Escape of Water in Commercial Buildings – 8 Tips to Prevent a Leak

21 Oct

According to the Association of British Insurers, escape of water claims are costing UK insurers £2.5 million a day, equating to nearly £1 billion a year.

In fact, water-related claims have been steadily rising over the past 15 years, with insurers paying out a staggering £930 million a year. In the commercial sector, losses of over £1 million have been seen, compared to the average cost of domestic properties of just under £3,000.

Commercial buildings have more water features than domestic properties, such as large heating systems, air conditioning, water and coffee machines, which is why the impact of escape of water is more severe. Furthermore, their layout, which is usually the same on every floor, means any problem on the top floor can affect the floors below, turning a simple leak into an expensive loss. Escape of water claims are not only expensive but can cause considerable disruption for businesses.

What is Escape of Water?

Whereas flood damage arises from external sources, such as adverse weather conditions, escape of water originates inside a building. There are many factors that can lead to escape of water, but it is often caused by leaks related to building maintenance or frozen pipes bursting.

With the rise in remote working and many offices still partially or fully empty, the risk is greater. If a building is unoccupied, water leaks can go undetected for days, even weeks, significantly increasing the severity of water damage.

The effects of escape of water can be extremely problematic for businesses. Not only could it damage your equipment and furnishings, but it also requires time and money to repair. The good news is that it is preventable. Read on to find out more about the causes of escape of water and our tips for preventing it.

In Deep Water – Common Causes

Leaking as much as 400 litres an hour, a burst pipe is arguably the most damaging cause of water escape. This happens as a result of cold weather, when water freezes and expands inside the pipe, causing it to split or burst. Other plumbing-related problems, such as faulty boilers and radiators, and problems with the original plumbing installation are also common causes of leaks.

Blocked drains can cause water to back up. In time, pressure will build and eventually lead to a damaged seal which allows water to escape. Age and maintenance as buildings and plumbing get older is another factor. Not everyone is aware of where potential leaks could arise or what they need to repair or replace, resulting in a bigger chance of something going wrong.

Keep Your Head Above Water – 7 Prevention Tips

1) Protect Your Pipes

In colder weather, water pipes and water tanks in the roof are more likely to freeze. Ensure they are lagged or insulated with foam to avoid burst pipes and inspect them regularly. All plumbing systems should be thoroughly pressure tested by engineers.

2) Temperature Control

Keep your building’s central heating on continuously at around 15°c to prevent the pipes from freezing, especially if the building is unoccupied. Turn your water off if your building is empty or if you are going away to steer clear of big leaks.

3) Circulate Warm Air

The cabinets in your building’s kitchen and bathroom restrict warm air from reaching sinks and adjacent outside walls, so leave their doors open to let warm air circulate.

4) Maintenance & Upgrades

Small improvements, such as repairing leaking taps as soon as possible, can help fend off leaks. Check old appliances, such as the boiler and dish washers (not forgetting their plumbing connectors) and upgrade them if necessary.

5) Look for Tell-Tale Signs

There are some obvious signs that will help you detect a leak, such as damp, condensation, ice on outside taps, low water pressure on your boiler, temperamental heating, suspicious smells coming from the plumbing system, cracks or gaps on plastic plumbing joints and green colouring on copper pipe joints. You should also check water meter readings for variances in usage as a significantly higher reading could indicate a leak.

6) Use Modern Technology

Consider installing leak detection equipment into your water system to help you monitor problems. They can automatically shut off the water supply if a leak is found.

7) Check Risky Areas

Keep an eye on the most common problem areas in your building, which are the bathrooms, toilets, kitchens, boiler and radiators, as well as ceilings, internal walls, under-floor pipes and leaks from adjacent buildings. You should also check that the stopcock is in full working order as turning the water off is the first thing you will want to do if a leak is detected.

8) Hire Competent Professionals

Should your building need any maintenance or repair work, ensure you have robust processes in place to check that the contractors you plan to hire have the right skills, competence and are professionally registered with the relevant qualifications.

What Should You Do if You Find a Leak?

If you find or suspect a leak in your building, immediately shut off the water supply. If the leak is a result of a burst pipe, there are steps you need to take to manage the damage. Contact a professional tradesman if it’s a fault with the heating system. It’s important that you also notify your insurance provider as soon as possible.

Have a Question About Your Commercial Building Insurance?

Whether you are an existing client or looking to switch from your current provider, contact our Commercial Insurance team today on 02920 853788 or email for advice on escape of water and to ensure your business is protected in the event of an accident.