While it’s true that water damage is most often caused by huge storms and flooding, there are many other factors that can result in a water problem. In fact, seemingly minor issues like small leaks have been found to cause much greater damage than natural disasters because they happen more frequently and usually remain unnoticed for a long time.
Water leaks pose a significant threat as they use much larger amounts of water than residences. Leaks can then lead to the waste of hundreds of gallons of water per day and can substantially increase a company’s monthly bills. What’s more, some plumbing leaks can cause severe water damage to a building and necessitate expensive repairs. To avoid such troubles, property owners need to maintain their buildings in excellent condition and seek efficient professional solutions at the first sign of a water problem.
COMMON BUILDING LEAKS
Building toilets are heavily used. Their parts wear quickly and may allow water leaks to occur. For example, a flapper that doesn’t create a solid seal will allow water to leak from the toilet tank drain and a fill valve that doesn’t shut off when the toilet tank is refilled will continue to send water into the tank.
A leaky toilet doesn’t seem to be a big problem, but if the leak is neglected, it can lead to substantial long-term water loss, increased water bills, and damage to other toilet components. You may eventually need to replace the entire toilet to get rid of the problem.
Leaky faucets are another common and generally neglected issue. Like leaky toilets, faucets are usually the result of a worn or damaged component. If the rubber washers used to create a watertight seal in the faucet wear out, for example, the seal will fail and the faucet will leak. This can result in extensive water loss (and higher water bills) and will affect other faucet components over time.
Leaks in bathrooms and other wet areas of buildings are most often due to failure of the waterproofing membrane. A low quality or damaged waterproofing membrane will quickly lead to dampness and seepage inside the building as the water from the bathroom floor will easily make its way across the porous concrete slab beneath. Damp patches may appear on the ceiling on the lower floor and unless quick and efficient measures are taken to fix the problem, dripping water can result in mold growth and structural damage.
Basement leaks can be attributed to many factors, including poor waterproofing systems, inferior concrete quality, defects or damage to the waterproofing membrane, and insufficient slope. Such waterproofing failures allow seepage from clogged drainage, broken pipes, ground water level rise, and even water features of above-ground landscaping (swimming pools, upper floor wet areas, etc.), which can lead to water damage in the basement. The structural integrity of the basement can be seriously compromised by the high moisture level as the chloride content of the concrete may rise above the threshold level resulting in severe corrosion problems.
A leaky roof is a serious structural problem that poses several safety risks and can easily result in significant commercial water damage. There are many possible causes of a building roof leak:
- The roof may be damaged by hail, high winds, torrential rains, heavy snowfall, etc. Shingles can get damaged or blown away in strong storms, allowing water to enter the building.
- The roofing materials may not be appropriate, may be improperly installed, or worn.
- The flashing may be improperly installed or missing. If the metal installed around the roof edges, chimneys, dormer windows, skylights, and/or vent pipes breaks or becomes loose due to wind or storms, the edges of the roof membrane cover remain exposed, allowing moisture and water to seep into the roofing system and the building.
- The valleys (the places where two roof planes come together) may not be sealed well, allowing rainwater to get through them as it runs down the roof.
- Pipes, drains, and other items that puncture the roof’s membrane may not be secured properly, opening a way for rainwater into the building.
- The skylights may be improperly installed or the insulation along the edges may decay over time, allowing water to leak inside.
- Ice dams (ridges of ice at the roof edges) may form and prevent melting snow from draining off. The blocked water may back up and find its way into the building.
- The gutters may get clogged, preventing rainwater from draining away, so it pools in one area of the roof. Pooling water can add significant strain to the roofing system (one square foot of pooling water weighs roughly five pounds per inch of water) and cause substantial water damage to the commercial building.
- The roofing system may be too old (most flat roofs start to deteriorate about 15-20 years after installation) and become vulnerable to water damage.
The most common signs of roof leaks include:
- Water spots, damp patches, rust stains, or discolored areas on ceilings and walls
- Peeling paint around skylights or dormer windows
- Decaying or stained soffits and fascia
- Curling or cupping shingles
- Musty smells in upper floors
- Mold on attic insulation, ceilings, etc.
- Water seeping into the building during heavy rainfall or when snow melts
Broken water supply pipes and deteriorated sewer lines are the most common causes for water damage in a building. Water pipes can easily burst in cold weather and sewer drains may deteriorate over time, causing extensive water leaks and severe water damage. To make matters worse, piping systems and sewer lines are most often buried underground or located inside walls, so it can be difficult detecting leaks or leaky pipes. If a leak remains unnoticed or unattended for long, it can create unexpected flooding or long-term water damage that could be very expensive and difficult to repair.
The most common signs of underground plumbing leaks include:
- West soil areas, places where grass or other plants grow faster than in surrounding areas, and unstable, spongy floors
- Bulging walls, crumbling plaster, blistering paint, water stains, cracked or loose tiles, and gaps in the grout are tell-tale signs of leaking pipes
- Musty smells, visible mold patches, and unexplainable rises in water bills are also clear indications of hidden water leaks
To locate the source of a pipe leak, use specialized water leak detection equipment. Once found, the damaged pipes must be dug up to be repaired and it may be necessary to displace soil or remove flooring, insulation, and other materials to access the leak. Repairs are likely to be expensive and time-consuming, and mold remediation or other specialized restoration procedures may be required to avert long-term problems.
Commercial Building Plumbing Leak Detection
The latest advancements in water leak sensing and shutoff technology make it easy to catch a leak at its source and fix the problem before it’s too late. Installing a leak detection system in a commercial building is extremely beneficial because it allows for early leak detection and water damage prevention. An integrated automatic water leak system will alert the building management of the precise leak location within minutes of detection (water sensors work 24/7 to detect water leaks and send an alert as soon as they sense water):
- Wireless water leak detectors – The building is retrofitted with wireless sensors that respond with a local alarm and deliver notifications by phone, text, and email to building managers when a leak occurs.
- Cloud-based sensors – Cloud-based sensors are placed at sites of potential leaks—sinks, toilets, basements, plumbing chases, etc.—and can combine data from all units into a single portal monitored by building operators.
- Automated sensors – These advanced water leak sensors automatically shut off water in certain applications when a leak is detected.