One of the most common and preventable causes of property damage to residential properties is the sudden and accidental release of water from the building’s plumbing system.  Residential plumbing systems consist of a water supply piping system and drain or waste line system.  Because the water supply piping system is under pressure, any break or failure in the system can allow the release of substantial amounts of water, especially if the break or failure is not discovered quickly.  

You can substantially reduce your potential for this type of damage by a modest investment in timely replacement of those components of the water supply system that have a finite life span and are the most common causes of accidental water damage. 

Compression Fittings

Whether semi-rigid chrome plated brass, copper or flexible plastic, the water supply lines that connect the water supply piping system to faucets, toilets, dishwashers and refrigerator ice maker rely on compression fittings at each end of the line to make a water tight seal.  The combination of the force of the compression, water pressure and corrosion causes the compression washer to fail over time and allow water leakage. 

Toilet Wax Gaskets

Toilets are installed with a wax gasket sealing the connection between the base of the toilet and the plastic or metal flange on the waste line servicing the toilet.  This wax gasket prevents water, waste and sewer gas from escaping.  Over time, the wax gasket compresses and deteriorates and if not replaced, will allow leakage. 

Toilet Tank Bolt Washers

In a conventional two piece toilet, the tank is secured to the base of the toilet by two nuts and bolts.  Rubber washers on the bolts seal the holes where the bolts pass through the base of the toilet tank.  The combined effect of the constant compression of these washers and their deterioration due to constant immersion in water will cause them to fail over time. 

Toilet Ball Cock or Float Valves

The ball cock or float valve is located inside the toilet tank and starts the flow of water to fill the tank and shuts off the flow of water when the tank is full.  Corrosion and the effects of continuous immersion in water will ultimately cause this valve to fail which typically results in the water supply failing to shut off when the tank is full. 

Washing Machine Water Supply Hoses

Single-ply unreinforced washing machine supply hoses are a notorious cause of accidental water release.  Single-ply unreinforced hoses should be replaced by stainless steel mesh reinforced hoses. 

Hot Water Heaters

Water heaters typically fail as a result of the consumption of the sacrificial anode inside the water heater by corrosion.  Once the sacrificial anode is gone, the interior wall of the tank becomes the target of corrosion.  Unless the tank has had the sacrificial anode replaced between years five through seven, any tank is at high risk for failure once it is in excess of ten years old and proactive replacement is prudent as tank failure is merely a matter of time. 

Michael Hughart is with Winooski Insurance.  Reprinted with permission of the Vermont Apartment Owners Newsletter.