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Karl Newman, President
Sandi Henke, Communications Director     
NW Insurance Council    
Phone: (206) 624-3330
Fax: (206) 624-1975
Follow at Twitter/nwinsuranceinfo

Water Damage: Home maintenance is key
to preventing structural damage, insurance claims

SEATTLE - Summer is coming to an end and that means fewer fair weather days to work outside. Now is a good time to do some simple, preventative maintenance around your home to protect it from harsh fall and winter weather.

If your home isn't properly maintained, it could be vulnerable to water damage - one of the most costly Homeowners Insurance claims.

Water running or dripping into your home from the outside can rot drywall and support beams, crack foundation walls and cause mold. Standard Homeowners policies do not cover water damage unless it is the result of a covered peril such as a broken water pipe, fire or windstorm. Damage from roof leaks, excessive condensation or poor landscaping is excluded from coverage.

"Your Homeowners Insurance policy is there to help you recover from large losses and shouldn't be considered a home maintenance policy," said Karl Newman, NW Insurance Council president. "It's designed to cover sudden and accidental damage, not damage due to gradual, preventable deterioration. It's important to remember that your insurance company isn't responsible for the maintenance of your home - you are."

Water damage, including frozen, burst pipes, accounted for 22 percent of all 2007 Homeowners Insurance claims in the nation, according to the Insurance Information Institute. The average claim was $5,531.

The good news is most water-damage losses are easily preventable by taking some simple maintenance steps. NW Insurance Council and the Institute for Business & Home Safety offer these tips to help you prevent future damage and thousands of dollars in repair costs:

  • Inspect your roof. Remove leaves, branches and debris from gutters to prevent water blockage and possible run-off into the home.
  • If you find a leak, clean and dry the exposed area and fix the problem immediately.
  • Routinely inspect ceilings, walls, floors and windowsills for water stains, discoloration and musty odors.
  • Routinely inspect attics, vents, ducts, washer hoses and outside water sources for leaks.
  • If your home's sewer system is connected to the city's sewer system, or if you are located downhill or below street level, contact a plumbing professional to install a backflow prevention assembly into your sewer system.
  • Check and replace heating system air filters.
  • Inspect your water heater and conduct proper maintenance to increase its life expectancy. Also, check your water heater's warranty.
  • To reduce the risk of frozen pipes during the winter months, set the thermostat to at least 60 degrees, insulate pipes and let faucets drip when the weather outside is well below freezing.
  • Properly ventilate bathrooms and kitchens to prevent moisture buildup.
  • Inspect each toilet's components, such as the fill, supply and flush valves and the supply line twice a year. Replace worn or leaky components as needed.
  • Use high quality silicone caulk to seal areas where cables or pipes exit walls, such as around clothes dryers, kitchen or bathroom vents and outdoor electrical outlets.
  • Routinely caulk bathtubs, sinks, tile walls and floors to prevent water seepage.
  • To reduce flooding from poor drainage or excessive rainfall, clear outside drains of debris and make sure your lot's grading directs water away from buildings.

For free brochures, Protect Your Home From Water Damage and Maintenance Guide For Your Home, contact NW Insurance Council at (800) 664-4942 or email

NW Insurance Council is a nonprofit, public-education organization funded by member insurance companies serving Washington, Oregon and Idaho.