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Water damage in a home often goes unnoticed as homeowners deal with more obvious maintenance issues, but it can have far-reaching consequences and chew up huge amounts of time and money to rectify if you don’t pick it up quickly

WORDS: MARANA BRAND – IMAGES: SHUTTERSTOCK

Potential buyers who are viewing homes for sale should always keep an eye out for any water issues, or they could find themselves in for some expensive post-purchase repairs, says Berry Everitt, CEO, Chas Everitt International property group.

Be especially vigilant if a home is over 25 years old. The plumbing system may be on the declining side of its life expectancy.

Inspect all accessible connections, pumps, washing machine hoses and valves for oxidation or discolouration – clear signs of a slow leak.

Consequently, for sellers it’s worth looking out for any sign of water damage on a regular basis, so you can call in a professional to make repairs while it’s still minor so this doesn’t hamper the sell-ability of your house.

Everitt cites the following as the most common water issues for homeowners. These are also signs potential buyers should look out for when viewing their future dream home:

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Upward water seepage into walls, which could indicate cracked foundations or a lack of damp-proofing.

Poor drainage – surface water runoff when it rains, should always drain away from the house, while gutter downspouts should always be directed away from the foundation.

Sudden dips in paving or your driveway could indicate that the soil below the surface is being washed away by groundwater or due to a leaking pipe.

Roof leaks, especially around flashings, skylights or chimneys, and any downward water seepage into walls. Even a small hole in a roof can over time result in a rotting rafter or a waterlogged wall that could collapse or need to be replaced.

Plascon advises that roofs should ideally be inspected every year at the end of the dry season; after any storm with high winds, extreme rain or hail; and if construction has taken place on the roof area. They say roof maintenance should include:

  • Replacement of broken, loose, missing or worn tiles
  • Inspection of previously repaired areas
  • Removal of leaf and debris build-up from roof valleys
  • Cleaning of gutters and downpipes to prevent corrosion, blockage and water pooling
  • Repairs to flashings at areas such as skylights, perimeter walls and drains.

Low tap-water pressure, which can be a sign of water service supply deficiencies, or the need to upgrade some piping, especially if you own an older home with the original galvanised water pipes.

Signs of mould, which is becoming more prevalent in modern homes due to the increasing use of air conditioners, dehumidifiers and clothes dryers, and may require the installation of extraction fans, the replacement of infested carpets, and repainting or retiling of certain areas.

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Higher-than-normal water loss from a swimming pool, which could indicate a crack and a leak that could eventually cause the structure to collapse if you don’t get it fixed.

Ways to prove your suspicions

If the above sounds too intense for you, here are some other fool proof ways to establish that water is leaking where it shouldn’t be:

1 Check your water meter

First turn off all the water in your home. Shut off all taps, and make sure the dishwasher and washing machine are not running. Next, watch the meter and see if it begins to change. If it does, you likely have a fast-moving leak.

2 Look at your usage

Check your municipal account and if your water usage is suddenly much more than your average per month, you may have a leakage problem on your hands.

3 Scrutinise the bill

If your municipal bill is rising consistently but your water use habits haven’t changed, a slow leak may be to blame. Your bill should remain within the same range month to month.

Remember that some pipes are likely to be underground or in your walls. You may never detect leaks in this part of your system, but you will always pay for them.

4 Toilet woes

Toilets can account for up to a third of your water use. To test for leaks, add a few drops of food colouring to your toilet tank and wait 10 minutes. If the colour shows up in your bowl, then you have a leak allowing water to flow from the tank without ever flushing the bowl.

5 Also outside

Leaks don’t just happen inside the home. Check your garden hose – if water seeps through the connection while the hose is running, replace the rubber hose washer and check that all connections are tight. Consider calling a professional once a year to check your irrigation system if you have one. A system with even a small leak could be wasting an astonishing amount of water per month.

6 Use common sense

Regularly check in the back of built-in cupboards and under basins for any signs of mould or foul smells that might indicate a leak – prompt attention could save you thousands in repairs.

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