They say that homes that experience one water loss are likely to experience more. Steve Leibel, a Cincinnati Insurance vice president and personal lines risk manager, found that was true when two separate water heater leaks occurred in his home while his family was on vacation.
The first incident involved an older water heater, which started leaking while the family was gone for a week at the lake. “We returned on Sunday to a huge mess.” Leibel said. “Everything on the floor was wet, including area rugs, photos and stored boxes.”
Upon inspection, the problem was clear: the water heater had not been installed with a pan to catch and redirect water in the event of a leak. As a result, the home needed extensive repairs, including removing the bottom three feet of drywall, treating for mold and replacing dislodged floor tiles.
Noisy dehumidifiers and fans operated constantly for what seemed like weeks. The family’s area rugs were ruined, and it was nearly two months before the drywall was back in place and painted. “Knowing all this took place in my basement is one thing,” Leibel said. “Thinking about what would happen on an upper floor is unimaginable. Needless to say, any relaxation from enjoying a week away turned to immediate stress.”
The close call
The second incident was less devastating, thanks to neighbors who stopped by to check on a pet.
“We were headed out to dinner near the end of another trip when the neighbors called for instructions to turn off the water,” Leibel recalled. The water heater had sprung another leak. “It was in a pan this time, but that didn’t matter because the water was spraying from the top of the heater and bouncing off the ceiling.
“We were lucky this time – because of our neighbors’ quick action, the damage was limited to one room. The water ran less than 24 hours, and our first incident had taught us not to keep belongings on the floor. Our neighbors kindly vacuumed up the water, preventing damage to the trim and drywall.”
In a few days, dehumidifiers and fans brought the humidity back down to normal.
Peace of mind
After the second loss, Leibel and his family had had enough of the water cleanup experience and decided to install a shut-off device. Installing the device also made the family eligible for a premium discount on their homeowner insurance policy.
Their next vacation was far less stressful.
This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. Contact your local, independent insurance agent for coverage advice and policy service.