Preventing Water Damage in the Kitchen

Learn how to protect the most important room in your home from costly and inconvenient water damage

Is the kitchen the most important room in the house? We're going to go with yes. It's a multi-purpose hub, the utility of which goes far beyond cooking and cleaning. Keeping it dry and free of water damage is a little bit easier as a result: we spend so much time in there, someone's bound to notice something sooner rather than later. Nevertheless, there are plenty of hidden and unexpected things that need to be regularly checked on...

What you should look for and fix:

  • Fats, Oils, and Grease (FOG) can be found in abundance in the kitchen, but they should never go down the drain! FOG is a major contributor to drain and sewer backups, which can to lead to horrors unspeakable. Collect unwanted drippings in an old jar or can to be put in the trash; wipe out pots and pans with a paper towel before cleaning them.
  • As with any sink, check for missing or deteriorated caulk around it. Should there be any problem areas, remove the old caulk, clean the area thoroughly, and re-seal with fresh silicone. If you don't, you run the risk of water seeping under the lip of the sink, potentially damaging the counter/cabinet, and beyond.
  • You probably know this one by now: regularly check the supply lines and valves to the faucet and pullout spray! Blisters, cracks, bubbling or wear on the supply? Get a new braided stainless steel flex line and breathe a little easier.
  • If the cabinet under your sink is just bare wood inside, any leaks in the area will directly penetrate the wood, eventually causing major problems. It's a good idea to throw some paint on there to help seal out as much moisture as you can. "Peel and stick" tiles can also cut down contact points with the wood and subfloor underneath, but don't rely on either option: always check for and immediately repair leaks.
  • Leaks aren't always where you expect: if you can, scoot the stove over to check behind and underneath it for signs of mold and water damage. Do the same with the fridge, and any other movable appliances - water lines can be anywhere, and leaks are highly mobile.
  • Range hood? Besides removing cooking odors, these do a great job of vacating moisture - just think of the copious amounts of steam produced for a simple pasta dinner! Though not as noticeable as a leak, excessive humidity can do just as much damage. If you have one, be sure to regularly clean screens and filters.
  • Having an icemaker/water dispenser in the fridge is a great convenience, but it does come at the cost of increased risk: failed supply lines to the refrigerator are a leading cause of kitchen water damage. Regularly check them for any signs of damage or wear, and replace compromised lines with braided stainless steel lines.
  • Pull out the fridge and check underneath and around it for signs of a leak. Be sure to leave a 3-4 inch gap between the wall and the refrigerator to prevent kinking the supply line; putting a few wooden blocks behind the fridge can help easily maintain this clearance.
  • If your kitchen has a dishwasher, you'll want to check on those supply lines every so often to make sure they're still in good shape. Always keep an eye on the door and its seal, making sure it latches properly and that no water is escaping.
  • To help prevent a flooding situation, remember to scrape as much debris off dishes as possible before putting them into the dishwasher, and clean the filter regularly. If your unit is draining slowly, check the drain line for blockages.
  • Once or twice a year, remove the dishwasher kickplate while the machine is in use - if you see water anywhere, you have a problem. It may be as simple as a compromised line or a failed seal, or it could point to a larger issue requiring professional attention.
  • As with the washing machine, only run the dishwasher when someone is at home and available to act in the event of a malfunction.

Making a habit of inspecting the water-using rooms in your home is one of the simplest and most effective things you can do as a homeowner to prevent the expensive scourge of water damage. Fifteen minutes could save you your home!

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