Beware Failing Appliances and Suspicious Plumbers

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ September 13, 2010

You'd think that torrential rain gathering in clogged gutters or burst frozen pipes are the largest cause of water damage in the home. Not so, says a vice president at Safeco Insurance in Seattle. Two-thirds of water damage, according to Safeco's Jim Swegle, is caused by faulty plumbing. The balance? Household appliance failure.

SmartMoney Magazine says it's largely up to you, the homeowner, to take inventory of your appliances and perform routine maintenance (or have it done) to minimize the damage caused by appliance or pipe failure. When appliances fail or faulty plumbing leaks, homeowners can cough up $5,000 per episode to clean up the mess.

Start With the Water Heater

Hot water heater failure is hard to predict. Count on replacing your water tank every decade. Swegel says there's an added incentive beyond safety--energy efficiency. New models are increasingly efficient. He suggests that homeowners take a walking tour of their water equipment and appliances at least once a month, inspecting for worn wires, torn hoses and, especially, signs of leaks that pool up on your floor. Check behind your washing machine, too.

If you need to call in a plumber, SmartMoney suggests that you insist that the professional who delivers the estimate (the manager or owner) does the job, rather than send in a rookie. Working with a handyman over any period of time means forming a professional, formal relationship.

Not everyone knows how to form a successful relationship with their contractor. But first and foremost, it's a professional relationship, and you need to check references and ask to see their contractor's license. The SmartMoney article tells the sad tale of a homeowner who paid $1,000 for what ended up being a $200 water heater. When they sought a remedy, they discovered that the contractor had their license suspended for gouging customers on the cost of appliances.

Get bids for work on your plumbing, appliances, or wiring. Get them in writing. Ask for references. The idea of having a relationship with a contractor means evaluating them carefully before letting them into your home. It's good to have a reliable plumber or handyman. But like any relationship, let it evolve from a strictly professional basis no matter how friendly they seem on the first day.

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