Plumbing Maintenance: Preventing Water Damage in Commercial Buildings

Plumbing Maintenance: Preventing Water Damage in Commercial Buildings - Lee Company

Imagine walking into your building on a Monday morning to find water pooling at your feet — soaked carpets, damaged equipment, and the smell of damp plaster hanging in the air. This isn’t just a bad start to the week. It’s a costly disruption that could have been prevented.

Water damage in commercial buildings is a nightmare for any business owner or property manager. It leads to expensive repairs, lost productivity, and potential safety hazards for employees and customers. In some severe cases, it may even force the business to close down temporarily.

Lee Company’s commercial plumbing experts are here to share practical plumbing maintenance strategies that protect your assets and reduce the risk of these disastrous scenarios. Below, we’ll outline how routine checks and advanced technologies can safeguard your property and keep your business running smoothly.

Understanding Water Damage in Commercial Buildings

Think about the essential systems that keep your commercial property up and running. What happens when one of them fails?

Suddenly, you’re facing not just a physical mess but a major operational and financial headache.

It’s crucial to recognize the usual suspects behind water damage and understand their impact to avoid these disruptions.

Here’s a breakdown of the most common causes of plumbing-related water damage in a commercial building:

  • Toilets: These account for 15% of water damage in multistory buildings.
  • Sprinklers: Vital for fire safety, yet they represent 14% of water damage cases.
  • Water Heaters: With a lifespan of 7-10 years, they cause 11% of incidents.
  • Vacant Spaces: With no one around to see or report problems, empty buildings lead to 8% of water damage issues.
  • Boilers & Machinery: These are central to operations but account for 7% of claims when they malfunction.
  • Sewers & Backups: Messy and costly, sewer problems and backups are responsible for 5% of claims.
  • Water Tanks: While they support fire safety and water supply, they also cause 4% of water damage issues.
  • Water Mains: Exposed to weather and wear, main water lines contribute to 3% of the damages.

The remaining 33% of cases are due to other factors, such as roof leaks and faulty heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. By being aware of the source of potential water damage, you can take proactive steps to protect your property and keep all systems functioning efficiently.

The Financial Implications of Water Damage on Commercial Properties

Water damage is a mess to clean up in more ways than one. Whether it’s a simple leak or a major flood, the costs of repairs and restoration can add up quickly.

This financial drain can ripple through your business for months or even years.

Even seemingly minor issues (like dripping faucets or leaking valves) can lead to significant financial losses over time. For instance, a single faucet that leaks at a rate of one drop each second can waste over 3,000 gallons of water annually.

Considering the average cost of water per gallon in commercial settings and the sheer number of faucets and valves in restrooms, kitchens, outdoor areas, and other facilities, this could translate to hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars wasted annually on water alone.

This doesn’t even account for potential damage and repair costs if leaks worsen.

Industry data shows that water-related incidents cost U.S. businesses a staggering $500 million annually, with the average water damage claim hovering around $24,000 — money that could otherwise fuel business growth, enhance customer experiences, or improve employee benefits.

The total costs can balloon far beyond initial repairs, affecting every facet of your business operations.

Repair Costs by Classification

Water damage can be classified into four different categories based on the level of severity:

  1. Class 1: Minimal intrusion, generally the least costly to repair. This could include minor leaks or damp spots on walls or flooring.
  2. Class 2: Moderate intrusion, affecting an entire room or carpet area. Damage is usually contained but requires professional drying and repairs.
  3. Class 3: Severe intrusion, water comes from above, affecting ceilings, walls, insulation, and subfloor. Requires significant repairs and restoration.
  4. Class 4: Specialized drying situations, often involving materials with low permeance/porosity, such as hardwood, plaster, and brick. These require more time and advanced techniques, making them the most expensive to address.

Direct Repair Costs

  • Typical Range: Water damage repair expenses can vary widely, from as little as $300 to upwards of $25,000+, depending on the severity and source of the damage.
  • Per Square Foot: Costs range from $3.75 to $7.50, escalating from clean water to more hazardous blackwater damage.
  • Specific Areas: Repairing ceilings, roofs, drywall, windows, doors, and basements can easily cost multiple thousands of dollars each, based on damage and materials.
  • Factors Influencing Costs: The size of the damaged area, labor costs, and geographic location play crucial roles in determining the final repair bill.

Indirect Costs

As a business owner, facility manager, or commercial property owner, you have to keep in mind the indirect costs of water damage, too, such as:

  • Business Interruptions: Temporary closures mean lost revenue and potentially damaged customer relationships.
  • Operational Disruptions: Disruptions increase downtime, therefore decreasing employee productivity. Here’s how you can maximize building uptime instead.
  • Insurance Premiums: Rates may rise post-claim, reflecting a higher risk profile.
  • Property Value: Ongoing water issues can diminish your property’s market value.

Considering these potential expenses, how much could delayed maintenance or unnoticed leaks cost your business?

Preventative plumbing maintenance can save money, preserve your commercial building’s integrity, and even add value when it’s time to sell or lease.

Proactive Water Damage Control in Commercial Properties

No one wants to encounter a major plumbing disaster that routine maintenance could have prevented. Unfortunately, many businesses learn this lesson the hard way by reactively fixing water damage instead of proactively maintaining their plumbing systems.

Here’s how you can stay ahead of water damage by focusing on the areas most prone to problems:

Preventative Maintenance Strategies for Common Water Damage Risks:


High-use areas like bathrooms in multistory buildings are particularly vulnerable to plumbing issues. Regularly upgrading flushing mechanisms connecting hoses and implementing a preventative replacement schedule can drastically reduce risk.

Sprinkler Systems

Essential for fire safety, these systems can also pose water damage risks if not properly maintained. Regular audits for compliance with the latest fire safety standards, inspections of sprinkler heads, and control system startup and shutdown can help prevent water damage.

Water Heaters

As mentioned earlier, commercial water heaters have a limited lifespan and are big contributors to water damage incidents. Regular inspections for leaks and corrosion and preventative replacements every 7-10 years can mitigate potential risks.

Unoccupied Spaces

Buildings or parts of buildings that sit empty for extended periods can increase the chances of water damage. Turning off the water supply to these spaces and regularly checking for leaks or damage can prevent costly surprises.

Boilers and Heavy Machinery

Any equipment that uses water can be a hidden risk for potential water damage. Regular inspections, maintenance, and proactive replacements when necessary can keep these systems from causing unexpected damage.

Sewer Systems

Issues with sewer systems can be catastrophic and costly. Regular maintenance checks, including hydrojetting the lines every few years, can help prevent sewage backups. Being aware of any construction or digging activities near sewer lines can also prevent costly accidents. Landscaping and vegetation should also be monitored, as roots can grow inside of and damage sewer lines.

Water Storage Tanks

Regularly checking for cracks or damage in water storage tanks and monitoring for unusual sediment buildup or bacterial growth can prevent contamination and potential water damage.

Ultrasound testing on metal tanks can also help detect vulnerabilities that aren’t visible to the naked eye.

Main Water Lines

For older buildings, replacing aging pipes with modern, more durable materials can prevent the catastrophic effects of mainline breaks. Regular scanning of the surrounding soil, landscaping, and infrastructure for signs of water leaks can also predict potential problem areas.


Simple tasks like re-caulking and replacing worn-out washers on fixtures such as faucets, sinks, and showers easily reduce the risk of water damage. Upgrading to sensor-activated faucets can also help conserve water and prevent accidental flooding.


Both indoor and outdoor drains should be regularly inspected and cleaned to prevent clogs and potential backups that can cause damage. Installing drain screens, investing in camera inspections, and regular drain cleaning can also help prevent issues. Avoid chemical drain cleaners, which can corrode pipes and cause more damage in the long run.

Enhancing Maintenance with Technology for Water Damage Prevention

Professional plumbers use various tools and techniques to detect and prevent water damage, but advancements in plumbing technology have made it easier for property managers to stay ahead of potential issues. Some options include:

  • Water Leak Prevention Devices: Automated systems have revolutionized how we handle potential leaks. Devices like water sensors and automatic shut-off valves can detect even the smallest leak and immediately stop water flow, minimizing damage and saving costs.
  • Waterproofing and Foundation Protection: It is crucial to protect the lower levels of your property, such as basements and crawl spaces. Applying waterproof sealants and installing sump pumps, dehumidifiers, and moisture barriers can keep these areas dry and secure.
  • Emergency Preparedness: No prevention plan is complete without a solid emergency response strategy. This involves training staff on the protocols to follow during a water emergency. Integrating a smart leak detection system that includes alarms and mobile notifications also guarantees that both you and your team receive immediate alerts about potential issues, facilitating faster reaction times.

The technologies and maintenance strategies above require time and resources. However, insurance providers increasingly recognize the value of “derisking” properties in this way.

In fact, some insurance companies now offer discounts for installing technologies that prevent water damage.

Not only that, integrating advanced technology into your property management routine makes overseeing maintenance quicker and more efficient. By taking advantage of data analytics, predictive maintenance tools, and remote monitoring capabilities, you can stay ahead of potential risks, reduce water waste, and save costs in the long run.

Strategic Water Damage Prevention by Lee Company

At Lee Company, we specialize in turning potential disruptions into non-issues. With eight decades of expertise in commercial plumbing maintenance, we help businesses in the Southeast stay ahead of water damage risks.

A prime example is our work with an automotive supplier facing frequent disruptions due to a failing cooling water pump.

A critical cooling water pump was at risk of failure, threatening both operational efficiency and potential water damage. During a scheduled maintenance shutdown, we installed an advanced replacement pump designed to meet rigorous demands. The new pump increased efficiency, reduced energy consumption, and eliminated the risk of costly water damage.

This case study highlights our commitment to proactive, technology-driven solutions that prevent disruptions and mitigate risks.

Why Choose Lee Company for Commercial Plumbing Maintenance?

Since 1944, Lee Company has provided top-tier commercial plumbing maintenance, ensuring your system is robust, efficient, and compliant with current plumbing codes.

Our plumbing maintenance services are tailored to meet the diverse needs of commercial buildings in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, and Georgia, ensuring that each client receives personalized solutions for water damage prevention.

We even offer customized Facilities Management and Maintenance Agreements designed to fit your business’s specific needs and effectively prevent water leaks.

Are your current maintenance practices enough to prevent water damage? Let Lee Company make your maintenance strategy smarter and more proactive! Contact us today to keep your property dry, efficient, and operational.

Protect your business from costly water damage.

CALL US NOW AT 615.567.1000