Property Management Blog

Water Damage Prevention: How to Check for Water Damage and Leaks

Brittany Kenyon - Tuesday, April 18, 2017

As a commercial property owner, it is always important to identify any potential issues or problems with your property as early as possible. Preventing water damage or leaks is essential before problems become an emergency repair your tenants are calling you about on Monday morning as they’re coming into work.

Water damage can be expensive and take time to repair, and unknown problems can lead to dangerous mold, issues with the structural integrity of the building, and ultimately impact the value of your property.  

Step one is always to follow a regular inspection routine. Maintaining the barrier between the elements and the interior of the property is the best way to keep the water where it belongs.

Prevent Problems Before They Start with Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance is key, so create a schedule to inspect for water damage. Monthly reviews may be ideal, but check at least quarterly to ensure the property is in top operating shape. It is often useful to schedule a building check after a heavy storm for the best chance to catch potential leaks or water damage. Now would be a great time, after the spring rains and right before the season begins to warm up!

Key building elements to inspect

Building Exterior

Start your inspection with a walk around the building to check high-risk areas where the wall meets the ground and the surrounding areas of the building. Check building components that may interact with water or collect water in the winter months.

  • At-grade plumbing/drainage systems

  • Roof drain outlets/downspouts - ensure they’re clear of debris and directing water away from the building.

  • Check for any standing water and identify the source, (apart from potential issues of water leakage, standing water also poses the threat of mosquitoes as the weather starts to warm up.)

  • Major wall joints or exterior decorative elements


Head to the roof or attic space next, as it can be the first place rain or weather damage may show. Check carefully for:

  • Soft spots or missing tiles

  • Seals intact around HVAC systems, skylights, stack vents, or other potential openings

  • When inspecting from inside or below, do you see any daylight where it shouldn't be or water stain marks?

  • Check interior ceilings for soft or discolored ceiling tiles, and floors for water damage from above.

For flat roofs water maintenance is critical. Check for standing water, remove debris regularly and ensure that your drainage system is working properly.

Doors and Entrances

Check for water damage or discoloration on the door and floor around it. Seal integrity at bottom of a door is essential, whether it’s a regular entrance to an office or a roll-up door to a warehouse or garage space. Check that the door sits well into the frame and that all mechanical aspects are working well.


A commercial building can have more window space than anything else and it’s important to ensure they are doing their job properly. Do the windows open and shut tightly? Test locks, screens and mechanical elements. Signs of water damage can include:

  • Mold or moisture in corners

  • Discoloration inside or outside on sills or wall below

  • Cracked or broken panes of glass

  • Any “fogging” of windows

Restrooms and Break Rooms

Check carefully around water sources and connecting pipes. Inspect restroom toilets and sinks, floor drains, and any pipes leading into or away from the area for signs of problems.

  • Discoloration

  • Seal integrity

  • Loosening or cracking in the caulk. This could cause damage to the waterproof seal, allowing water to damage the walls or floor around the area.

Change Air Filters in AC / HVAC units

Inspect your HVAC units carefully, as well as interior filters or ducts. Dirty filters can force your unit to work harder, which can eventually lead to clogs, contamination or system malfunctions.

Water Heaters

Inspect the area around the water heater for any leaks or buildup on valves. You can also drain and flush your water heater tank once or twice a year to remove sediment and build up, which can make the unit less efficient and can clog drain or pipes. Follow specific instructions for your model/make of water heater, or hire a professional.


While they are not common in our area, basements offer their own potential for issues or unique conditions that should be inspected regularly. Check floor drains and systems for buildup or discoloration. Check for mold or moisture on walls, called effervescence, where moisture boils through the surface of the concrete and can be identified by flaking mortar or concrete. This can be one of the first indications of a landscaping or outdoor leak.

Have a plan for emergencies or major water damage, just in case.

Rapid response and preparedness are the most important aspects of being a good homeowner or property manager. Speed of response can be vital to getting your tenants back to normal operation as quickly as possible.

Work with building staff to have an emergency plan that includes:

  1. Making sure they know to contact their landlord or property management company ASAP.

  2. Shutting down the water supply lines quickly

  3. Safely shutting down electrical and gas if necessary

  4. Emergency numbers for response teams like fire and police, as well as specialists/companies that you may work with.

Listen to Tenants

Communicate regularly with tenants to establish a healthy relationship of trust and respect. Often they are the first line of defense or indicators of building problems. Survey the tenants when performing regular maintenance so they can easily report concerns or things they’ve noticed that may be potential problem sources.

Property maintenance and water damage prevention can be time-consuming and overwhelming, but it is essential to ensuring you get the best results from your investment. Please contact Aborn Powers if you have any questions about caring for your property. Remember, your investments are our priority.

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Cameron Park, CA 95682‎

Phone: 530-676-6760
Phone: 916-638-2611
Fax: 530-677-3528
Email: info@abornpowers.com

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