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Northbridge reveals your client’s biggest risk of commercial property water damage


March 10, 2020   by Greg Meckbach


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Improper installation of pipes and connections is one of the biggest risks your clients face when it comes to water losses, Northbridge Insurance suggests.

“Most water damage losses occur as a result of faulty workmanship. If contractors improperly install pipes and connections, it isn’t always obvious; it can take weeks or months before an issue is noticed, and by then, the damage may be significant,” Northbridge Insurance warned in How to deal with property water damage, a recent blog post.

Other causes of water damage include precipitation, weather-related events and underground sources, reports Northbridge.

“Incorrect installation of both sanitary and storm drainage systems is a relatively common problem at commercial properties,” Robert Sparling, senior vice president and practice lead, materials failure at 30 Forensic Engineering, told Canadian Underwriter earlier. Sparling was not referring to Northbridge’s blog post but was asked by Canadian Underwriter for ways commercial clients can reduce property risk – and potentially the premiums they have to pay.

30 Forensic Engineering recommends clients arrange a visual inspection of exposed piping systems to ensure they are correctly supported and braced. Sparling also recommends a camera inspection of sanitary drains for low points and blockages, which he says can significantly reduce the likelihood of water damage at commercial properties.

“Storm drains can become clogged with debris over time and regular  maintenance is required to ensure any blockages are identified and removed. This is especially problematic in commercial properties with catch basins in the parking lots and laneways,” said Sparling.

He added water losses caused by pipe problems generally fall into one of the five categories: incorrect installation, lack of appropriate maintenance, freezing failures, design defects and manufacturing defects.

High-rise apartment and condominium buildings are also a concern to the insurance industry. In these environments drain backups are the leading cause of water damage, said Adam Bartman, co-founder of Reed Controls Inc., in an earlier interview.

“In these high-rise buildings, there is a vertical pipe from the roof to the ground. In the vertical position, there is very infrequently blockages, but as soon as it changes direction horizontally, you get a lot of accumulation of grease,” said Bartman, who ran his own plumbing firm but co-founded Reed because he was having difficulty finding products that could easily let users remotely shut off water in some multi-storey buildings such as apartment buildings.

“Somebody will be in their apartment and suddenly they hear the sink start gurgling and a minute later there is black water spewing out of their sink because the water has nowhere else to go,” said Bartman. “All of the people above them are using their kitchen sink and everything appears to be normal. the water is going away. Meanwhile the poor guy on the second or third floor is getting crushed by drain backup.”