Imagine coming home to water all over the floor, or leaking through the ceiling from an upstairs room. To your surprise and shock, the culprit is not rain or a broken pipe – it’s the washing machine. Read on for tips about what to do if your washing machine floods and how your homeowner’s insurance policy may be able to help.
What causes washing machine leaks and floods?
Here are some of the most common causes of washing machine flooding:
- User error – Overloading the machine or using too much detergent are common culprits. Putting too many items in the appliance limits the amount of space for water. Using too much soap can produce too much foam, which can overflow out of the machine. Some high-efficiency washers need less soap than their older counterparts. If you recently upgraded your washer, you may need to change your detergent habits with it.
- Broken seals and latches – Front loading washing machines have a latch that keeps the door locked while it’s running. They also have a seal around the door that prevents liquid from seeping out during the cycle. Both of these parts can become worn down after years of heavy use and lose their effectiveness, allowing water to seep out.
- Hoses and pumps – Unlike the previous two causes, broken hoses and pumps can lead to significant and rapid water damage to your home. Hoses drain water out of the machine and back into the plumbing system. Significant wear or a puncture in one of these items can lead to water being drained on the floor instead. The water supply hoses that are attached to the back of the machine bring water directly from your main water supply. If these hoses break, water will continue to flow until you shut off your home’s water line. Imagine the damage if this happens when you’re not home!
What to Do When Your Washer is Leaking
- Shut off the water and power – Regardless of the underlying reason for the flooding, shutting off the water at the source prevents any more water from entering your house. If you can do so safely, unplug the washing machine from the wall. If you can’t then wait for a professional. Standing water and electricity don’t mix.
- Remove as much water/moisture from the area as possible – The real damage caused by a washing machine flood is not to the appliance itself, but to the walls, floors, and ceilings that touch the machines. A typical washing machine holds anywhere between 10 and 30 gallons of water at a time–that’s a lot to clean up. Once the area is safe, remove water by using towels, a mop, or a pump if you have access to one. The next step is to use a wet/dry vacuum and a dehumidifier to remove and additional moisture from the room.
- Remove damaged or at-risk items from the room – If you have cabinets, electronics, or other valuable items that can be taken out of the room, move them to a dry place. You may be able to salvage these items if they don’t have too much water damage.
How Can You Prevent Washing Machine Leaks?
Preventing another washing machine flood will all depend on why it happened in the first place. There may not be much you can do about a completely unexpected occurrence, but here are a few measures you can take:
- Use the machine as recommended – As noted earlier, overloading and oversudsing are common sources of overflows. Stick to the manufacturer’s recommendations about load volume and detergent use. This is particularly important for High-Efficiency washers.
- Actively look for wear and tear – Washing machine floods are often simply caused by worn-out components. In the future whenever you are washing your clothes, take a moment to look at the quality of hoses, latches, and seals and note any changes. If you see something odd, contact an appliance repair provider.
- Be on the lookout recalls and manufacturer alerts – It’s possible that the cause of a leak is solely the fault of the manufacturer. If you become alerted to any issues, be sure to have a specialist look at your machine as soon as possible.
- Maintain your pipes – If your home plumbing system is decades old, it may need to be replaced. You can get ahead of failing pipes by keeping your plumbing in good condition. Review your home’s permits to find the last time the pipes were replaced and what materials were used. That will tell you if they need to be replaced.
Will insurance cover the damage?
It’s unlikely that your homeowners insurance will pay for you to replace or repair your broken washing machine, but it may cover the damage caused by it. This will depend on the circumstances of how the washing machine was broken. Your insurance company will probably send an investigator to determine the underlying cause.
If your washing machine flooded because you weren’t using it as recommended by the manufacturer, don’t count on your insurance company to pay up. The same is true if you do not perform any preventative maintenance on your appliance. General wear and tear is not something typically covered under a homeowners insurance policy.
Something completely unexpected, like an unknown manufacturer’s defect or the sudden break of a recently replaced component, will probably justify your claim.
Keep in mind, however, that you still need to do everything possible to mitigate any additional damage from the flood. For example, an insurance company may not cover mold damage if you didn’t take any steps to remove excess water and moisture from the space. Using the tips above should help you prevent a situation like that from occurring.
Sources: Consumer Affairs | The Spruce | SF Gate 1, 2