Most homes we inspect have minimal to no forms of water damage prevention from components on the interior and leakage. To think about preventing leakage from interior components it makes the most sense to think about where the moisture is and preventing as many of the potential issues with these components as possible.
Washer Machine – A washer machine is a common source of water damage. They are often installed in upper areas of the home in or above finished spaces where leakage would result in significant damage. We recommend installing a pan under every washer. A pan alone offers minimal leak prevention, and the key is adding an automatic water shutoff in the pan. If the pan starts to fill with water, it is detected, and the water shutoff is automatically activated. Another more basic upgrade is changing out low-quality rubber hoses with stainless-steel high-quality water lines. The rubber ones often are not rated to be under constant pressure and the average person does not shut off the water after each use.
Water Heater – Just like the washer machine, a pan can be added under your water heater. Again, an automatic shutoff is the key component to prevent damage. When water heaters fail, in some cases it is in the form of leakage and may result in significant damage. We rarely see pans and shutoffs under tankless units, but I have seen them fabricated several times and they offer similar protection.
Heating Devices – Boiler systems rarely have any form of leak prevention, and a minimum of a moisture alarm is recommended. Furnace systems create moisture in the form of condensate from the exhaust system and an A/C system creates moisture from condensation created from the cooling process. Furnaces are often installed in attics and other finished areas of the home where leakage would pose a significant hazard. A pan and an automatic shutoff are required in these installations to prevent damage. These systems are often accompanied with a condensate pump to handle these forms of moisture. You want to make sure a pan is present; a float switch is present in the pan and functioning, and the pan is installed in a way where leakage would be caught. Additionally, the condensate pump should be in this pan or hardwired to the furnace to automatically shut it down if an issue occurs.
Water Supply Piping – There are obvious checks you can do to look for leakage or bad connections in your supply piping, but there are also better options. There are a variety of whole house shutoffs that will turn off all the water in the home if leakage occurs. They work in various ways, such as monitoring flow, moisture detectors you can put in various areas, and other ways. They can also prevent the need for secondary measures; for example leakage at the laundry, although redundancy isn’t a bad thing.
Waste Piping – While waste piping is a source of leakage, you cannot automatically stop the flow for obvious reasons. You should regularly inspect waste piping for leakage. Common areas where leakage is identified is in the basement/crawlspace or ceilings below bathrooms and other areas.
Other Appliances – Appliances like the refrigerator or dishwasher may also have potential for leakage. While there is no commonly installed failsafe, best practice is to install per the manufacturers recommendation and inspect regularly. They have seals and piping connections that may leak and, in some cases, removing the kickplate and inspecting for leaks under the units can prevent a large leak by catching a small leak.
While this is not an all-inclusive list, most of these leak prevention tips are relatively easy to do and can prevent significant damage. They are also not done in many homes we inspect, so in most cases improvements can be made. Consulting a plumber is a good starting point as they are the professionals that could install much of this equipment.