skip to main content
Workplace Health & Safety

Top 10 sources of interior water damage loss in commercial buildings

moldy leaky ceiling

If your business has ever experienced a water damage incident, you know how much damage is can cuase to your property.

To better understand which areas of your facility may present the most water damage risk, here are the top 10 sources of commercial water damage incidents1—starting from those that represent the largest losses and some tips on how to avoid them.


  1. Roofs

    Roof leaks are responsible for an estimated 15% of commercial water damage claims and are the leading cause of ceiling water damage. To prevent roof leaks, you will need to conduct regular inspections and maintenance. Promptly repair any sort of surface breach, remove snow and ice as quickly as possible, and fix unhampered water drainage immediately.


  1. Toilets

    Especially in multistorey buildings with stacked plumbing, toilets are a major cause of interior water damage and they make up 15% of losses. Inspect hoses regularly and replace any that are compromised; replace all hoses every three to five years, even if they appear normal.


  1. Sprinklers

    Though sprinklers are critical for protection from fire, sprinkler malfunctions account for 14% of commercial water damage loss. Make sure that pipes and antifreeze/low temperature alert systems are fire code compliant and are frequently inspected, tested, and repaired.


  1. Water heaters

    After 7 – 10 years, water heaters have a high failure rate and should be replaced before they have a chance to contribute a typical 11% of water damage losses. Put a drip pan underneath for small leaks and install an automatic shut off valve near the heater.


  1. Heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC)

    HVAC units cause about 8% of all water damage losses, primarily from leaks due to clogged drains, frozen evaporator coils, and pipes that are not properly connected. Follow manufacturer guidelines for a formal HVAC maintenance program.


  1. Vacancy

    If a building is empty, it’s less likely that water damage risks will be detected early so vacancy water emergencies account for about 8% of commercial water damage losses overall. Take preventative measures such as shutting water where it’s not needed and installing temperature sensors to maintain the proper temperature to protect machinery or pipes.


  1. Boiler & machinery

    Buildings with multiple boilers account for 7% of water claims. Install water barriers and ensure proper drainage. Create a formal preventive maintenance plan schedule and keep up with inspections from a qualified contractor.


  1. Sewer & sewage backup

    The 5% of claims caused by sewer backups are especially messy and undesirable. Often triggered by events such as excessive rain, backups can be avoided by monitoring, and clearing clog-prone areas such as wastewater lines and drainage systems. It’s also sensible to have emergency shut-off systems and drain check-valves to stop backflow coming into the building.


  1. Water tanks

    Water tanks are used for both water supply and fire protection systems—and they account for 4% of water damage issues. Adhere to applicable regulations, standards and codes for water tanks and conduct regular visual and internal inspections. An ultrasound will ensure the integrity of a metal tank.


  1. Water mains

    Extreme weather, construction activity, soil erosion, and the age or material of the water main pipe may all contribute to the cause of water main breaks. These incidents account for 3% of water damage claims but are generally major. If possible, consider replacing water mains over 60 years old or made of iron, which are more susceptible to breakage.


Technology and water damage risk solutions

Whatever the potential water threat, technological solutions may help mitigate the risk of water damage such as water leak detection sensors, flow sensors, and automatic valve shut off systems. These devices can pre-empt major water damage issues that are becoming ever-more convenient to install.

This content is brought to you by Chubb Insurance Australia Limited (“Chubb”) as a convenience to readers and is not intended to constitute advice (professional or otherwise) or recommendations upon which a reader may rely. Any references to insurance cover are general in nature only and may not suit your particular circumstances. Chubb does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs and any insurance cover referred to is subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions set out in the relevant policy wording. Please obtain and read carefully the relevant insurance policy before deciding to acquire any insurance product. A policy wording can be obtained at, through your broker or by contacting any of the Chubb offices. Chubb makes no warranty or guarantee about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the content. Readers relying on any content do so at their own risk. It is the responsibility of the reader to evaluate the quality and accuracy of the content. Reference in this content (if any) to any specific commercial product, process, or service, and links from this content to other third party websites, do not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by Chubb and shall not be used for advertising or service/product endorsement purposes. ©2020 Chubb Insurance Australia Limited ABN: 23 001 642 020 AFSL: 239687. Chubb®, its logos, and Chubb.Insured.SM are protected trademarks of Chubb.

Contact us
Contact us

Have questions?

Contact a broker today.