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Water damage: pro tips to keep your business afloat

We understand your concerns about water damage—it’s a major cause of loss and will probably occur more often due to ongoing climate change. Nonetheless, if you follow the steps outlined below and put an emergency plan in place, you can significantly reduce the risk of water damage disrupting your business and/or causing costly repairs.

What type of roof does my building have?

Depending on the type of roof your building has, you’ll need to take certain precautions to protect your business from water infiltration.

Flat roof

Is your flat roof in good condition? Inspect the roof at least twice a year, in the spring and the fall. If you’re not comfortable with climbing onto the roof yourself, you can hire an expert to perform the inspection for you. Here is a quick reminder of what you should look for during the inspection:

Checklist – Inspecting your flat roof

  • Make sure the seals around all openings are still intact
  • Pay special attention to any areas where the gravel, granules or other material has been washed away, depending on the type of roofing
  • Watch for any irregularities, like swelling, cracks, or bubbles

Sloped or combination roof

Sloped roofs need special care. They are particularly prone to damage during mid-winter or spring thaws. If there’s any damage or if there are warning signs such as ice dams on the roof or dampness inside the building, call in a roofing specialist to identify the problem and recommend the most appropriate solution.

What’s the lifespan of my roof?

Is your roofing material showing wear and tear? The older the roof, the higher the risk of leaks. If it’s been a long time since you had your roof redone, keep a close watch on it and plan to repair or replace it in the near future. Here’s a table of suggested lifespans for some of the more common roofing materials used in our climate.

Lifespan by type of covering
Asphalt shingles 20 years
High-quality materials
(composite shingles, tiles or membranes)
50 years
Slate or clay 50 years
Tar and gravel 20 years
Metal tiles or shingles 50 years
Cedar/other shingles 20 years

Should I inspect my windows?

Every opening needs to be checked frequently. A close look around the edges of attic windows and skylights, from both inside and outside, will tell you a lot about the state they’re in and the risk of leaks. If there’s any sign of dampness or mould, water infiltration is a very likely cause. Keep an eye out!

Plumbing tips

The plumbing is one of the most important systems in your building to check. Here are some tips:

Checklist – Plumbing inspection

  • Do periodic visual inspections of pipes, drains, taps and fixtures like toilets, showers, baths and sinks
  • Keep a constant lookout for any leaks from water heaters, dishwashers, washing machines humidifiers, sump pumps and other appliances
  • Install a water detection and automatic shut-off system* to prevent water damage inside your building
  • Be sure to take appropriate steps ahead of the cold weather to prevent pipes from freezing
  • Mark water supply pipes clearly to make them easy to find in an emergency
  • Check that water is draining properly away from the basement and the outside of the building
  • Be sure the drainage hoses from appliances such as the washer, dishwasher and refrigerator are made of flexible material and have been connected by a certified professional
  • Use a sump pump with a backup power supply

*What is a water detection and shut-off system?

A water detection—or leak detection— system can prevent water damage caused by plumbing fixtures or pipes. Sensors are installed in strategic areas such as water lines, sprinklers and major appliances. When a sensor detects water, it sends a signal to the alarm panel and the monitoring station alerts the customer to the problem. Some systems even come with an automatic water shut-off valve to minimize the damage.

Don’t forget about the outside!

Large accumulations of water outside the building can also have serious repercussions. Don’t take any chances!

Checklist – Exterior inspection

  • Keep nearby storm sewer grates clear of leaves and debris
  • Disconnect downspouts draining directly into the sewer system and redirect them at least 2 metres away from the building’s foundation
  • Check downspouts to ensure water is draining properly from the roof
  • Make sure the lot is graded to promote drainage away from the foundation walls

Don’t find yourself in hot water

Not only is a water heater that is more than 10 years old more prone to leaks, but the damage can be worse than in other types of leaks because of the water pressure inside the tank.

Another problem with hot water tanks is that there is often no sign of deterioration until it’s too late. As your water heater approaches the end of its 10-year lifespan, plan on getting it replaced by a certified plumber within two years. You can also reduce the risk by taking the following precautions:

Checklist – Water heater inspection

  • Check whether there are floor drains near the water heater
  • Install drip pans connected to a drain in the case of water heaters installed on any level above the basement
  • Make sure that the first 18 inches of the hot water line are made of copper pipe


Need to make sure your business is protected against water damage? Call your broker or contact our team of experts.

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