Tech Topics: Condominium Water Mitigation

01 June 2015

A significant risk to property owners at any level is the reality of a water damage claim. For some reason, these tend to occur at the worst time of the day when you are not expecting them. The intent of this TechTopic is to cover some risk control strategies to reduce your exposures to these type of losses. A little planning and organization will assist in reducing the impact these losses can have. 

Hot Water Heating Systems 

Provide freeze protection (such as glycal/water heat transfer fluid) for the hot water heating system to prevent freezeups, burst piping, and consequential water damage. Heating system antifreeze solution strength should be tested annually at the beginning of each heating season. The manufacturer’s recommended solution strength along with the local codes should be maintained by adjusting or replacement of the fluid as needed.

Sewer Stacks 
Sewer stacks located on your roof are designed to supply “air behind water” which allows water to drain freely. these can become clogged over time due to leaves, stones and other materials. Sewer stacks should be cleaned out every five years or as recommended by your contractor. This will reduce the risk of sanitary sewer back-up incidents.

As a precaution, the water supply should be shut-off in case there is a blockage during the clean-out procedure. regular preventative maintenance is needed to reduce the risk of sanitary sewer blockage in the future.

Water Shut-Off Valves
Onsite building staff should institute a program of exercising the main domestic shut-off valves on an annual basis. in an emergency situation, a domestic valve may not be able to close due to lack of use. By exercising the domestic valves on a regular basis, the likelihood that a valve will be able to operate in an emergency is dramatically increased resulting in reduced property damage.

In addition, on-site personnel should know the location of the main shut-off valves and have the authority to close these valves in the event of a leaking pipe. Develop a list of these valves with a description of where they are located. Having on-site personnel know the location of these valves increases the likelihood that a valve will be closed promptly reducing the overall damage to property.

Home Sitting/Checking
Owners/tenants should provide a ‘home sitting/checking’ service for any suite vacated for more than 3 days. many losses have occurred while apartments/condos were vacant or unattended. frequent checking of vacant premises may reduce the risk of floods, fires, and other losses.

Condominium Manual
A condominium manual should be instituted by the board to document practices and procedures for building maintenance, repair history, and service history for the use by future condominium directors. regular reviews should be made.

Sanitary Sewer Lines
Regular preventive maintenance, cleaning of sanitary sewer lines, and flushing out storm water drainage systems should be conducted on an annual basis. this will reduce the possibility of sewer or storm water back-up in the units and/or on the condominium property.

Suite Inspection/Information

  • Inspection of plumbing fixtures including each suite should be conducted semi-annually with deficiencies corrected immediately.
  • Blue tablet tests should be conducted annually to ensure toilets are not leaking through the flapper or hairline cracks in the porcelain.
  • Enzyme treatment should be conducted annually to prevent grease build-up in kitchen sink drainage pipes.
  • Annual reminders should be sent to owners not to put grease down sink drains.

Other Water Damage Potentials
Each building will vary as to the individual exposures to outside water damage potentials. these too need to be assessed and when/where possible, mitigation strategies should be considered. consider the following:

  • Roof drains. Location of the drains, down spouts,
  • Roof membrane or covering. Consider having a roofing contractor complete a roof assessment of your building to determine the roof condition. Leaking at seams and flashing are typical water entry points.
  • Sumps. These should be inspected and cleaned on a regular basis. this would also include ensuring the sump drains are clear.
  • Basement drains. These should be flushed annually to ensure that they are operating adequately, if/when needed. in some cases, the installation of a backflow device on the basement drains should be considered to prevent sewage back-up. if installed, these need to be cleaned annually as well.
  • Landscaping. Landscaping should be checked to ensure that the pitch for drainage is away from the building. Heavy rains will pool the water towards the building – not a good thing. This also means ensuring that your down spouts (including your neighbors) are pitched away from the building.