10 Water Damage Prevention Tips for a Safe and Dry Home

Dec 15
homeowner fixing pipes under the bathroom sink

Planning to ignore that new leak? Think again. Small leaks or pooling water may be a warning sign of bigger (and more expensive) issues.

Water damage restoration can cost $3,300 on average, depending on factors like cleanliness of the water, scope of the damage, and location.

However, preventing water damage requires precautions in and out of the house. This includes following through with regular appliance maintenance and reinforcing your home before extreme weather hits.

In our recent Housepower Report, we learned that:

  • Water damage was the second most common type of damage that responding homeowners faced in 2023 (affecting 23% of respondents).

  • Nearly one-third of responding homeowners had homes exposed to extreme weather in the past 12 months. 

  • Indoor plumbing fixtures, washers and dryers, and water heaters were among the top five critical home systems that broke down for responding homeowners.

Don’t let water damage overwhelm you by taking small steps now to help prevent bigger problems later. Below, we’ll go over the top 10 water damage prevention tips for a safe and healthy home.

Download our water damage prevention checklist

homeowner holding a tablet and looking at a water damage prevention checklist

download our water damage prevention checklist

low effort tasks

1. Understand how your main water line works

Why? You’ll need to turn off your water in case of sudden leaks or overflows, in preparation for plumbing-related projects, or if you’re away from home for an extended time. There are also other parts of your plumbing system to become familiar with, like backflow preventers or backwater valves, that can help prevent water damage.

Effort required: Low

Steps to take:

  • Know where the main water shut-off valve is and how to turn it off. Your valve may be in your basement, garage, or near an external faucet.

  • Find and inspect the water shut-off valves for individual appliances and plumbing fixtures. Turn them off and on to ensure they’re stopping water flow and don’t have leaks.

  • If you have a lawn sprinkler system, check if your city requires you to install a backflow preventer to prevent contaminated water from flowing back into the main water supply. You can also contact a plumber for help evaluating your sprinkler system.

2. Check water usage and pressure

Why? A high water bill can give you early warning signs of issues like leaks or overuse. Water pressure can also clue you in on potential issues.

Low water pressure could be a sign of leaks or clogs, while high water pressure can lead to damaged pipes or a shortened life for appliances and plumbing fixtures (including your water heater).

Effort required: Low

Steps to take:

  • Look for unusually high water usage in your bill compared to last month since a spike can be a sign of leaks. The EPA recommends looking at your home’s usage during a colder month for potentially high usage. If a family of four uses more than 12,000 gallons per month, the EPA says that there are serious leaks in the home. (A family of four uses about 10,000 gallons in a month according to the EPA).

  • Test your home’s water pressure with a water pressure gauge to see if the pounds per square inch (PSI) reads between 40 and 80 (ideally between 45 and 55). If it’s too high or low, you can start investigating the issue by checking that your main water line is open and looking for signs of leaks around appliances and plumbing fixtures.

  • If your water pressure is too low or too high, call a professional to check your water pressure regulator.

medium effort tasks

3. Install water and leak sensors

Why? Smart water and leak sensors can automatically alert you to leaks and shut off your water, depending on the type of system you get. Installing sensors can help you catch issues, like small leaks or drips, before they become major problems.

For example, the Environmental Protection Agency said that a leaky faucet that drips once per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons in a year (about as much as you’d need for more than 180 showers).

Effort required: Low to medium

Steps to take:

  • Research water leak sensors to find one that fits your needs. For example, do you want one that can automatically shut off your water in an emergency? Are you looking for a system that can monitor other factors like water pressure or humidity?

  • Install water sensors near common areas where water can pool, like under sinks and near appliances. 

  • Create a maintenance plan for your water sensors, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Keep track of the last time you’ve replaced the batteries (if needed) and when you’ve checked your internet connections (if they’re smart or hard-wired).

4. Inspect and upgrade pipes and appliance hoses

Why? Regularly inspecting your pipes for early signs of leaks, degradation, and even early signs of freezing can help avoid more serious water damage. This also goes for appliance hoses that bring water to appliances like dishwashers and washing machines. 

Investing in maintenance can help avoid major issues down the line. Fixr estimates a burst pipe can cost about $500 for a moderate repair. However, the cost can vary based on the location of the burst pipe, the type of pipe, and the extent of the damage. You should also consider the costs to repair related water damage and mold.

Effort required: Low to medium

Steps to take:

  • Turn off the main water line and do a visual inspection for leaks, mold, water stains, or cracks around pipes, appliance hoses, and surrounding areas. This includes walls that conceal your pipes. Keep a bucket and cloth handy to clean up any leaks. Take pictures and document any issues you find.

  • During your inspection, tighten loose fittings on your pipes and hoses to prevent small leaks. Check hoses for appliances like washing machines and water heaters for cracks or signs of wear and replace worn ones.

  • Insulate exposed pipes to help prevent freezing during cooler months. Insulation materials can include rubber, foam, or fiberglass. Once you get the materials, you can insulate the pipes yourself.

5. Check plumbing fixtures

Why? Proactively checking your plumbing fixtures each quarter can help you catch early signs of leaks, pressure issues, clogs, and more.

You can address simple issues like clogs with snakes or drain-cleaning products. However, unaddressed clogs can build up over time and lead to several issues, ranging from leaks to issues with pests, mold, and bacteria growing in your pipes. 

Effort required: Medium

Steps to take:

  • Check connections around the base of plumbing fixtures (like faucets and sinks)  and supply lines for signs of water damage, loose connections, or musty or sewer-like smells. Document and photograph any issues you find.

  • Turn on and test faucets, showers, and tubs to ensure the water pressure is consistent, there are no leaks, and that fixtures are working properly. Individually check each drain to see if water flows quickly without any gurgling sounds. These can be signs of a clogged drain line or clogged drain vents. 

  • Ensure that toilets flush properly, the tank refills correctly, and it doesn’t continue to run after you’ve flushed it. You can address most common toilet problems by checking water supply valves, cleaning a specific part, or tightening loose connections. 

6. Update caulking and seals around your home

Why? Updating worn caulking can help keep moisture from entering parts of your home. For example, sealing your windows and doors helps keep water from entering during a rainy day. Caulking around your plumbing fixtures also helps keep water from sinks and showers from seeping into your home’s structure—preventing severe issues with deterioration or mold.

Effort required: Medium

Steps to take:

  • Look around at caulking and seals around windows, doors, and fixtures in your bathroom and kitchen. Check for signs of peeling, cracks, or peeling. If the caulk was sealed or coated, also check for signs of wear and tear on the sealant.

  • For seals around doors and windows, inspect for air leaks by checking if light or air passes through.

  • Once you’ve completed your inspection, remove and replace any worn-out caulking and seals.

7. Check and clean gutters and downspouts

Why? Gutters and downspouts help direct rainwater away from your home. When you don’t regularly clean your gutters, water can’t properly drain and you can end up with sitting water.

This can lead to foundation damage, damage to your walls or ceiling as water pools on your roof, and even warped and broken gutters (which can cost about $2,000 to install).

Effort required: Medium

Steps to take:

  • Clean debris from gutters to allow proper drainage away from your home. Consider installing gutter guards to help keep leaves and debris from blocking your gutters.

  • If water doesn’t seem to drain away from your home, look into using downspout extensions to direct water in a different direction.

  • Trim tree limbs near your home to prevent debris from collecting on your roof and in your gutters. 

high effort tasks

8. Inspect your roof, chimney, and attic

Why? Regularly inspecting your roof and attic can help you catch issues early on for the most important parts of your home.

A well-maintained roof can help protect your home from severe weather, while well-maintained attics can help manage your home’s temperature. When these areas aren’t maintained, you may invite moisture, pests, and many other issues into your home.

Chimneys also require special attention since they create a direct opening from your roof to your home. They’re typically built with precautions to help prevent this, like chimney caps that cover openings and roof flashing that seals the area around the chimney.

When these areas wear down, moisture can enter your home and cause issues with your chimney. 

Effort required: Medium to high

Steps to take:

  • Look for visible damage to your roof that you can see when standing on the ground, like missing or cracked shingles.

  • Check out your chimney for anything damaged or missing, like a missing chimney cap or clear cracks in or around the chimney. 

  • Look around your attic for signs of moisture, leaks, and mold. This can include discoloration, dark spots, and visibly moist spots. 

9. Address other potential issues around your yard

Why? Water can pool in several places around your home, especially if you have a sprinkler system or if your area is prone to heavy rain. 

In the winter, some of your outdoor equipment can lead to issues with leaks. Small precautions, like winterizing outdoor faucets, may only take an afternoon to complete. Other precautions, like those regarding your yard, may take longer but can help with drainage issues in the long run.

Effort required: Medium to high

Steps to take:

  • Check for areas where water naturally pools outside your home. If your yard is relatively flat and downspout extensions aren’t completely solving the issue, look into other structural solutions. Consider regrading your yard or looking into drain tile (French drains) to move water naturally away from your home.

  • Call a landscape professional (for regrading) or plumbing professional (for drain tile) to inspect your home and advise you on the next steps.

  • Adjust your sprinkler schedule to avoid overwatering your plants. Change your sprinkler coverage to avoid hitting your home and having water pool near your foundation.

10. Investigate and address potential issues in the basement

Why? Basements can be prone to leaks and moisture due to causes like outside moisture seeping in or an interior leak making its way to your basement.

Moisture in the basement can be a sign of foundational damage and can lead to other structural issues. Not to mention, moisture can invite mold, pests, and damage to other appliances that may live in your basement (like your water heater or your washer and dryer).

Effort required: Medium to high

Steps to take:

  • If your basement feels stuffy or humid it may be a sign to improve the ventilation. Open windows (if you have them) to let air naturally ventilate. If you don’t have windows and you can’t add any soon, you can look to other solutions, like installing exhaust fans and vents or purchasing a dehumidifier. 

  • If you have a sump pump that helps drain excess water from your basement, test the sensor by filling the pit with water. The sump pump should turn on, drain the water, then turn off. If it doesn’t turn on or if water returns to the pit, clear out the pit for debris and check for parts that need replacement. 

  • Call a foundation repair specialist right away if you notice signs of structural foundation cracks, like horizontal cracks along the wall. You can potentially address nonstructural cracks on your own, like using an epoxy sealer for small hairline cracks.

Does homeowners insurance cover water damage?

Your homeowners insurance policy may cover water damage, depending on the scenario. For example, many standard policies may cover damage inside the home that’s accidental and sudden. You can also get additional coverage for other circumstances:

  • Water backup coverage covers damages related to sewer or drain backups and discharges or overflows from sump pumps.

  • Service line coverage covers damages from utility lines running through your home, like sewage and water lines.

  • Flood insurance covers damages to your home and belongings resulting from flooding.

Check your policy to see what’s covered and whether you need additional coverage.

If you’re interested in taking a more proactive approach, learn how smart home technology can help prevent water damage below.

list of example smart home tech that can help prevent water damage

Water damage prevention can help you avoid the high costs and stress of repairs. Keeping up with routine maintenance is especially important through the winter and spring to help prevent issues like frozen pipes or mold. 

However, water damage isn’t the only reason you should keep up with year-round home maintenance. Keeping a pulse on your home can help you find and fix small issues before they snowball into expensive problems.

The free Hippo Home app gives you an overview of your home’s health along with personalized checklists to help you improve areas that need attention. If leaks or other issues pop up, you can get 24/7 access to home experts through Home Assist.

Sign up online for Hippo Home Assist and reach our home experts within minutes whenever you have an issue.


YourHaus, Inc. ("Hippo Home") is an affiliate of Hippo Insurance Services. Services (including all repair or maintenance services) provided to customers through affiliated and unaffiliated third-party contractors. Your use of Hippo Home is subject to Hippo Home's terms and conditions and privacy policies. Use of unaffiliated third-party vendors is subject to the terms of service provided by such third party. Hippo Insurance Services is not responsible for your use/non-use of Hippo Home or any service vendor. @ YourHaus, Inc. 2023

Hippo Insurance Services ("Hippo") is a general agent for affiliated and non-affiliated insurance companies. Hippo is licensed as a property casualty insurance agency in all states in which products are offered. Availability and qualification for coverage, terms, rates, and discounts may vary by jurisdiction. We do not in any way imply that the materials on the site or products are available in jurisdictions in which we are not licensed to do business or that we are soliciting business in any such jurisdiction. Coverage under your insurance policy is subject to the terms and conditions of that policy. Coverage and coverage amounts selected are the decision of the buyer.

This guidance and advice is not error-proof and not applicable to every home. You are responsible for determining the proper course of action for your property and neither Hippo nor Hippo Home is responsible for any damages that occur as a result of any advice or guidance.

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