Tips to prevent water leakage at your business

Water leakage prevention, precautions and fixes, plus an overview of leak detection systems.

Drop ceiling tile leaking water.

How can you prevent business water damage?

Water leakage damage in your place of business can be a devastating blow: Not only can it cost you quite a bit to clean up, but it can also slow — or even shut down — business operations.

Whether it's managing the distraction, sending employees home for the cleanup or losing equipment and records, water damage will inevitably cause your business to take a hit. Here are some tips to help identify the source and also strategies that may help prevent water leakage and damage from happening.

The usual suspects of water leakage

Determining where water might come from can go a long way in preventing water damage in the workplace. Here are some possible water sources to investigate:

  • Appliances: Common sources for water damage include the water heater, clothes washers, dishwashers, refrigerators and air conditioning units. The age of an appliance is a major factor; over time, appliances that produce condensation often rust, increasing the chances of a leak. Water supply hoses on washing machines and dishwashers also may develop leaks. Hundreds of gallons of water can escape, resulting in significant damage to the building and property inside.
  • Pipes and drains: Plumbing systems are susceptible to clogs and stoppages, which can lead to overflowing appliances such as toilets, sinks and washing machines. Grease buildup in kitchen sinks and roots in sewer lines are some of the reasons for clogs and stoppages. In the winter, pipes can freeze, burst and damage the building and the occupants' personal property. A 1/8-inch crack in a pipe can release up to 250 gallons of water a day.
  • Roofing: Deteriorated, missing or damaged roofing materials and ice dams can allow water to enter through the roof and damage ceilings, walls and floors. Inadequate attic insulation and ventilation can speed up a roof's decay and contribute to the formation of ice dams. Exposure to wind, snow, ice, rain and foot traffic can also affect a roof's ability to keep water out. Other roof debris such as leaves, branches and moss can also prevent water from properly flowing or draining off a roof.

Prevent water leakage: Building interior

Look over your equipment; if you see something that worries you, it's probably time to take action. Here are some things you can do:

  • Make sure hose connections are secure on water supply lines to washing machines, ice makers, dishwashers and other appliances that use water.
  • Re-caulk and re-grout around sinks, showers and tubs. Leaking shower pans and loose or missing tiles should be repaired.
  • Check and replace washing machine hoses every 3 to 5 years as part of a proactive maintenance program. Sooner if there are signs of cracking, bulging or other deterioration. Consider replacing traditional reinforced rubber hoses with stainless steel braided hoses, for increased durability and longevity. For additional protection, consider a stainless steel braided hose with a built-in auto-shutoff mechanism.
  • Follow the recommended maintenance procedures for all appliances and equipment. This includes periodically draining a portion of the water out of the water heater to flush out the sediment in the bottom of the tank. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions. Tankless water heaters also need regular maintenance and servicing as well as water softener and water filtering systems.
  • Regular maintenance by a qualified HVAC contractor will help keep air conditioner pan drain lines clear of deposits that can clog the line.
  • When the weather turns cold, a trickle of water from both hot and cold faucets may help prevent frozen pipes. Another good idea is to open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls.
  • Insulate water pipes that are exposed to freezing temperatures or drafts, such as those located in garages and basements, to help reduce the chance of leaks from frozen pipes.

Prevent water leakage: Building exterior

Water can also come from outside sources. Do you think you're at risk? If so, here are some steps to consider:

  • Hire a professional roofing contractor to promptly repair deteriorated or damaged roofing materials.
  • Gutters, eaves and downspouts should be free of debris. This will allow water to drain freely. Downspouts should extend away from the building to carry water away from the foundation.
  • Adding insulation and ventilation in the attic can extend the life of the roof and reduce the chance of ice dams that can cause water to back up under roofing. The insulation should be in good shape and attic vents clear.
  • Most insulation materials can last more than 50 years, as long as they are installed and maintained well. Their thickness and material type can impact their effectiveness. Adding or replacing insulation may be needed to gain a higher efficiency, especially in colder climates. Improper installation, moisture, UV rays and disturbance can all negatively impact the effectiveness of insulation.
  • If your building has outdoor hose connections, remove hoses from hose bibbs in the fall and turn off the water supply to hose bibb connections to help minimize the chance of burst pipes due to freezing.

Hardware that can help prevent business water damage

To help keep an eye on these or other trouble spots, you may want to consider installing a commercial water leak detection system. Leak detection systems can be either active or passive.

  • Active leak detection systems: These commercial leak detection systems usually generate some type of alarm, but also can stop the water flow. They feature some form of shutoff valve and a means to determine that a leak is occurring. Most devices use moisture sensors to detect a leak. Other systems utilize a flow sensor and a timer to determine that something is leaking and the water needs to be turned off. An active leak detection system can operate only for an individual appliance or control a whole property.
  • Passive leak detection systems: These commercial leak detection systems, also called 'water alarms,' are intended to alert you to a possible water leak. They generally sound an audible alarm tone; some may also feature a flashing light.
    Passive systems are frequently battery-operated, stand-alone units. They are inexpensive and easy to install. Some simply sit on the floor, while others may be wall mounted. A moisture sensor is located on the bottom of the unit and activates the alarm when it becomes wet. Battery-operated devices need to be tested regularly, and the batteries should be replaced on a periodic basis.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates). While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. State Farm is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.
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