Top 8 Sources of Commercial Water Damage and How to Prevent Them

Top 8 Sources of Commercial Water Damage and How to Prevent Them

Water damage can be a devastating issue for any commercial property. It causes physical damage to the building and its contents. It can also lead to costly repairs, business interruptions, and health hazards. Knowing the 8 sources of commercial water damage and how to prevent them. Taking steps to prevent them can reduce the risk of such incidents. In this article, we’ll cover:

  1. Roof Leaks: The Leading Cause
  2. Toilet Malfunctions in Multistory
  3. Buildings
  4. Sprinkler System Failures
  5. Water Heater Risks and Replacement
  6. Plumbing and Pipe Leaks
  7. HVAC System Malfunctions
  8. Sewer and Drain Backups
  9. Weather-Related Water Damage

Key Takeaway: Understanding the common causes of commercial water damage and taking preventive measures can significantly reduce the risk and protect your property. Regular inspections, proper maintenance, and prompt repairs are key in protecting your commercial building from water damage.

1.) Roof Leaks: The Leading Cause

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Leaky roofs cause the most commercial water damage, which accounts for about 15% of claims. A compromised roof can let water in. This water can damage ceilings, walls, and floors. To prevent roof leaks, consider the following:

  • Regular Inspections and Maintenance

Schedule regular roof inspections to identify potential issues early on. Look for signs of wear and tear, such as cracked or missing shingles, with loose flashing, and damaged seals around vents and chimneys. Address any problems promptly to prevent water infiltration.

  • Prompt Repair of Surface Breaches

If you notice any breaches on your roof, like punctures or tears, have them fixed right away. Even tiny openings can let water in. This can cause big damage over time.

  • Snow and Ice Removal

In snowy areas, heavy snow and ice can pile up on roofs. Swift removal is crucial, as the weight of the snow and ice can damage structures. Additionally, melting snow can seep through tiny cracks, causing further issues.

  • Ensuring Proper Water Drainage

Make sure your roof has good drainage by using systems like gutters and downspouts to redirect water away from the building. Regularly clean and maintain these systems to prevent clogs and ensure proper water flow.

Image Table 1: Roof Leaks

Image Description Where to Look
roof missing shingles Cracked, missing, or loose shingles Roof exterior
water damage ceiling Stains or discoloration on the ceiling Interior ceiling, especially above attics or bathrooms

2.) Toilet Malfunctions in Multistory Buildings

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Toilet malfunctions represent another significant source of commercial water damage, particularly happening a lot in multistory buildings with stacked plumbing, accounting for 15% of losses. To minimize the risk of toilet-related water damage, consider the following:

  • Inspecting Hoses Regularly

Regularly inspect the hoses connecting the toilet to the water supply. Look for signs of wear, such as cracks, bulges, or leaks. Replace any compromised hoses immediately to prevent water damage.

  • Replacing Compromised Hoses

If you notice any hoses that are showing signs of wear or damage, replace them promptly. Don’t wait for a hose to fail. Fixing it then can prevent big water damage.

  • Scheduled Hose Replacement

Even if hoses appear to be in good condition, replace them every three to five years as a preventive measure. This practice ensures optimal hose performance and practice ensures optimal hose performance and reduces the risk of unexpected failures.

3. Sprinkler System Failures

Sprinkler systems are vital for fire protection. However, malfunctions can cause significant water damage, accounting for 14% of commercial water damage losses. To prevent sprinkler system failures, consider the following:

  • Compliance with Fire Codes

Ensure that your sprinkler system is compliant with local fire codes and regulations. This includes proper installation, maintenance, and testing of the system.

  • Frequent Inspection, Testing, and Repair

Schedule regular inspections and tests for your sprinkler system to identify any issues. Ensure that a qualified professional carries out any necessary repairs or replacements.

  • Antifreeze-Low Temperature Alert Systems

In areas that freeze, install antifreeze-low temperature alert systems. These systems stop pipes from freezing and bursting. They can detect when temperatures drop too low and alert you to take action.

4. Water Heater Risks and Replacement

Water heaters often fail after 7–10 years, contributing to 11% of water damage. To minimize the risk of water heater-related damage, consider the following:

  • High Failure Rate After 7–10 Years

Be aware that water heaters have a limited lifespan and are more likely to fail after 7–10 years of use. Keep track of your water heater’s age. Plan to replace it before it is too old.

  • Timely Replacement to Prevent Damage

Replace your water heater before it fails and causes water damage. Additionally, consider installing a drip pan under the heater to catch small leaks and placing an automatic shut-off valve near the heater to mitigate damage in the event of a failure.

5. Plumbing and Pipe Leaks

Plumbing and pipe leaks can cause significant water damage if not addressed promptly. To prevent such leaks, consider the following:

  • Regular Inspection and Maintenance

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Schedule regular plumbing system inspections to identify any potential leaks or weak points. Hire a plumber to perform any needed maintenance or repairs, ensuring the system operates efficiently.

  • Prompt Repair of Leaks

If you notice any leaks in your plumbing system, have them repaired immediately. Even small leaks can cause significant damage over time if left unaddressed.

  • Insulation in Cold Weather

In cold areas, ensure thorough insulation of your pipes to prevent freezing and bursting. Pay close attention to pipes in cold-prone areas such as attics, crawl spaces, and exterior walls.

Image Table 2: Leaking Pipes

Image Description Where to Look
Water Damage Bulging, warping, or sweating pipes Underneath sinks, behind cabinets, near washing machines
damage floor Water stains or peeling paint on walls Around pipes, especially near washing machines, dishwashers, or water heaters

6. HVAC System Malfunctions

HVAC systems can cause about 8% of all water damage. This is mainly due to leaks from clogged drains, frozen coils, and bad pipes. To prevent HVAC-related water damage, consider the following:

    • Regular Maintenance and Cleaning

Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for a formal HVAC maintenance program. This should include regular system cleaning, filter replacement, and inspection of components for wear and tear.

    • Condensation Line Inspection

Regularly inspect the condensation line to ensure it is free of clogs and draining properly. A clogged condensation line can cause water to back up and leak into the building.

    • Proper Sizing and Installation

Ensure that your HVAC system is properly sized and installed for your building. An improperly sized or incorrectly installed system can result in inefficiency and increase the risk of water damage.

7.) Sewer and Drain Backups

Sewer and drain backups cause 5% of commercial water damage claims. They can be very messy and unpleasant. To prevent such backups, consider the following:

  • Regular Cleaning and Maintenance

Schedule regular cleaning and maintenance of your building’s wastewater lines and drainage systems. This can help prevent clogs and backups caused by buildup of debris and waste.

  • Tree Root Intrusion Prevention

Tree roots can infiltrate and damage sewer lines, leading to backups and leaks. Consider inspecting your sewer lines for tree roots. Take steps to prevent or remove root-causing issues.

  • Proper Waste Disposal Practices

Educate your employees and tenants about proper waste disposal to prevent clogs and backups. This includes avoiding flushing non-biodegradable items such as wipes, paper towels, or feminine products.

8.) Weather-Related Water Damage

Extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall, hurricanes, and flash floods can cause water damage, affecting commercial properties. To mitigate the risk of weather-related water damage, consider the following:

  • Flood Preparation and Response

Develop a comprehensive flood preparedness plan for your commercial property, including installing flood barriers, elevating critical equipment, and establishing protocols for safe evacuation and business continuity.

  • Securing Doors and Windows

Make sure all doors and windows are sealed and locked. This will stop water from getting in during storms or floods.

  • Maintaining Gutters and Downspouts

Clean and keep up your building’s gutters and downspouts often. This will ensure good water drainage in heavy rain. Clogged gutters can cause water to back up and seep into the building.


Commercial water damage from businesses can have severe consequences, including expensive repairs, downtime, and health hazards. Understanding the common sources of water damage and taking preventive measures to reduce the risk is crucial for protecting your commercial property. Regular inspections with maintenance and prompt repairs are vital in safeguarding your building from water issues.

Remember, prompt action in fixing water damage is essential to prevent further damage and mold growth. If you experience water damage, get help from a reputable water damage restoration company with the expertise and tools to reduce the damage and restore your property to its pre-loss condition.

By implementing the preventive measures outlined in this article and addressing water damage incidents promptly, you can effectively protect your business property and reduce the risk of costly water damage.

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