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Important tips for homeowners to help avoid water damage

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A person’s home is likely the largest purchase he or she will make in a lifetime. However, there is more to being a homeowner than simply paying the mortgage and mowing the lawn.

Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist, said there are a number of things homeowners should know.

“As a homeowner, you want to do everything possible to protect your investment. These simple tips will help you do just that, and maybe even save you a few dollars down the road.”

It is no secret water damage can be costly. A broken pipe or an overflowing toilet can send many gallons of water onto your floor. While there are individual shut-off valves near sinks and toilets, it may be necessary to shut off the water to the entire house.

Shutting off the water to the whole house will ensure no more water enters any pipe in the home. The first step is knowing where the home’s main shut-off valve is located.

Peek said it is likely near where the water supply enters your home. It would be in the basement, on an outside wall or in an underground utility box.

“You may need a water key or other tool to close the valve properly,” she said. “It’s always a good idea to know where this valve is located before you actually need it. Water can cause a lot of damage in a home and the faster you can get the water turned off, the less damage may be caused.”

Another scenario a homeowner is sure to experience at some point is a clogged toilet, sink or shower drain. Before you call in the professionals, try a couple of these tips first.

All you may need is a plunger to clear the clog. Before you start plunging, however, make sure you have the right plunger for the job.

Peek said the cup plunger is best for sink, bathtub and shower clogs. The flange type has an extended rubber lip that provides a better seal for toilets.

“A clog in a sink, shower or tub drain may be something as simple as buildup of hair. To help prevent this from happening, make sure there is some sort of cover over the drain opening,” she said.

For a toilet clog, remove some of the water in the bowl before plunging. Place the plunger in the bowl and push down with quick, forceful thrusts. This will concentrate pressure down the drain toward the obstruction.

There are some commercially available drain cleaning chemicals homeowners can try if plunging does not do the trick. If the obstruction remains, it is time to call in the professionals.

“To help avoid toilet clogs, do not use the toilet as a trash can. Items such as dental floss, wads of hair from a hair brush or even chewing gum should never be flushed down the toilet,” Peek said. “To help maintain clog-free pipes, use the toilet for its intended purposes only.”

While cleaning the gutters on a home is typically more of a fall activity, it is a good idea to inspect them every few weeks. If the gutters or the down spouts are clogged with leaves, twigs, pine needles or other debris, rainwater will overflow. The purpose of the down spout is to help carry water away from the foundation. Also, in the winter, water can freeze and cause an ice dam, which in turn can result in water getting under the shingles and causing water damage inside.

“You have invested a lot of money in your home and these simple tips really can make a difference when it comes to problems that can cause damage to your home,” Peek said.

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