Water damage can happen at any time. Sometimes it can be predictable if a town is affected by a large tropical storm. Other times, businesses could prevent water damage by inspecting their pipes and appliances. In all cases, being proactive about the situation can help stop significant damage.
Why do businesses need to protect themselves from water damage and how can they do it? Here are seven tips for how to both prevent and mitigate this problem.
How Much Can Water Do?
Right now, there are almost 800,000 businesses and homes annually at risk for flooding in the United States alone. Combined, this represents nearly $14 billion in structural damage risk, which analysts expect to increase to $16.9 billion by 2052. This study expects the impact on local economies to be almost $50 billion, with businesses experiencing around three million days of lost business due to floods and flood repairs. Water has a significant financial and physical impact on homes and businesses.
While water damage is not new, its costs have skyrocketed in recent years. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, flooding and weather disasters cost the U.S. just under $200 billion in the 1980s. However, the year 2021 saw damages totaling $148 billion. Costs in the last five years have over tripled what they were in the entire decade of the 80s. So what could be causing this gigantic spike in dangerous weather events?
A possible culprit is climate change. As the population expels more greenhouse gases, the temperature of the Earth rises. This is currently causing the ice caps to melt, increasing the amount of water in the planet’s oceans. The National Resources Defense Council determines these higher sea levels, heavier precipitation and numerous hurricanes are causing the sharp increase in flooding. So it is currently a question of when a business will experience water damage instead of “if”.
Tips to Prevent Water Damage
Both the climate and improper maintenance can be causes of water damage to a business. However, a careful plan and routine check-ins will help lessen the costs and save on extensive repairs and renovations.
1. Find Well-Constructed Buildings
The first step to avoiding future damage is operating in a properly built space. If a business is able to construct its own building, working with engineers to ensure its quality can bring a lot of peace of mind. Preplanning the construction, staying with the original plan and consistent quality assurance checks are all ways those in charge of building can guarantee an excellent product.
When businesses are looking at pre-built spaces, they should do some investigating into their construction. Has this building experienced a lot of previous water damage? Was it built up to code? Is it a flood-prone area or are the pipes in sore need of replacing? Take a look at these facts about the building before using it for a business.
2. Patch Holes and Cracks
There might be hidden ways water can get into a building. When in a new space, find any cracks or holes in the insulation and get them sealed. This is important for water and drafts. Covering these gaps will lessen the number of entry points flood water has to get in. It also stops cold wind, saving the pipes from freezing temperatures that could cause them to burst. To prevent water damage in the future, address these fissures as soon as possible.
3. Repair Old Pipes
If a space is old and needs renovating, think about replacing the pipes first. Old pipes are at a high risk of breaking regardless of if they’re made of plastic or metal. Metal pipes can also rust as they age, leaving dirty substances in the water that will be a mess to clean up in the event of a burst. There are multiple options for new piping, so researching them before a repair will help narrow down the choice.
Insulating pipes is also a smart way to protect them from cold weather. Supplies are available at many hardware stores, but consider hiring a professional to do the job.
4. Buy a Dehumidifier
Once a building has flooded, businesses have a time limit to prevent water damage. Once the flooding is gone, the space needs to dry out. Lingering water can form mold and cause structural issues days after the leak. Dehumidifiers reduce the amount of water in the air, allowing an area to become completely dry. Having a dehumidifier after a flood is a great way to ensure a building is safer from any lingering damage moisture could cause.
5. Investigate Possible Plumbing Issues
Have the water bills mysteriously gone up without any outside influence? Chances are there might be a leak somewhere. Start looking at the walls, ceilings and floors, and see if there’s any new dampness or mold. Both could soon start to cause problems, so notify a plumber of the issue and get it repaired quickly.
6. Consider Insurance
Though not required in many states, flood insurance is ideal for businesses regardless of flood zones. Many standard insurance packages do not cover floods, so this is a separate protection guarantee. However, keep in mind this insurance covers naturally caused water damage. The maintenance of pipes and sewage systems is the property owner’s responsibility.
Standard business insurance will sometimes cover burst pipes, but this comes with the same condition as flood insurance. A business owner will receive coverage if they maintain all the pipes and properly heat the building. However, if the insurance company can determine there were ways to prevent the burst pipe, they may choose not to cover the business.
7. Have a Flood Control Kit
If a flood or pipe burst has happened, prevent water damage by using a flood control kit. Some essential tools to have will be:
- Sandbags or quick dams
- A wet vacuum
- Sponge mops
Sandbags and quick dams can help prevent water from reaching any critical technology. Tarps cover these electronics if the leak is coming from the ceiling. Wet vacuums, sponge mops and buckets can then help remove the flooding from the affected area. Together with a dehumidifier, flood control kits can stop severe water damage to a business.
Protect Businesses from Flooding
Water damage costs a lot of money in removal and restoration. Catching potential problems early and preparing for the worst can help business owners reduce how much a burst pipe or flood affects them. Planning and prevention are the best ways to prevent water damage to a business.
Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized, a magazine exploring how innovations change our world.