Drip, drip, drip…is often how it starts. But by the time a unit owner realizes that the hot water tank has leaked the amount of water released has done a great deal of damage.
In many communities, each homeowner has a water tank which serves his or her unit exclusively. This tank is responsible for heating your water for washing dishes, clothing, and your steaming morning shower. Needless to say, this often forgotten “appliance” is working overtime to keep you comfortable in your unit. But like any machinery under constant use, duress and wear and tear can occur. More often than not, when an element of your hot water tank fails it means the release of a large volume of water. As anyone who has accidentally spilled a beverage can confirm, water travels. So a leak from a water tank in has the potential to make its way into many areas and damage elements of the building’s living space. In the event that this happens, what steps should a resident take?
First and foremost before any leaks ever happen take a few minutes to review your homeowner’s insurance policy. Discuss your policy with your own agent and be certain that you have ample coverage to dovetail with the property’s master policy. This proactive step will ensure that you will be covered for any water damage and restoration work should a leak occur. Water alarms are available at retailers like HomeDepot. This small device sits on the floor near your water tank; it detects the presence of water when a connection is made between two contact points on the bottom of the device. When this happens a shrill alarm sounds notifying you of a leak. It’s not incredibly effective as it does require that a homeowner be present to hear the alarm. But at about ten dollars, it is an inexpensive recommendation that can also minimize damage.
Additionally, check and familiarize yourself with the age of your water tank. Hot water tanks have an average lifespan of seven to eight years; many will last longer than that however. Whenever possible, it is best to make arrangements for its replacement around that time. This situation is one of the rare occasions where “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” doesn’t apply. When your plumber installs a new tank ask him/her about including a water shut off device. A wags valve is the trademarked name of one such device. This item, which must be professionally installed by a plumber, terminates the further flow of water into your tank in the event of a leak. Some homeowners’ insurance policies will offer a discount for the documented installation of one of these devices so be sure to keep your plumber’s invoice.
Please note that that a water leak never occurs at a convenient time. A cool head can help any homeowner minimize the damage to the building . A water tank leak often manifests by way of a soggy carpet in the interior areas immediately adjacent to your exterior maintenance closet. Additionally, it is not uncommon for the ceiling in this same area to be impacted in a unit immediately below yours. Should a homeowner notice signs of a leak, the water to your unit should immediately be terminated. Familiarize yourself with the location of the water shut off for your unit. Each building is slightly different but homeowners should familiarize themselves with this important valve. Once the water supply has been terminated, every available attempt to contain the flow of water should be made. For most homeowners this means the use of many towels and/or rags to soak up the water. Your next move should be to call the property management company. If it is during normal business hours, the call should be placed to the office. As is often the case, water leaks occur after hours or on weekends, the management company should still be your first call. Crowninshield Management has a 24-hour number for emergencies; a leaking water tank is an emergency! Be sure to tell the operator your unit number, name, return telephone number and nature of your problem. You should receive a phone call from a representative of the management company who will attempt to ascertain additional information about the situation you are experiencing. Depending on the nature of your situation, the representative will provide you with the contact information for a vendor to assist you.
When practical, notify your insurance agent of the incident. He or she will be able to offer additional advice. Depending on the volume and location of the water, it may be recommended that you engage a restoration company specializing in the extraction of water. These initial and important steps can make a significant difference in the amount of damage potentially created by a leaking water tank. Being proactive and staying calm will help your community avoid a soggy situation.