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Preventing Water Damage in Residential Buildings: Best Practices for Construction and Maintenance

Water damage from leaks and flooding is the number one cause of insurance claims for residential properties. While the overall number of residential water damage claims has decreased since 2018, the average loss amount has more than doubled.


Implementing a comprehensive water risk management plan is critical for property owners and managers to protect building assets, control insurance costs, maintain a positive reputation, keep occupancy high and preserve property values. The key is establishing best practices during construction and maintaining ongoing mitigation measures throughout the life of the building.


Mitigating Water Risks During Construction


Preventing water damage starts in the earliest stages of construction planning. A Project Water Management Plan should be developed, implemented and approved by the authorising engineer before any work begins. This plan must clearly define the roles, responsibilities and procedures for everyone involved in the installation and testing of the building's water systems.


Appointing a 'Water Responsible Person' is imperative for overseeing the plan's execution. This includes ensuring all personnel are properly trained, conducting required testing and documenting that proper procedures are followed at each phase.


Quality assurance measures during construction are essential:


  • Perform air and water pressure tests at multiple stages to confirm the pipe system is fully sealed before operation begins

  • Survey the entire system to verify all valves are turned off prior to testing

  • Conduct witnessed water testing at full operating pressure for an appropriate duration

  • Flush the system, take samples and only connect it to the main building supply when required


Additional best practices include:


  • Disconnecting and draining all hoses at the end of each work day

  • Having spill kits, wet vacs and sump pumps readily available

  • Installing and clearly marking isolation valves; training personnel on their location and operation

  • Connecting all drains to a sump pump

  • Conducting periodic leak inspections during construction


The Flood Mitigation Strategy document captures lessons learned and design elements specific to each project. It should be regularly updated and incorporated into the overall Water Management Plan.


Ongoing Mitigation Post-Construction


After construction is complete, building management must be fully trained on the location and operation of all leak control equipment and valves. Periodic inspections are necessary to detect any slow leaks early before major damage occurs. Documenting these ongoing risk management processes is important for securing favorable insurance terms.


Installing leak detection systems, ideally during the construction phase, is highly recommended for large residential buildings. A variety of sensor systems are available that can connect to the building management system and provide automatic shut-off and testing capabilities. While retrofitting these systems post-construction is possible, it is more costly and disruptive to residents.


The Payoff: Lower Costs, Better Cover


Implementing a thorough water risk mitigation plan from construction through ongoing building operation takes focus and investment, but the benefits are substantial. Property owners can:


  • Reduce damage costs and insurance claims

  • Secure lower insurance premiums

  • Reduce policy excesses

  • Maintain stable premiums over time

  • Protect their reputation

  • Minimise disruptions to residents

  • Keep occupancy rates high

  • Increase property values


In an era of rising costs, water may be one of the most expensive threats to profitability for residential building owners and managers. But with proper planning, testing and management at every stage, it's a risk that can be controlled. And that's a win for everyone.



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