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A call came in the other day that we thought it might make sense to talk about it because it happens fairly often. The call went something like this:
Caller: Hello, we had a plumber out yesterday and he was going to repair an issue under our sink but then he noticed there was what appeared to be black mold on the underside of the cabinets. He said we would need to have a restoration company assess it further before he could safely do any repair work. Is this something you can help with?
So let’s discuss slow kitchen sink leaks…
There’s a lot of things that can go wrong if you have a leaky sink in your kitchen. Let’s run down what can happen and then discuss some things you can do to try and prevent this from happening to you.
Slow leaks aren’t covered by your insurer
Let’s get some of the worst news out of the way first. Any damage caused by slow leaks is not usually covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy. This is some really unfortunate news for people when they discover it. In most cases, they learn that fact at a time when they really need their insurance company to step up to the plate. But if you read the fine print of your insurance policy (which let’s be honest, no one ever does), you’ll discover a clause that explicitly states your policy only covers sudden water damage losses, not gradual leaks. Why is that the case? All policies make clear that they don’t cover homeowner negligence. So while you can’t foresee certain accidents happening and protecting against them, your insurer’s position is that you should be able to prevent certain things from happening with some regular maintenance. So to them, the fact you never noticed you had a problem is evidence that you were negligent, and any claim would most likely be denied on that basis.
They can cause hidden water damage
Usually when you have an ongoing leak under your kitchen sink, you can see some discoloration or spotting on the base of the cabinet. But what you can’t see is where the water has traveled beyond there until it becomes an even bigger problem. Water can travel through your cabinets and into the sub-flooring below your cabinet. It can then travel up walls that are hidden by the cabinets, saturating both drywall as well as insulation. These can be quite expensive repairs because not only do the cabinets usually need to be replaced, but so does any other areas that got wet. They’ve simply been wet for too long by the time it’s noticed to be salvaged.
It can affect other areas, most notably wood floors
A lot of times the homeowner ultimately discovers the problem because they start to notice some warping and cupping to the wood floors around their sink cabinets. At this point, the damage is usually pretty extensive and not limited to just the floors (see point regarding hidden damage above). It’s also usually the case that the floors can’t be dried out in order to be returned to their original conditions. Depending on the extent of the damage, they’ll either need to be replaced or sanded down and re-stained. Again, you’re talking a lot of money that won’t be coming from your insurer but rather out of pocket.
(Image credit – To the right is an image of the type of equipment used to dry out wood floors that can be salvaged.)
It can cause a lot of mold damage
We’ve blogged a lot about mold damage, but the short and sweet of mold problems is this:
- it can make you and your family members very sick
- it is very expensive to safely remove
- it is not covered by your insurance policy
How can you prevent a kitchen sink leak?
The short answer is you can’t totally prevent one. Despite the best preventative measures, sometimes accidents happen. But there are things you can do to both mitigate the risks of it ever happening, and lessen the damage that might occur should a slow leak develop. Here’s some helpful tips:
- check under your sink every few weeks. Just a quick glance to see if you notice any staining or moisture. You’re probably reaching down there every day to grab soaps or sponges or whatever else you need in your daily life. Every once in a while pull a few things out and just make sure everything is dry.
- once a year, check the supply lines to your sink to make sure the hoses themselves are in good shape and that the connections are still secure.
- if you’re really concerned about a problem, consider installing a water sensor under your sink. This will alert you to any moisture intrusion so that you can head off any problems at the pass!