Potential issues with leaks in an unoccupied property

Owning an unoccupied property doesn’t come without its risks. Some might assume, that because the property is vacant, it needs little to no maintenance. However, this is often not the case. Unoccupied properties still need regular maintenance internally and externally, as well as regular check-ins to ensure nothing unexpected has occurred, such as, roof damage, break-ins, weather damage, damp etc.

One issue that unoccupied property owners might come across, are water leaks, which can affect the structural integrity of property internally and externally.

Unwanted leaks

Leaks maybe an obvious issue to look out for, but it is important to not underestimate the damage a leaking pipe or faucet can cause. A continuous leaking pipe, that drips un-noticed for a prolonged period, could cause:

  • A build-up of harmful mould.
  • Damp floors, walls or ceilings can rot and become unstable.
  • Walls, floors, or surfaces could become warped or stained.
  • Damp or wet internal insulation can become ineffective.
  • Water could penetrate electrical sockets or exposed wires, increasing the risk of an electrical fire.

What can cause a leak?

You may automatically assume that a leak in your property is down to a dripping faucet or a pipe under the sink. However, some leak sources are not always that obvious or easy to find.

  • The corrosion of pipes or taps due to the metal breaking down, can cause rusting, weakening, and crack, which in turn can lead to water escaping.
  • Subsidence or shifting foundations of your property could dislodge your plumbing from the mains, and damage internal and external pipes.
  • Extreme changes in temperature (mainly when the temperature drops below freezing), can cause exposed pipes to freeze and crack.
  • Copper pipes could be at higher risk of theft, due to the value of the copper itself. Stolen or damaged pipes due to attempted theft could cause leaks.
  • If the water pressure throughout the property is too high, it can cause water to continuously drip from taps and other plumbed in items.
  • Older boilers, or boilers that have not been serviced regularly, can leak to due to corrosion, rust, loose components, or high-water pressure.
  • Water seeping under the shower tray, between cracks in the bathroom tiles or even from under the bath, can be hard to find, and if left unattended, can cause serious long-term damage.
  • It is not uncommon for radiators to leak, especially if the pressure if out of kilt. Leaks from radiators is usually minor, but it is still worth keep a close eye on them.
  • Signs of dampness on the floor around your toilet, or foul sewerage smells could indicate a leak from underneath your toilet. Broken seals, rusted bolts or cracks pipes could also indicate a leak.

How to help prevent leaks in your property

It is highly likely that most property owners will experience a leak inside or outside their property at some point. However, there are some basic steps you can take, to help reduce the chance of a leak occurring.

  • By regularly visiting your unoccupied property, you should be able to spot any tell-tail signs that you have water damage due to a leak.
  • Pay particularly close attention to leak prone areas in your property. If it looks like you might have a leak, ask a qualified plumber to come and take a closer look. The sooner the leak has been fixed, the less long-term damage it can cause.
  • If you live in an area that is prone to cold snaps, consider insulating your water pipes that are exposed. Especially any external pipes. Special pipe insulation is energy efficient, cost effective and could save your pipes from cracking during the colder months.
  • If your property is going to be unoccupied for a long period of time, consider turning off the mains water. This could be as easy as turning the stopcock that is usually found under the sink or flicking off the isolation switch. This could help prevent any build-up of pressure or escape of water.

You may require a plumber to turn off your mains or water supplies. If you are 100% confident on how to turn the water off, and if there are other water sources throughout the property such as in the bathrooms, call a professional.

Although you can never guarantee that your vacant property won’t experience any water damage or leaks, by keeping a close eye on your plumbing, fixing any leaks, water damage or damp as soon as you notice it and by asking a plumber to investigate if you are unsure, you can help reduce any further damage and potential costs to your property.