Water 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 strategies to prevent water damage from happening.
The usual suspects
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, for example, 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, and significant damage can occur 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, lint accumulation in dryers, 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.
Dealing with it: your building's interior
Look over your equipment; if you see something that worries you, it's probably time to get involved. Here are some things you can do.
- Make sure hose connections are secure on water supply lines to washing machines, icemakers, 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 regularly, especially if there are signs of cracking, bulging, or other deterioration.
- 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.)
- 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.
Dealing with it: your building's 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.
- If your building has outdoor hose connections, disconnect them each fall to help minimize the chance of burst pipes due to freezing.
Hardware that can help
To help keep an eye on these or other trouble spots, you may want to consider installing a water leak detection system. Leak detection systems can be either active or passive.
- Active leak detection systems: These systems usually generate some type of alarm, but also perform a function that will stop the water flow. They feature some form of shut-off 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 either operate for an individual appliance or it can control a whole property.
- Passive leak detection systems: These systems, also called 'water alarms,' are intended to alert you to a possible water leak. They generally sound an audible alarm tone, and 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®. While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. The information is not intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. Nor is it intended to effect coverage under our policy. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.