Property Management: Tips to Prevent Water Damage

No one likes to be the bearer of bad news. No one likes to receive bad news, either. Unfortunately, I have some bad news for property management specialists and companies throughout the Sarasota area: the properties you are supposed to be overseeing are at risk for severe water damage.

When? Why? There are many potential causes, and they can sometimes be hard to spot before they become disasters.

The Good News
But, there is good news, as many of the most common sources of water damage are quite manageable. Even the sources of water damage that you cannot control directly can be prepared for so that you can mitigate the costs of the damage.

Knowing the Threats
So, how can you prevent water damage? First, you need to know the various sources of water damage before you can do anything about them. Here are a few of the most common threats for water damage in a property:

Plumbing Leaks. One of the most common issues faced by residential and business buildings across America, plumbing leaks can not only rack up the water bill, but contribute to the growth of mold and the deterioration of a building’s infrastructure. Thankfully, there are ways for you to detect a plumbing leak, which we have discussed before. One quick method of determining if there is a plumbing leak involves checking the utility bill to see if there is an excessive amount of water use, then using your water shut-off valve to see if it is an interior or exterior leak. If the water is shut off but the valve is still moving, it is an exterior leak. Otherwise, you have an interior leak.
Leaks in the Roof- Inclement weather or lack of proper maintenance can lead to rends or weakened seals in the structure of the roof. When this happens, water begins to seep into the home, and that can allow mold to develop in the attic or insulating layer between the roof and the ceiling of the home.
Water Seepage- During long periods of frequent rain, water can collect against the side of the home, and be absorbed by the foundation of the building. This can weaken the foundation over time, possibly even shifting the house enough to damage its frame. This can cause walls and doors to crack, as noted by Realtytimes.com.
Floods- When most people think of floods, they think of a river overflowing, or of hurricane-level natural disasters that can turn even slightly depressed terrain into a temporary lake. However, floods in a home can also originate with the plumbing, as a backed up toilet can overflow and spread contaminated water throughout a home.
Preventing as Much Damage as Possible
So, how can you prevent water damage from most of these sources? The prevention of water damage begins with good, old-fashioned maintenance. Preventing leaks from plumbing by regularly inspecting and repairing the pipes in a property goes a long way towards stopping water damage from occurring in the first place.

The Weather Channel has quite a few helpful tips on their website for preventing water damage from non-plumbing problems. Here are a few suggestions for minimizing or preventing water damage:

Inspect the Building’s Flashing- Flashing is the term for a thin metal strip that is used to prevent water intrusion in areas where two different building surfaces connect, such as where a chimney or vent comes through the roof, or where a window is set into a wall. A detailed explanation of what a good piece of flashing should look like can be found on the website of the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors.
Check the Vents- Yes, this means getting up on the roof, but it is necessary to ensure that there are not any vulnerabilities for leaks. Look at the vents and make sure that the vent cover is secure and undamaged. Loose vent covers can be pried off by strong winds, and that leaves the vent wide open to become a conduit for carrying water into the house practically unseen.
Check the Roof’s Integrity- While you are already up there, inspect the roof for signs of structural weakness or flaws. The actual process for repairing a leak can vary based on the type of roofing in use, such as asphalt shingle, “hot mop” tarred roofing, modified bitumen, shake or wood shingles, tile, or metal roofing.
As asphalt shingles are the most common, we will assume that a missing or damaged asphalt shingle is what you will be looking for. If during your inspection, you see that a roof shingle is damaged, you can replace it fairly easily using a hammer, a flat pry bar, a utility knife, and 2-4 11/4″ roofing nails using a technique discussed on thisoldhouse.com.
Inspect the Air Conditioner- Check the A/C’s drain pan to make sure that water is not collecting inside of it, and that the pan is properly sloped to allow excess water to drain. The Weather Channel actually recommends cleaning the drain lines before their first use “with compressed air or by pouring water-bleach solution down the drain line until it flows freely.”
Check the Building’s Humidity- If you have a special humidity sensor, you should take a reading. The humidity inside of a building should be between 30 and 50 percent, no more. If you do not have access to a humidity sensor, check the property for signs of condensation on windows, mildew stains, or musty odors, as these are all signs of a high humidity. One way to keep the humidity in a residential building down is to install exhaust fans in the bathroom to draw the water vapor out when the bath or shower is in use. Another way to keep down the humidity in the house is by installing a central air conditioning system to improve airflow throughout the residence.
Aside from these tips, there are numerous things to check for including landscaping, drywall, irrigation, drainage, gradient of the terrain around the building, expansion joints, wood sheathing/slides, attic spaces, and the foundation. Since nobody is perfect, and nature can be a wildcard value for the safety of any building, you may wish to check if the property is within a high-risk flood zone. If it is, you should consider making certain that the property has flood insurance to cover the costs of repairing flood damage and replacing the occupant’s destroyed property.