Seven signs your plumbing’s breaking down (or already has)

June 9, 2021 by PEMCO Insurance

​Even when you're half-asleep, you know you've got a problem if you stumble into the bathroom and find yourself standing in a quarter-inch of water. But not all plumbing problems are so obvious!

GettyImages-1218689030.jpgPlumbing leaks – not fires, windstorms or theft – account for 40% of homeowner claims. Knowing these subtle signs may save you from big repair bills later:

1. Low water pressure. 

If it's just one fixture, like the kitchen sink, try cleaning or replacing the aerator on the end of the faucet. Aerators can accumulate buildup over time and block water flow. If that doesn't fix it or you notice low water pressure throughout the house, you may have buildup inside the pipes or a crack in the supply line leading from the street. Time to call a professional.

2. Bulging washer hoses. 

Think of your washing machine hoses like the batteries in your smoke detector. They need to be changed regularly! We recommend using steel mesh rather than the rubber type typically sold with machines. A crack or bulge in the hose is a sign it's ready to burst. But often, they grow brittle from the inside and break with no warning. Change hoses every five years and take care they aren't pinched behind the machine. Similarly, when cleaning under your refrigerator, don't push it back too far and crimp the waterline to the ice maker.

3. Rusty or corroded water heater. 

The lifespan of a water heater is usually just eight to 12 years. After that, they're susceptible to catastrophic gushers or, more commonly, slow leaks that can rot out subflooring over time (a maintenance issue that your insurance can't cover). Having seen so many failed water heaters, many of our adjusters simply replace theirs every 10 years!

4. A wobbly toilet.

 That could be a sign the wax ring under the toilet is failing, and water may be slowly leaking and rotting the floor. You can try this easy test: Put a few drops of food coloring (blue or green work best) into the bowl and wait half an hour without flushing. Then, wipe around the base with a white paper towel. If you see dye, you have a leaky seal and should call a plumber. Bonus tip: You can check for a running toilet in a similar way. Put the food coloring in the tank and wait half an hour without flushing. If you see color in the bowl, you'll know it's probably time to replace your toilet's flapper valve and float assembly.

5. Extra lush grass in one part of the lawn. 

That could be a sign that a leaky underground pipe is providing extra water or, um, fertilizer. Often, you'll notice your water bill is inexplicably higher, too. (Higher water bills also can indicate a running toilet or faulty lawn-sprinkler head.)

6. Frequent toilet clogs or sink backups. 

Everyone gets a clog now and then, either from trying to flush too much, hair or oil accumulation or putting the wrong thing down the garbage disposal. But if you're frequently relying on the plunger to get things moving or have persistent gurgling or slow draining, it could be a sign that tree roots have gotten into your sewer line or that the line has deteriorated and partially collapsed. Your plumber may be able to use a remote camera to diagnose the problem.

7. Blistering or discolored paint or mold. 

A pinhole leak in a pipe behind the wall or in the ceiling could be the culprit. If you notice even a minor leak under the sink (dishwasher lines are notorious), mop it up immediately and get it fixed. A mold bloom can spring up practically overnight.

Another important way to prevent water damage: Install water sensors near washing machines, hot water heaters, toilets, dishwashers and ice-makers. Most water-leak damage builds over time, and a water sensor can alert you to trouble before structural damage sets in. And here's an added incentive: You'll get a protective device discount on your PEMCO homeowner or renter insurance if you install water sensors. When you link them to your smartphone to receive alerts, you'll get a bigger discount. And if you connect them to an automatic water shutoff (perfect if you're away from home all day), you'll save even more.

Even if you install water sensors, it's always a good idea to shut off your water when you're heading out of town or mothballing your vacation home for the season.

Share on social media

Comments on this post