep a small leak from turning into a disaster. Battery-operated sensors that set off an alarm when they detect moisture are an inexpensive option. If you travel a lot, a whole-house system with a shut-off valve at the main water supply may be a better, although pricier, way to go.
Sudden vs. gradual water damage
If you think your bathroom may be at risk for water damage, you’ll want to know what’s covered by your policy and what isn’t. Is a leaky toilet covered? What about a sink or tub that overflows?
The answer is an unequivocal “it depends.” It depends on the source of the damage, the type of policy you have and whether the water damage was sudden or gradual. Insurance is designed to cover sudden or accidental damage versus damage caused by gradual wear and tear over time.
Do try this at home
Follow these homeowner best practices:
- Keep records of repairs and maintenance.
- Know your policy’s coverages and exclusions.
- Conduct a round of home maintenance every spring and fall.
- Ask your agent about extra coverage or endorsements you might benefit from.