As fears turn to floods, Washington residents urged to look closer to home to prevent water damage



​​​SEATTLE As many Western Washington residents prepare for the possibility of flooding in low-lying areas, a poll commissioned by Seattle-based PEMCO Insurance found that most homeowners often overlook simple steps to prevent less-spectacular water damage – the type caused by washers and other household appliances. 

“There’s lots of focus right now on the possible Howard Hanson dam failure, but we know for a fact that costly water-damage claims happen all the time in people’s homes, and they can be prevented with simple steps,” said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg. 

According to PEMCO’s recent poll, only 14 percent of homeowners identified water leaks as the leading cause of home-insurance claims.  Of those polled, one-third said they don’t know the causes of frequent claims, and another 26 percent incorrectly blamed bad weather for causing most home claims. 

“Year after year, PEMCO sees more homeowner claims caused by water damage than anything else, with the most-frequent claims coming from plumbing leaks in ice makers, dishwashers, and washing-machine hoses,” Osterberg said.

Water leaks are costly because the damage increases over time if it’s not discovered right away.  For example, if a homeowner has a leaky sink or toilet that slowly rots the floor, the damage can be considered to be caused by neglect – a maintenance issue, not a covered claim. 

Fortunately, homeowners can do routine maintenance checks to prevent costly leaks.  PEMCO recommends:

  1. Check hoses for kinks and cracks next time you do laundry. Replace your washing machine hoses every five years with a quality high-pressure hose, preferably a durable metal-mesh hose. Washing machine hoses are available at most home improvement stores for $5 to $10.
  2. Inspect flooring around your water heater for signs of leaks. A qualified tech should periodically inspect heaters installed more than five years ago. If your water heater is more than 10 years old, consider replacing it.
  3. Inspect refrigerator and dishwasher faucet lines for leaks and crimps. Place a plastic tub under the kitchen sink to catch leaks before damage occurs. If you move your refrigerator to clean, be careful not to overextend or pinch the ice-maker line. If you see signs of brittleness or moisture, call a qualified repair technician.
  4. Before the first frost, remove hoses from outside faucets and cover them with an insulating bonnet, available at hardware stores for about $2 each.

“Early detection is key,” Osterberg added.  “Just a few minutes of maintenance can save you a whole lot of inconvenience.”

Visit to view a summary of the results collected by this poll.  Visitors to the site can take an informal version of the poll to see how their own responses compare with those collected by FBK Research of Seattle earlier this year.   

About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll

PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey that asked Washington drivers several questions about attitudes toward safety habits and other current Northwest issues. The sample size, 601 respondents, yields an accuracy of +/- 4.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study was conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than +/- 4.1 percent.

About PEMCO Insurance

PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, life, and umbrella insurance to Washington state residents.  PEMCO Insurance is sold by community agents throughout the state and through PEMCO offices.  For more information, visit