Your house is your most important investment. It’s the place your family calls home, where your kids grow up and you set down roots. Homeownership comes with important responsibilities, including maintenance and upkeep. While you may not be mechanically inclined, it is important to know who to turn to when you have an issue. Enlisting the help of a contractor to help you detect water leaks in your home can mean major savings in the long run.

A leak in your home can cause massive amounts of damage, even if it is just a small leak. Over time, the accumulation of water will attract bugs and mold will eventually grow, which can slowly decimate the drywall of the home. Leaks can happen in any room of the house, too, from the bathroom, kitchen, basement, garage or laundry space; anywhere you use water. Even the outside of your house can spring leaks, from your sprinkler system to your water hose connection, these leaks can wear down the foundation of your home.

A qualified contractor can ensure that leaks are detected before they destroy your home. For instance, if there is an undetected leak under your flooring, it can damage the whole foundation of your home. You may have heard horror stories about people who had a small leak in their basement that turned into a massive flood, ruining their furnishings, flooring and walls, costing thousands. Catastrophes like these can be avoided with a thorough inspection, even if you feel your home is in good shape. A once a year inspection by a professional contractor can keep your home from being a statistic.

Finding the right contractor means finding someone you trust who also possesses the experience and expertise you need. This contractor should be licensed; many people run into scams from people who claim to be contractors so it is important to make sure your contractor is thoroughly vetted. Asking friends and family members who have used a contractor for a recommendation is also a good place to start, as are websites like the Better Business Bureau. Once you have found someone you feel comfortable with surveying your home, make a list of all the areas of your home that you would like checked. If at all possible, accompany the contractor on the inspection so he can explain any potential problems he may encounter. You will also have the opportunity to ask any questions as you proceed through the inspection, and you will know what to look for in the future.

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An area you will want to make sure you have examined will be your hot water tank because even a small leak will cost you a lot of water and money. Oftentimes, the hot water heater will be close to the washer and dryer, either housed in a basement, a garage or laundry room. If a hose in the washer sprouts a small leak, you may not notice it until there is extensive damage in the wall or flooring. Kitchens, with sinks, dishwashers, refrigerators, freezers, and appliances like small wine coolers can often spring leaks and cause harm. They are not always easy to find because the water may pool underneath the appliance, and you may not see any signs of damage until it is too late.

Bathrooms are another place where leaks can easily get out of hand. Small toilet leaks, shower head leaks, drainage problems and under sink drips can be problematic. Upon inspection, your contractor may notice water stains, mold spots, loose floor tiles or other warped flooring. These leaks might just require some caulking; other, more expensive problems may require replacement of subflooring, ripping out of warped cabinetry or replacement of tub, shower, sink or toilet. To see if you have a leaking toilet, you can drop a few drops of food coloring into the back of the tank. In a half an hour, if you notice any color in your bowl, there is a leak. This can usually be fixed with simple items from a plumbing store. Additionally, you will want to inspect values, washers and fixtures. If you can’t determine the source of the leak, you can turn off the main water supply to your home and check the meter. After an hour, if the meter has changed, you can determine that there must be a leak.

Outside, your contractor may notice leaks by locating muddy patches, grassy patches, or even pooled water. You may have a leak at the hose bib, the hose itself or underground irrigation pipes. Also, if you have a swimming pool, cracks can lead to major problems, potentially costing thousands to repair. A roof leak, usually caused by poor flashing around the chimney, can cause a great deal of harm to the integrity of the roof itself, your attic space and can even seep down to your ceiling, showing signs of water damage.

The leak may not be obvious and may even be behind your walls causing damage you may not be able to see. A specialist in leak detection may be able to utilize a moisture meter or infrared technology to find a leak in the walls. If the water actually comes through the wall, it can not only ruin the sheetrock, but the entire room will need to be repainted. If water is detected, the water damage contractor will remove the excess and remove the damaged materials. Any salvageable materials will be saved; anything destroyed will have to be replaced. Often, there will be a drying out process to help save some of the sheetrock and flooring by using industrial fans. The moisture and humidity levels of the air will need to be monitored to help with the restoration process.

You should schedule your home for an annual inspection with a qualified contractor, just as you would your car, to ensure its proper care. While protecting your home from harmful water build-up is important in preserving its structural integrity, prevention of the problem is even more important.