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11 Easy Ways to Protect Your Home From Water Damage

Most leaks are actually preventable.

Headshot of Stefanie WaldekBy Stefanie Waldek
ceiling leaking water into living roompinterest icon
Michael Blann//Getty Images

Nobody wants to come home to find water pouring through their ceiling or pooling on the floor. The water damage in California this week from Tropical Storm Hilary has us thinking about prevention. (We were sobbing right there with her when we saw the bubbling ceiling and gushing water in Vanderpump Rules alum Stassi Schroeder Clark's nursery.) It's important to be prepared for water damage if you live in a flood zone or storm-prone area, but most water damage actually isn't related to weather emergencies. More often than not, water damage comes from within your home itself.

"Non-weather-related water losses are the number-one source of property damage for homeowners, with plumbing supply systems being one of the top causes," says Jennifer Naughton, executive vice president and risk consulting officer at Chubb Personal Risk Services. "This includes plumbing failures such as supply lines, joints/valves, and pipe bursts as well as appliance failures like ice makers, dishwashers, and water heaters."

That may sound like a long list of things that can go wrong, but are you hearing the good news here? With smart maintenance, you can prevent most of the leaks that lead to catastrophic water damage in your house or apartment. We asked Naughton and Mallory Micetich, home expert at Angi, to weigh in on the best water damage preventative measures you can take to help avoid costly repairs. Many of them are simple and affordable to do.


Maintain Your Plumbing

bathroom, room, tile, interior design, property, wall, floor, curtain, bathroom accessory, house,
Alison Gootee

"Burst pipes are one of the most common sources of water leaks," says Micetich. "Clogs, pipe corrosion, freezing temperatures, and high water pressure can all lead to a burst pipe." If you notice any dramatic changes in water pressure or discover a serious clog, call a pro to sort the problem out ASAP. "You can also prevent frozen pipes—and the water damage that follows—by insulating your pipes and keeping your faucets dripping when temperatures drop below freezing," says Micetich.


Install a Leak Detection System

moen flo leak detection system

"One effective measure to prevent water damage is to install a flow-based water-leak detection device that automatically shuts off the water supply when a leak is detected," says Naughton. "This preventative solution can be beneficial for all homes, regardless of their size, age, or occupancy status."

Companies like Moen and Guardian make systems that receive consistently high ratings. Contributing senior editor Elyse Moody has had the Flo by Moen system seen here since 2021, and it has come in handy already. "Once when we were out of town our cat sitter forgot to turn off the faucet," she says. "The Moen system sent me a phone alert that the water had been running for an unusual length of time, and I was able to shut off the water supply via the app. If there were a leak, I'd get the same kind of alert and be able to stop the water just as quickly." She notes that they also received a credit toward their home insurance for installing the system.


Inspect the Roof for Damage

adirondack chairs
Annie Schlechter

While rain isn't a leading cause of water damage, it can still damage your home nonetheless—if your roof compromised in some way. "A roof leak could be from broken or missing shingles, damaged flashing [the waterproofing material that's used under shingles, around chimneys and plumbing vents, and where different sections of the roof meet], or a damaged plumbing vent. I recommend bringing in a pro to inspect your roof at least once a year to prevent water damage from roof leaks," says Micetich.

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Clean the Gutters Regularly

Barclay Butera

While you're scheduling a roof check, line up a gutter cleaning. These two tasks go hand in hand. Gutters like the copper ones seen here not only protect your home's roof from damage, but they also reduce moisture around windows and redirect water away from the foundation. Most homeowners should clean the gutters at least twice a year. If your home is flanked closely by trees, your gutters may need more frequent cleanings to keep them free of leaves and pine needles. Three to four times a year isn't uncommon.


Secure the Storm Windows

corner storage ideas
Trevor Dixon

If you have storm windows, ensure they're closed all the way to prevent leaks. Even a small crack can let in enough water to cause damage to the walls. Have old windows that don't close fully? Ask a handyman to drill holes in the sill to let any moisture drain to the exterior of your home rather than dripping down inside the walls.


Maintain the Appliances

whole whole yellow laundry room
Stephen Karlisch

Many home appliances use water, which means there's always a chance for a leak. "Inspect and check your washing machine, dishwasher, ice maker, and garbage disposal for leaks on a periodic basis, and replace supply hoses for these appliances as necessary," says Naughton. Placing your washing machine in a pan is a helpful backup measure too, particularly if it's on an upper story of your home.

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Service the HVAC System

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Tetra Images//Getty Images

This appliance warrants its own separate action item. You may not associate air conditioning with water, but it actually creates quite of it as condensation. If you have an air handler in your attic, you should keep a close eye on it since any overflow will leak directly into your living space. "Help maintain your HVAC systems by keeping the drip pans clean and ensuring the drain lines are free from any obstructions and flowing correctly," advises Naughton. Scheduling regular maintenance with a pro can help prevent leak-causing clogs.


Consider French Drains

stepping stones and white brick wall
kampee patisena//Getty Images

Think of French drains as your gutters' cousins. Rather than your home's roofline, these gravel-frilled trenches run along its foundation and help with drainage. If you often see water pooling close to your house, French drains can help disperse and redirect it. They can help control excess water inside an unfinished or partially finished basement too; you'll often see them installed along the perimeter.


Have Backup Power for the Sump Pump

basement living room
Courtesy of Toledo Geller Interiors

If you have a sump pump in your basement, it won't work when the power goes out—which happens pretty frequently in the kinds of storms that cause flooding. So it's always a good idea to have a backup power source for the pump in the event of an outage. "Insurance credits may also be given for whole-home generators, which ensure your sump pumps are operational in extreme rain events," says Naughton.

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Know Where the Main Water Shutoff Valve Is

old pipe with faucet and shutoff valve
Thomas Winz//Getty Images

Everyone in your home should know the location of your water supply's main shutoff valve. "This will allow you to quickly shut off the appropriate valves in the event of a leak before calling a plumber to assess the situation," says Naughton. It may be located in your basement along an exterior wall, typically the one closest to the street (where the municipal water supply line is). If you live in an older home, it might look something like the pipes and valve seen here.

It's smart to locate appliance and fixture specific valves too so that you can turn them off if, say, a toilet or washing machine starts to overflow.


Turn Off the Water When You Leave Town

laundry room decor
Toledo & Geller

If you plan to be out of town for several weeks or live in your home only seasonally, consider turning off the water supply entirely when the home is vacant. This can reduce the risk of water damage while you're away. If you prefer to keep it on, consider hiring someone to check in on your home from time to time so they can note any issues that could cause damage.

Headshot of Stefanie Waldek
Stefanie Waldek
Contributing Writer

Stefanie Waldek is a Brooklyn-based writer covering architecture, design, and travel. She's worked on staff at Architectural Digest, ARTnews, and, a TripAdvisor company, and has contributed to Condé Nast Traveler, The Washington Post, Design Milk, and Hunker, among others. When she's not dreaming about midcentury chairs, you can find her re-watching The X-Files, likely in an airport lounge or on a plane.

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