real estate

How Not to Get Soaked

Water woes? When to call in a pro, and when not to call your home insurer.

Prevent a Burst Pipe

At a minimum, mopping up after a water pipe freezes and bursts is a messy chore. But if you don’t discover the leak for some time, you’ll face a big water bill and costly damage. Prevention is key to avoiding the hassle and the expense.

Surprisingly, homes in the South are at greatest risk because they’re often constructed with pipes located on the home’s exterior or in uninsulated attics, says the Institute for Business and Home Safety (www.disastersafety.org). Insulating exposed pipes keeps them from freezing; self-sealing, closed-cell polyethylene sleeves, available from home-supply stores (about $3 for six feet), are a good choice to do the job.

Interior pipes along exterior walls that serve sinks and appliances are also at risk. During a cold snap, leave cabinet doors open so that heated air can warm pipes. Open all taps, both hot and cold, just enough so that there’s a slow drip. That will relieve the water pressure that would otherwise build up between the ice blockage and a closed spigot and rupture the pipe.

During winter, don’t set your home’s thermostat lower than 55 degrees. If you plan to be gone for an extended period of time, drain the water system by shutting off the main valve and turning on all water fixtures until the water stops running.

If a pipe does freeze, little or no water will come out of the faucet. You can try to thaw it with a handheld hair dryer (work backward from the faucet) or an electric space heater. If a pipe bursts, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve and leave the taps open until repairs are done. A plumber will probably charge you $100 to $150 to thaw and repair a pipe. And if you have a big clean-up job, see below.

Bail Out of a Flood

when you have a flood in your home, you face a couple of deadlines after you or nature has turned off the water. Water will begin to soak into a concrete floor within six to 12 hours, which significantly prolongs drying time. And given the right combination of absorbent materials (such as paper, fabric and drywall) and temperature, mold will begin to grow within two to three days.

Don’t delay if you plan to file a claim with your home insurer to cover the cost of cleanup (see the discussion on the facing page for caveats). Once mold begins to grow, your insurer may refuse your claim because you failed to act quickly enough. If you’ve been on vacation, you’re covered because you had no control over the situation.

If the deluge came from overhead, beware sagging structural components and light fixtures full of water. You may also need to punch “weep holes” in the ceiling to allow ceiling cavities to drain. Depending on the water’s source, you may want to wear an organic vapor respirator ($25 to $30). You can mop up or vacuum the water with a wet vac. A dehumidifier and fans will help. Failing to dry out walls or dry under vinyl or wood-laminate floors can lead to mold growth and a musty odor.

When do you call in a pro? If you can’t dry the space before mold begins to develop, you probably need a restoration contractor (look for ones certified by the Institute for Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration and ask for proof of certification, as well as licensing and insurance).

Kim Hobson, of KJS Complete Cleaning Serv­ices, in Springfield, Va., says that his firm usually charges about $1,500 for a single room—to extract clean water (say, from a broken pipe), clean a carpet, replace the carpet pad, and apply an antimicrobial spray. Removing and replacing baseboards and drywall above the waterline to dry out walls doubles the cost.

Most Popular

Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
The 25 Cheapest U.S. Cities to Live In
places to live

The 25 Cheapest U.S. Cities to Live In

Take a look at our list of American cities with the lowest costs of living. Is one of the cheapest cities in the U.S. right for you?
October 13, 2021
15 U.S. Cities With the Highest Average Home Prices
real estate

15 U.S. Cities With the Highest Average Home Prices

Home prices have rocketed higher across most of the country, but housing costs are acutely painful in these 15 U.S. cities.
October 20, 2021

Recommended

Is Your Home as Protected as You Think? It’s Time for a Policy Review
home insurance

Is Your Home as Protected as You Think? It’s Time for a Policy Review

It’s better to find out your coverage falls short before something happens rather than after. Here’s how to get started and what to look for as you re…
October 27, 2021
How Snowbirds Can Be Taxed as Florida Residents
retirement

How Snowbirds Can Be Taxed as Florida Residents

If you live in a high-tax state during the summer but winter in Florida, you can save big bucks by establishing residency in the Sunshine State.
October 25, 2021
15 U.S. Cities With the Highest Average Home Prices
real estate

15 U.S. Cities With the Highest Average Home Prices

Home prices have rocketed higher across most of the country, but housing costs are acutely painful in these 15 U.S. cities.
October 20, 2021
The 25 Cheapest U.S. Cities to Live In
places to live

The 25 Cheapest U.S. Cities to Live In

Take a look at our list of American cities with the lowest costs of living. Is one of the cheapest cities in the U.S. right for you?
October 13, 2021