Five Tips for Preventing Water Damage in Apartment Units

 

Clear skies and warm days don’t always mean that apartment properties will remain high and dry. Regardless of the season, apartment units can become shallow water pools if they are not properly maintained. Something as simple as a worn out washer hose can flood an apartment and cause as much water damage beyond wet carpet as can torrential rains.

When walls and baseboards get wet, the likelihood of more severe internal issues rises dramatically. Usually, a remediation service must be called to get a handle on the situation. Water drying can be expensive, especially if remediation is required at apartment properties that contain asbestos and lead paint. Mold is another issue.

Years ago, the right fix for cleaning up a water-damaged unit was summoning a carpet cleaner or plumber to vacuum and dry the carpet. After water was collected, a few fans were strategically placed to speed the drying process. But over the years, cleaning up a damaged unit has gone beyond the need for a good shop vac and a fan. Mold growth in apartment units and businesses resulting from water damage and other types of moisture have been widely reported in the media, first appearing in the 1980s when a Chicago home was discovered to have high levels of black mold. Mold growth in homes has escalated since they began becoming energy efficient in the 1980s. Tighter buildings mean better insulation, vapor barriers, and better windows and doors. Homes are so tight there is no way for the moisture to escape.

Today, properly drying a water-damaged apartment unit involves high-tech solutions to ensure that moisture is eliminated in walls, ceilings, and floors. Dehumidification and air movement equipment, as well as monitoring moisture in the air and walls, is essential to drying the unit.

Cost to remediate a typical apartment unit that is fully saturated can add up quickly. For example, two or three dehumidifiers and as many as a dozen blowers can be needed to dry a unit. Dehumidifiers can each cost $75-$110 per day, depending on geographical location, and blowers $25 per day each. Add in tearing out walls, putting in new drywall, base boards and carpet, and the bill can escalate into the thousands.

Like with many things, prevention can keep your units from becoming a water park. The first step is for property managers to identify typical causes of flooding, and make any necessary repairs or modifications. Typically, investing in new hoses, insulation, or just taking precautionary measures for an upcoming cold front are far less extensive, and expensive, than having to call a water remediation specialist to restore a damaged unit.

Here are a few helpful tips to reduce the likelihood of flooding and keep your apartment units – and residents – dry:

Seasonalize

During winter when frozen pipes thaw, troubles are just beginning. As severe winter weather approaches, educate residents on what do to avoid burst pipes. Some of the biggest floods we have in Denver are when people leave town and turn off their heat, or in vacant units when property owners choose to save on their energy bill and shut off the heating system. And if nobody checks unattended units and discovers the water works, the problem gets worse.

In spring, torrential downpours can mean that water infiltrates cracked slabs and foundations. This can also happen from a heavy snow melt.

When cold weather or a storm is on the way, property managers should post signs to alert residents to leave faucets dripping, open cabinet doors, and set thermostats at 60 degrees when leaving for extended periods. Also, all external water spigots should be properly insulated, and the heat turned on in vacant units.

Check Aging Appliances

Properties that include washers in units should closely monitor the age of the appliance and routinely check for cracked or damaged hoses and connections. Washer hoses should be replaced every five years. Also, replacing worn out washers and dishwashers before there is a problem is a good idea. According to the National Association of Home Builders, a typical washer lasts 13 years; a dishwasher is good for 10 years. And don’t forget to inspect water heaters, which usually need replacing after 11-14 years.

Insulate Water Pipes

Whether for sprinkler systems or hot and cold water, pipes should be insulated year round. All accessible pipes should be covered within 3 feet of the water source. Use quality pipe insulation wrap, or neatly taped strips of fiberglass insulation around the pipes. Plus, insulating hot water pipes can reduce heat loss and raise the water temperature 2°-4° than those that are not insulated. Wrapped lines can save energy expense and water.

Check for HVAC System Blockages

A plugged drain that moves condensation from the HVAC system can create water damage. Water can seep through ceilings and into light fixtures or drip in between walls, which can go undetected and create a mold problem. A heating and air professional can blow out clogged line so that water moves away from the unit.

Check Sewage Systems

An older apartment complex most likely has an aged sewage system. Over the years, tree roots in shaded communities seek moisture and often penetrate sewer lines through cracks and fittings. Lines become blocked and a nasty, messy backup is inevitable if the line isn’t maintained. Some chemical root retarders have proven effective, but a good preventive measure is to call a specialist to annually clean roots out of the line.

Some flooding is simply unavoidable, but being proactive with issues that are within a property owner’s control can save thousands of dollars in damage to apartment units. Is your property prepared to head off even the most common and controllable causes for water damage?

 


Regional Manager, Venturi Technologies, Inc.

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John has more than 22 years experience in the multifamily industry. He has managed Venturi Clean in Denver for 19 years and more recently has served as regional manager, covering three states. He is certified in thermal imaging, including thermal remediation of bed bugs. John is also a certified carpet restorer, water restoration journeyman, and he has decades of experience in drying with the use of various forms of thermal drying systems.

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