Prevent Water Damage from Soaking Your Ministry's Budget

It only takes a small amount of water spilling onto floors to cause thousands of dollars in damage. Water damage can ruin your pews, hymnals, and carpeting, destroy computer equipment, and delay worship services. To save money and avoid many of the hassles associated with water damage, follow these tips for preventing some of its common causes.

Protecting Pipes

Faulty pipes are the leading cause of interior water damage, making inspection and protection of your pipes a top priority. Tim Cool, founder of Smart Church Solutions, recommends performing annual testing of plumbing fixtures, like back-flow preventers. “These devices prevent water flow from your building back into the water main,” he explained. “They are most commonly found on make-up piping for chillers and boilers. They should be inspected every year by a certified back-flow inspector.”

Follow these additional recommendations to prevent damage:

  • Inspect pipes regularly for signs of corrosion or set up a routine plumbing maintenance program.
  • Replace pipes that show signs of corrosion or rust, where pinhole leaks can form.
  • Look for leaks around connections and joints.
  • Have fire-suppression systems professionally inspected and regularly maintained to reduce the likelihood of pipes or sprinklers springing a leak. If you don’t know the system’s maintenance requirements, contact the manufacturer.
  • Before winter, inspect attics, basements, and other places where pipes run to be sure you have enough insulation. Pipes in basements and exterior walls are most susceptible to freezing.
  • Drain all water pipes in unheated buildings. Most systems have a drainage plug you can pull to drain the water. To prevent any remaining water from freezing, place non-toxic antifreeze in drainage traps.
  • During the winter months, if you turn down the heat to conserve energy, keep the entire building at a minimum of 50 degrees.
  • Check unheated buildings daily during extreme cold. This allows a quick response to problems if they occur.

Toilet Failure

Toilet failure is the second leading cause of water damage, according to a study of closed insurance claims conducted by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS). One-third of the claims reviewed were caused by an overflowing toilet, which can lead to serious damage to floors and surrounding furniture and cabinetry.

One way to reduce damage is to consider using both automated/metered fixtures and in-line excess flow-rate sensors. Tim Cool of Cool Solutions Group recommends these to not only conserve water but to limit over-use. “Fixtures that turn off automatically can limit overflows and flooding. Another advantage is lower water bills due to reduced water consumption,” he said. In-line excess flow-rate sensors allow for the water flow to be cut-off to a fixture if the preset flow-rate is exceeded.

Here are some suggestions for reducing damage:

  • Check high-usage toilets frequently for foreign objects. Pay special attention to those in children's Sunday school rooms.
  • If a clogged toilet is found, do not continue to flush it.
  • Shut off the supply valve at the first sign of an overflowing toilet.
  • Inspect the components inside toilets twice a year.
  • Lift the toilet tank lid to ensure the fill and flush valves are operating properly.
  • Check the supply line connection to make sure it’s secure.
  • Close and open the supply valve to the toilet. Make sure it’s free of rust and operates smoothly. If not, replace it.
  • Pay attention to water running periodically in a toilet tank between uses. The most common problem is a leaking flush valve.

Maintaining Water Heaters and Washing Machines

Leaky water heaters and washing machine hoses were among the leading causes of water damage involving appliances in the IBHS study. Age is often a factor. Nearly 75 percent of water heaters failed within the first 12 years of use, according to IBHS. On average, a washing machine hose failed after eight years.

Water Heater tips:

  • Have a plumbing professional inspect your water heater’s anode rod every two years while the appliance is under warranty. After the warranty has expired, require annual inspections.
  • Have a plumbing professional inspect supply lines and flush sediment from the tank annually.

Washing Machine tips:

  • Inspect washing machine hoses at least once a year.
  • Replace hoses every five years.

  • To further reduce the risk of failure, turn off the hot and cold water supply valves when the machine is not in use.

Baptistery Overflow

Because baptisteries are used infrequently, problems may develop unnoticed.

Standard Baptisteries

  • Before filling the baptistery, check all water lines leading to it for hints of leaks and confirm that the drain is closed.
  • If your baptistery has an overflow pipe, make sure nothing's covering or clogging it.
  • Stay near the baptistery while you fill it. That way, you can turn off the water source immediately if you notice water leaking.
  • Drain your baptistery after each use. If this isn’t practical, turn off the heater between uses.

Portable Baptisteries

  • Make sure to set the baptistery in a location that can support its weight (up to 2 tons when full).
  • Use splash guards or place a remnant of indoor-outdoor carpeting beneath the baptistery to protect the floor.
  • Do not overfill. Most portable baptisteries don’t have an overflow drain to carry away excess water.
  • After filling, check for leaks.

Surface Water

  • During heavy rains, water can seep into buildings through openings around windows and doors, causing damage.
  • Make sure all windows and doors are securely closed each night.
  • Make sure all doors seal properly at the base, particularly those at the bottom of outside stairwells, to prevent water coming in under the door.
  • Have a backup power supply to the sump pump to ensure operation in the event of a power outage.
  • Extend downspouts to direct rain water away from the building’s foundation.

In addition to these precautions, you may wish to set up a routine plumbing maintenance program with a local contractor, or make sure to add all your plumbing inspections into this preventive maintenance checklist from Smart Church Solutions.

If your building is ever affected by water damage, remember to take reasonable steps, when safe, to protect your structure from further damage. This may include shutting off a water supply, having someone temporarily cover a hole in the roof, or calling someone immediately to begin water extraction.

Read more resources related to Water and Flood Damage.

Appeared in Brotherhood Mutual’s Safety News, April 24, 2019
Last updated on April 24, 2019