Your property is a long term investment. Whether you live in a home you own or rent homes to others (often both are true), your investment loses value when water damage is allowed to build over time, and can often result in costly repairs and dangerous mold growth. Fortunately, with the right mindset toward property maintenance, you can catch leaks early and prevent any nasty consequences from perfectly normal water getting where it shouldn't. Your best bet is to perform regular inspections and repair any signs of leaking immediately before there is a chance for long-term damage to occur. These three tips will give you a good idea of where leaks start, how to identify them, and what to do if you find one.
1 Check Bathroom Caulking and Grout
The caulking around bathtubs and the grout between the tiles are there to make bathrooms water-tight so that the water thrown around in there doesn't permeate the less water resistant parts of the house. Most grout doesn't last forever and impacts will increase the likelihood that it will start chipping. Once the grout or caulking is compromised, it becomes possible for water to start leaking, usually through the floor, into the foundation, basement, or the floor below if it is an upper floor bathroom. At least once a year, inspect the grout in your properties and repair it if it has worn away or cracked significantly.
2 Inspect After Rainstorms and Melt-Offs
When a large swell of water has passed over the house, either in the form of rain or melting snow, this is the best time to inspect for new damp spots and identify leaks that might otherwise be hidden. Start with the gutters and take note if they are effectively directing water away from the house. A leaky gutter can soak the side of a house and cause progressive rot. Next, walk through the house checking for soft or soggy spots in ceilings and walls, and carpets. Check for dampness around window seals and any water fixtures in the kitchen, bath, or laundry rooms. You may also want to check under the boilers and water heaters as well. Finally, once a year and after serious storms, check the roof for damaged tiles that could cause leaks. Any leaks found should be promptly repaired.
3 Watch Out For Mold
Mold can happen, even where obvious leaks do not. All it requires is moisture, but not necessarily the kind of pooling that becomes immediately obvious. This often appears as white, tan, gray, light green, or black masses in places that could potentially have become damp. If you find mold, either through sight or smell, expose the area and spray it with a mixture of one part bleach, two parts water, let it set for ten minutes, then remove the mold with a towel that is then washed very thoroughly. If the mold is too deep to wipe away, the contaminated material may need to be replaced entirely.
Water damage is an insidious property hazard because it usually occurs quietly in the background without calling attention to itself. Often it's not noticed until a ceiling has started to bulge or the mold smell has started to permeate into normal areas of the house. On top of that, repairing extensive water damage can get extreme. You are much better off scheduling regular inspections in your properties, checking for and repairing any leaks you find or potential leak avenues before they become a problem. If you're still not sure what to look for, or find a leak you're not confident DIY fixing, don't be shy about contacting a professional. The money you spend on expert maintenance will be far less that what it would cost to fix water damage that goes undetected.