High-rise plumbing systems are often more complex and undergo more wear and tear than standard household plumbing pipes. For this reason, they can often develop clogs and leaks when they are least expected. Here at NuFlow in Chicago, we want you to be aware of some of the most common plumbing problems and tips on saving money and preventing problems when it comes to plumbing systems in high-rise condos, apartment buildings and co-ops.
1. Low Water Pressure
Low water pressure in high-rise buildings is extremely common, especially on the upper floors and in the penthouses. In this scenario, water enters the system from the city municipal water supply and may go through several devices in order to raise the water pressure. These systems can include a series of smaller diameter pipes, water pumps and even water tanks on the roof of the building that help increase water pressure via gravity. The result is that the bottom floors have great water pressure, but as the water moves up the building via the risers, it decreases. This can leave the upper units with very little water pressure, especially during periods of high use. Having your water pressure checked and your system upgraded or repaired, if you have numerous leaks, can help restore water pressure.
2. Frequent Clogs
Frequent clogs in your drain lines can lead to slow drainage in individual units and a sewer back-up in severe cases. Clogs are typically caused by grease, foreign objects, like toys, and paper products that are not toilet paper. Common items that should not be flushed down drains include pet fish, cat litter, pet waste, paper towels, wet wipes, feminine hygiene products, facial tissue, grease, oil, meat trimming and fruit and vegetable rinds. In order to reduce the frequency of drain and sewer line clogs, you can inform your residents of the preferred plumbing pipe practices via a pamphlet or information on your building’s website.
3. Frequent Leaks
Older plumbing systems, especially those which were installed 20 or more years ago are prone to developing frequent leaks. This is due to corrosion, rust and leaks between pipes and joints or valves. In order to catch leaks early before they dramatically increase your water usage and result in low water pressure on the upper floors, it is recommended to get an annual plumbing pipe inspection that detects leaks. Alternatively, there are new products on the market that can automatically detect plumbing pipe and appliance leaks and alert you to their presence.
4. Appliances that Use too Much Water
Another common problem is having older appliances and water fixtures that use too much water when compared to their modern equivalents. Here at NuFlow, serving the entirety of Chicago and its suburbs, we recommend switching-out old faucets and showerheads with low flow versions. For bathroom sinks, you can even choose to install water faucets with sensors that only turn the water on when the presence of a hand is detected. Additionally, you can choose to install low-flow toilets and energy-efficient appliances, like washing machines and dishwashers that use much less water than the units manufactured even five years ago.
5. Proper Implantation and Operation of Safety Valves
Along with sensors and technology that automatically detects water leaks and shuts off water to the area that is leaking, you want to make sure that all your water safety valves are in good working order and not blocked or frozen by corrosion and sediment. High-rise buildings should have a plethora of water shutoff valves, including values that shutoff water flow to any external water features, like fountains and sprinkler systems, shutoff valves for every appliance and even shutoff valves for every floor. In emergencies, these valves can be turned to the closed position in order to turn off the water to certain areas and avoid extensive water damage while the Chicago plumber is called.
6. Avoid Caustic Chemicals
When your building experiences a partial or complete clog of a drain pipe or sewer line, you or your maintenance staff may be tempted to use caustic chemicals to clean the pipe or drain. Unfortunately, these drain cleaners are manufactured using caustic chemicals, including various acids. Acid and other chemicals that are designed to eat through clogs aren’t ‘smart’. The chemical doesn’t know the difference between a plumbing pipe and the hair or grease clog, and it will eat through everything, which can damage your pipes instead of fixing the problem. Here at NuFlow, we do not recommend clearing clogs with chemicals. Instead, a plumbing auger or snake should be used to clear the clog, and it should be used by someone who has experience in cleaning drain clogs with snakes. Alternatively, you can also have clogs cleared via hydrojetting, which is the method we use to clean drain lines before lining the pipes. This works well for exterior drain lines, like sewer lines, parking lot drains and storm drains. Hydrojetting uses pressurized water to clear away clogs and wash them into the city system where it is treated, and it is environmentally friendly.
7. Informing Your Residents of Proper Plumbing System Use
Another way to prevent accidental plumbing system damage is to keep your residents up-to-date on proper plumbing system usage. This includes informing them about things that can and cannot be put down drains. In fact, the list of acceptable items that can be put down drain lines and flushed down toilets is fairly short. Toilet paper and human waste are the only things that should be put down toiler drains. Soapy water that was used for cleaning and bathing can be poured down drains, and small bits of food can be put down sinks drains if the drain includes a garbage disposal. However, items like meat trimming, eggshells, oil, grease, soda, beer, vegetable and fruit rinds and coffee grounds should never be put down drains.
It’s also important to keep your residents informed about what to do if they see or suspect a leak in their apartment. If the leak is located at a sink or the toilet or an appliance that has a water shutoff valve, they should always close the valve to prevent water damage. Then, they should immediately notify the building’s management staff, property manager or superintendent so that the leak can be repaired. If the residents notice low water pressure, they should also report that to management so that the cause can be determined and the problem professionally repaired.
8. Implementing a Routine Maintenance Plan
High-rise buildings in Chicago may also want to implement a plumbing maintenance plan that includes regular drain cleaning and testing to find small leaks before they result in major water damage and huge repair bills. Many professional plumbers, like the ones we have at NuFlow, recommend getting your drain lines cleaned at least once a year and having your water pressure tested at least once a year.
9. Considering Installing Submeters
If you have an older building in Chicago, each individual unit may not have its own water meter. This makes it impossible to accurately calculate the water usage of each unit and could result in some units getting high water bills when they aren’t using a lot of water. This is because when high-rise buildings aren’t sub-metered, water usage is often divided evenly, according to the number of units in the building and the number of people in each unit. Instead of guessing, you can have water meters installed for each unit so that all of your residents are billed accurately for their water usage. This may also help detects leaks if one or more units experience dramatic increases in their water bills.
10. Consider Pipelining from Nu Flow Midwest, Serving Chicago
To help extend the useful lives of your existing plumbing pipes and drain lines and to stop any small leaks from corrosion, you may want to consider professional plumbing pipe lining services. Our pipe lining technicians can Nu Flow can line almost any pipe, including potable water lines, drain lines, vent lines and sewer pipes. If your plumbing pipes are several years old and you are experiencing numerous leaks and high water bills, pipelining may be the right answer for your building.