When it comes to plumbing pipe leaks, a slow drip may not seem like a big deal, but according to USGS, a faucet that drips once per minute drips 1,440 times per day. That amounts to nearly 35 gallons per year. Now, if that slow drip were inside your walls, that’s 34 gallons of water per year deposited behind your drywall or just over half a gallon a week. Over time, this can lead to the growth of mold and mildew and cause structural damage that could decrease the value of your property. You may also find it difficult to attract new tenants if word gets out about your water problems.
1. Mold and Fungus
The first thing that is going to happen when you have a slow pipe leak is the growth of mold, mildew, and fungus. This is especially harmful when you consider that black mold is toxic. Individuals who are sensitive to the presence of mold in an indoor environment or already have breathing difficulties may start to feel increasingly sick with nasal congestion, and throat and eye irritation. They may also find themselves coughing more. If the individual is extremely sensitive to mold, they may also experience skin irritation.
When removing black mold and fungus from a building, special precautions must be taken. This typically means hiring a mold remediation company that has the appropriate personal protective equipment, including respiration masks, and specialized tools and equipment in order to remove every mold spore from the infested area. The company may even quarantine the infested area with plastic so that the mold spores don’t spread. Once the area is properly sealed from the rest of the building, the contaminated finishes and components are removed and the mold is killed by powerful cleaners. After all the damaged sections have been removed, the mold remediation company may leave HEPA filter air purifiers in the area to finish removing the mold spores from the air. Once the area tests clear for mold, you will have to hire another contractor to restore the structural integrity of the area and replace drywall and finishes. This can add up to a lot of money, even if no structural components were damaged.
2. Structural Damage to Your Building
As the water builds up inside your walls from the plumbing pipe leak, it can lead to the rotting of structural components, including wooden support beams, flooring, and joists, and your drywall will start to swell and warp. If the leak is on an upper floor, the damage can slowly trickle its way down the wall, leading to damage on multiple floors and the need for expensive repairs in the form of new support beams, floor joists, and drywall.
3. Declining Property Value
As word gets out about the mold and structural damage occurring in your building, it can decrease your multi-unit residential property’s value. Current tenants may choose to move out of your Chicago residential building, and you may have trouble attracting new tenants if they hear about water damage. Your apartment complex, condo, or co-op may even get a reputation for having sick building syndrome, especially if mold spores start to infiltrate your HVAC system and air ducts.
Signs of a Plumbing Leak Behind Your Walls
The trick to stopping structural damage and preventing mold and mildew from infesting your building is to find the leak as soon as possible. You can do this by paying attention to:
- Any oddly wet spots. If you see puddles on floors or water spots on ceilings and drywall, there’s a good chance you have a hidden leak.
- Weird smell. Does it smell musty or excessively wet anywhere in your building? If you have extra-humid areas or smell water or a musty smell, there’s a leak in the area.
- Discoloration. Do you see black spots on your walls or areas that have yellowed? The black spots are mold. The areas in yellow indicate a leak.
- Low water pressure. Have you been getting increasing complaints about low water pressure? While this could indicate that you’re having a problem with the water pumps on your upper levels or the gravity feed tank on your roof, it’s also an indication that you have one or more hidden water leaks.
- Warped walls or flooring. Areas that aren’t a bathroom or a kitchen aren’t designed to have water everywhere, and even in those areas, it’s recommended to wipe up spills immediately. However, if you find wet floors, warped walls, and ceiling tiles that are nowhere near a bathroom, kitchen, or pool areas, you may have a major leak on your hands.
- Paint that is peeling or wallpaper that is bubbling. Over time, water on the walls will cause a loss of adhesion of paint and wallpaper. If you pull the wallpaper back, you may also find black mold.
- Extremely high water bills. Have you noticed an increase in water bills from your public bathrooms, breakrooms, or kitchens? Are your residents complaining about sudden increases in their water bills? If deliberate water usage hasn’t risen, you may have one or more leaks in your building.
What to Do if You Think You Have a Plumbing Leak Behind Your Walls
The first thing you need to do is listen. Do you hear water running or dripping? Sometimes the leak is big enough that you can hear it if you listen closely. If you’re unsure, you can rent or buy a moisture meter and point it at the wall. Does it read high levels of moisture? If it does, you definitely have a leak. You could also use an infrared camera to find excessively cold areas on the wall. They show up as blue or purple.
Of course, the best thing to do is to hire a professional plumber to find your plumbing leak. Professional plumbers have moisture detectors and infrared cameras. They can also perform a pressure test to determine if you have any leaks. If you do have leaks, the plumber will cut through the drywall or remove the flooring or ceiling tiles to reach the leaking pipes and replace them. Additionally, you can employ the services of a pipelining company to line your pipes and seal current leaks while preventing future leaks.
Stopping and Preventing Plumbing Leaks with NuFlow, Serving Chicago
When it comes to maintaining the health of your building and occupants and preventing mold contamination and structural damage, one of the best things you can do as a property manager or owner is to take steps to prevent plumbing pipe leaks. One of these steps may involve deciding to line your pipes with an epoxy coating or liner. Epoxy coatings and liners are designed to stop current leaks and prevent further plumbing pipe corrosion that can lead to additional leaks.
The process of installing an epoxy coating or liner is completely trenchless, meaning that holes do not have to be cut into ceilings, walls or floors. Instead, existing access points are used to connect the lining equipment. This means that lining your existing plumbing pipes is less intrusive and often faster than traditionally replacing your plumbing pipes.