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How to prevent water damage in your home

Woman On Phone In Kitchen Pipe Burst

Often the possibility of water damage in the home is an overlooked threat. Whether it's a  hidden leak, a sudden burst pipe, a faulty boiler or a malfunctioning washing machine, water damage can be disruptive and lead to costly repairs.

In this guide, we'll explore practical steps to prevent water-related issues and learn to recognise early signs of trouble. We'll also provide you with quick and effective solutions if you discover a leak or suspect water damage to keep your home dry and comfortable.


Jump to:

Proactively check for potential causes of water damage
Protect your water pipework
Keep your gutters clear of debris
What to do if your area is susceptible to flooding

Proactively check for potential causes of water damage

Leaking taps and pipework

Man Fixing Tap

Minor leaks can easily go unnoticed, yet they have the potential to cause significant damage if left unattended over time. Take, for example, a seemingly harmless leaky tap, which can quietly displace gallons of water in a week. To protect your home from water damage caused by leaks, it's crucial to be vigilant in inspecting certain areas, such as underneath sinks and around appliances like dishwashers and washing machines. 

Other areas you’ll want to check include bathrooms, ceilings, radiators and around your boiler. If you live in a flat or share a wall with another building, keep a look out for potential leaks from neighbouring properties to prevent and address water damage effectively.

Proactively investigating and learning to recognise early signs can save on costly repairs, so, look out for indicators like warped floors and doorways, a lingering damp smell, or the presence of mildew on walls. You may also hear subtle dripping sounds that become more noticeable when taking a shower or when it's raining.

If you’ve discovered a leaky tap, follow our helpful guide on how to repair a dripping tap, or if you notice your toilet leaking, we’ve got tips on how to fix a leaking toilet.

Areas of moisture or mould

Condensation On Window (1)

Indicators of water damage and damp in your home may manifest as condensation, flaking paint or wallpaper, as well as speckled black marks on skirting boards and window sills. Your walls may feel consistently cold to the touch or emit a musty smell. 

Damp and mould can cause costly damage to your home and have even been linked to health issues like respiratory infections. So, this type of water damage must be dealt with promptly and effectively. It may be worth considering the following:

  • Close bathroom and kitchen doors
  • Dry clothes outside whenever possible
  • Use your extractor fan while showering
  • Install extra insulation
  • Use saucepan lids while cooking

There are plenty of things you can do to prevent condensation and mould at home, including following our guide on 10 ways to reduce condensation in your home.

If you’re renting, let your landlord know as soon as any signs of damp or mould appear. If you own your home, getting professional advice quickly is essential. 

If you’re a Places for People customer, and you’ve noticed damp or mould in your property, please report an issue to us.

Protect your water pipework

Know where your stopcock is

If you suspect a leak, your immediate reaction may be to contact a plumber. However, before making that call, it's imperative to prioritise shutting off the water supply to your home. 

Locate the stopcock and turn it clockwise to cease the water flow. To prevent further water flow and facilitate necessary repairs, drain the pipes by opening a cold water tap and letting it run until the water ceases. Taking these steps can prevent further damage if you need to wait for professional assistance.

Most internal stopcocks are situated on the ground floor beneath the kitchen sink. While some buildings may feature individual stopcocks in different parts of the home, during an emergency, it is crucial to use the main stopcock. 

It’s a good idea to make sure all members of the household know where the stopcock is located. In the event of a severe leak or rupture, minutes can make the difference between minor and severe damage. Awareness and swift action can be instrumental in minimising potential harm and protecting your home from extensive water damage.

Prevent pipes and taps from freezing

Pipe Insulation

Even when not in use, there's always a small amount of water in your pipework, and when the temperature drops, this water can expand, putting pressure on pipes and potentially causing them to burst. 

An economical solution to ward off frost and reduce energy bills is to insulate your pipes and water tanks, and most DIY shops offer cost-effective options like pipe lagging, tank jackets, and insulated tap covers.

Follow our full guide to prevent frozen pipes and taps this winter to protect your home from water damage, freezing temperatures and potential bursts, contributing to a more energy-efficient and resilient household.

If the frost has already taken hold, we’ve also got information on how to manage your frozen pipes and how to defrost a frozen condensate pipe.

Keep your gutters clear of debris

Blocked gutters are a common problem, primarily during the autumn and winter months and moss and weeds are frequent contributors to gutter blockages, too. 

Beyond being a small inconvenience, blocked gutters play a significant role in fostering damp-related issues. 

If you notice water flowing down the sides of your property or notice a sagging gutter, it's a strong indicator that they are likely obstructed and in need of cleaning. 

It’s worth getting a professional to regularly inspect your gutter and fix any issues, as maintenance can help prevent water-related problems and ensure the proper functioning of your drainage system.

Ask the professional to take special care to check the gutter joints for leaks, and ensure they’re strong enough to withstand harsh weather as if these issues aren’t fixed, they can cause water damage inside your home.

If you’re a Places for People customer and think that there is an issue with your gutters or downpipes, then please report a repair.

What to do if your area is susceptible to flooding

Flooded Street And Homes

While you may take all the proactive steps to prevent water damage, we know that unforeseen adverse weather conditions can still occur and wreak havoc.

If your area is susceptible to flooding, there are a few steps you can take to minimise the risk of damage:

  • Compile important contacts: Keep a list of essential contact numbers, including your local council, emergency services, and insurance company. Having this information readily available is crucial in times of need.
  • Communication plan: Develop a communication plan with your household members to stay in touch if the flood separates you. Establish clear contact methods.
  • Protect valuables: Move valuable belongings upstairs or to a secure location before the flood occurs.
  • Locate gas and electricity mains: Identify the locations of your gas and electricity mains. Turning them off before the flood can help mitigate risks and hazards.
  • Check insurance coverage: Verify that your insurance provider covers flood damage to your home. Understanding your policy ensures you are adequately protected. If you rent a Places for People property, we cover the insurance of the building your home is located in, but it's your responsibility to insure the contents of your home. 
  • Prepare protective measures: Have sandbags, flood boards, or plastic covers ready to block doorways and airbricks.
  • Secure vehicles: If you own a car, consider moving it to a safer location.
  • Prepare an emergency flood kit: Include warm clothing, a torch and copies of your home and contents insurance documents wrapped in waterproof casing.

Being proactive and organised in these aspects can significantly enhance your ability to respond effectively in the event of a flood, ensuring the safety of yourself, your loved ones, and your property.
If you’re a Places for People customer and you’re experiencing a flood up to your knees, we recommend calling our Help Line or you can report a repair to receive professional support.

For more information, visit our detailed guides on what to do if your home floods or Flooded home? What to do first.