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What precautions do I need to take to prevent water damage in my home?

Unlike a burglary or fire, a malfunctioning icemaker is not likely to make the evening news. Yet anyone who has experienced a plumbing leak at home knows the drama all too well. When it comes to homeowners insurance claims, water damage from a plumbing leak is six times more likely to occur than fire, and seven times more likely than theft.1 Here are just a few real-life examples:

  • A wedding celebration had to be relocated after a pipe in a third-story bathroom leaked throughout the first and second floors of the home.
  • A leaking air-conditioning unit destroyed a painting when water saturated the drywall behind the canvas.
  • A vacation home was destroyed when a frozen pipe ruptured. Water ran continuously for several days, dumping thousands of gallons and turning the basement into a swimming pool.

In addition to costly damage and overall frustration, these scenarios share a common theme: They could have been avoided or minimized significantly.


In most cases, the severity of water damage relates to occupancy, or a lack thereof. No one was home when the bathroom pipe leaked, the air conditioner leaked or the washing machine hose broke. Had immediate steps been taken, the homeowners involved could have used a mop instead of a claims adjuster.

“Whole-house” water shut-off systems can detect or prevent water damage due to plumbing malfunctions or leaks. They are designed to respond when no one is home and often connect to a central security system. Generally, there are two types:

  • Flow-based devices monitor water flow in the pipes, allowing water to flow continuously for a set volume or length of time.
  • Sensor-based devices are placed in high-risk locations, such as near artwork or appliances that use water. Sensors signal the valves to close when they get wet or fall below a critical temperature.

Devices can be used in combination for maximum protection. If your home is not equipped for holistic detection, point-of-use devices can be applied directly to the supply lines of toilets, sinks, dishwashers, washing machines and more. Vendors such as Water Security Solutions can advise on appropriate device choices for your needs.

In most cases, the severity of water damage relates to occupancy, or a lack thereof.


Additional actions you can take to reduce the likelihood of water damage include:

  • Have a caretaker check on your secondary home every day. A walk-through should include every floor and room with a water-consuming appliance. During sub-freezing temperatures, have rooms checked twice a day.
  • Replace your washing machine’s rubber hoses with steel-braided ones, and replace them every ten years.
  • Have a maintenance service agreement for air-conditioning units and water heaters. Ideally, they should be checked on a semi-annual basis.
  • Inspect water-supply lines under sinks and appliances regularly. Replace inexpensive plastic tubing and valves with metal or steel-braided connections.
  • Install a basement sump pump. If you have one already, keep a back-up power supply. Examples include systems with battery back-up or ones powered by water pressure.
  • Install a permanent back-up electrical generator to power the critical systems in your home, such as the furnace, alarm system and sump pump.
  • Schedule an annual inspection of your roof and flashing. Caulk joints around doors and windows should be inspected as well.
  • Clean gutters and drains twice a year to ensure that water from rainstorms is channeled away from your home quickly.


Even with a robust mitigation plan, damage can occur. Work with an independent insurance agent to ensure that your homeowners policy limits reflect the breadth of your assets, and choose a provider that supports proactive measures to safeguard your property.

1 Source:

American International Group, Inc. (AIG) is a world-leading property-casualty and general insurance organization servicing more than 70 million clients around the world. Through its Private Client Group, a division of the AIG member companies, successful individuals can access innovative protection for homes, excess liability, automobiles, private collections, yachts and more. AIG Private Client Group also offers supplemental services designed to minimize property damages, safeguard fine art and other collectibles and bolster family safety.

Risk & Insurance

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