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Property Damage from Rain Water

Reality Alert: A weekend thunderstorm at a preschool resulted in over $15,000 in damages to personal property within the building and over $20,000 to the building itself. Water began to fill the basin beneath the building’s basement after heavy rains. The basement was equipped with a sump pump, but because the power went out, the sump pump failed to engage. Had they installed a back up generator to their sump pump it would have worked regardless of the power outage and all the excess water would have simply been pumped out of the basement.


  • Water damage is the second most frequently filed insurance claim in the United States
  • Water damage claims account for $11 billion dollars in damages annually
  • The average cost of a water damage claim is $5,000
  • Up to 93% of the cost of water damage could have been prevented by the use of a shut-off system or water leak detection system
  • 8% of all water damage to buildings is due to weather

Common Sources of Rain Water Problems

Water damage from rain can have devastating effects on buildings and can quickly cause damage after even minimal rain. Water damage can ruin building contents, and cause costly closures for repairs. When people think of rain damage they usually assume from the roof, but keeping a properly maintained roof is only part of protecting your organization’s facility from water damage. Building Water DamageThe following section contains some common areas that can lead to severe water damage if not properly addressed.

Parking Lots

Parking lots collect a great deal of runoff water and are designed to deliver this water to a drainage system. However, as seen in the Reality Alert, this does not always happen. Leaf litter, debris, ice, and garbage can clog or obstruct these drains and cause the water to collect or travel toward a building. The following loss prevention tips will ensure safe parking lot runoff:

  • Regularly inspect all drains designed to handle water runoff and clean them if necessary.
  • After storms or thaws inspect all drains for blockages.
  • Whether you handle snow removal or contract it out, make sure snow piles are not placed over storm drains. Also, do not pile snow directly next to the building.
  • Monitor the parking lot for standing water. Standing water is tell-tale sign that water is not draining properly.

Ground Pitch

If certain areas around your facility consistently have standing water or if there are a few spots in your basement where water regularly collects, there might be a problem with the pitch or angle of the grounds outside. If the ground is pitched toward the building, water will run back toward the building causing leaks and damage. To ensure this problem does not occur, make sure the ground pitch is angled away from the building. If the ground isn’t pitched properly, drain tile or other measures can be used to fix the problem.


Gutters are designed to collect water runoff from the roof and carry it to the down spout. To be effective, gutters should be routinely inspected and cleaned. If a down spout becomes clogged it will not effectively carry water and this will cause an overflow. This overflow will either cause water damage through the roof, or the water will spill over and collect along side the building and potentially seep in from there.

Down Spouts

Down spouts can cause water damage issues as well if they are not properly used and inspected. Down spouts are designed to take the water from the gutters and carry it away from the building. One common issue with down spouts is they can become clogged and cause the water to back up or leak out of a seam. During rain storms it is advisable to check to make sure the water is running easily out of the down spout. Also, make sure that once the water leaves the down spout it is channeled away from the building. If water is collecting at the end of a downspout it is a good idea to add an extender or dig a trench to ensure the water runs away from the building.

Sump Pumps

Sump pumps are a great way to remove excess water that collects beneath a building. These devices act as a last line of defense against water seeping into the basement of a facility. Since they rarely come into action, it is often easy to forget they are there and even easier to forget to routinely inspect and test them. Make sure to routinely check that the sump pump is plugged in and functional. It is also recommended to equip a sump pump with a back up generator that will kick in should the facility lose power.

Topics: Facility Maintenance