As a Chicago property manager, it is imperative that you stay on top of your water supply and drain lines. Failure to have your pipes inspected, repaired, restored and replaced in a timely manner could lead to catastrophic consequences, including pipe blowouts, extensive water damage and high water bills.

1. How do I know the ages of my plumbing pipes?

If you’re certain that your plumbing pipes have never been replaced, they are likely just as old as your building. If you’ve had a partial pipe replacement, then some pipes may be older than others. If you’ve had a full pipe replacement, then your pipes are as old as when that replacement occurred.

As a general rule, you can expect your water supply pipes and risers to last between 20 and 70 years. Drain lines are usually manufactured to last more than 75 years, providing they are not infiltrated by roots or clogged with grease and debris. As a Chicago property manager, we recommend taking the time to determine the ages of your pipes by looking through your maintenance paperwork. If you can’t find the information in your records, then scheduling a camera inspection can help determine the ages and conditions of the pipes within your building.

2. Do I have PVC, copper, brass or galvanized steel pipes?

The truth is that your building could have a mixture of plumbing pipes, valves and fixtures. Copper and PEX are typically used for potable water lines. If you have an older building, some of those potable water lines may be galvanized steel. Brass is typically used for fittings to connect two lengths of pipe or to form joints, but your building may also have brass hot water pipes. Drain lines can be PVC, CPVC or cast iron, as a general rule. The good news about drain lines is that they typically last 75 years or more under the right conditions. Knowing the type of plumbing pipes you have will allow you to develop short and long-term repair, rehabilitation and replacement plans.

3. What should I expect if my building has copper pipes?

Copper is available in both rigid and flexible pipes. Rigid is typically used in the building’s plumbing system, and the flexible pipes are typically used to connect appliances to the water supply system. In general, copper has a long lifespan of more than 50 years. However, it is susceptible to pinhole leaks and leaks in the bends, joints and seams. An additional concern is the fact that older copper pipes, those installed until the late 1970s and 80s, may have been connected using lead-based solder.

4. What can I expect if my building has galvanized steel pipes?

If your building was built between 1930 and 1980, it may contain galvanized steel pipes, which are prone to rusting and incurring low water pressure due to numerous leaks. If the pipes rust, they could contaminate your drinking water with lead and other toxic chemicals.

5. What can I expect if my Chicago building has brass pipes?

Brass pipes are comprised of up to 85 percent copper and zinc. They are designed to last up to 70 years and perform very well as hot water supply lines. Since brass pipes cannot easily be bent without kinking them, they are typically connected with fittings and elbows, which can leak over time due to corrosion.

6. What should I expect if my building has PVC or CPVC pipes?

If your building is newer, it probably contains PVC and/or CPVC water pipes. These pipes are incredibly durable and do not have an expected end-of-life date unless they are installed incorrectly, exposed to sunlight or punctured by sharp rocks or incompatible materials. PVC is typically used for cold water lines and drain pipes. CPVC performed better when the water is hot because it is more heat resistant.

7. What should I expect if my building has PEX pipes?

PEX pipes are a newer type of plumbing material that is typically used in small commercial properties. It’s chosen because it is extremely flexible, meaning it needs fewer fittings and connections, and it is color-coded. Red typically means hot water, and blue means cold water. These pipes are extremely fast to install and require very little maintenance. It is estimated that PEX pipes have the ability to last up to 100 years.

8. What should I do if I find out my Chicago building has lead pipes?

If you have lead pipes, you should immediately have them replaced, lined or coated. Lead pipes can release lead into your drinking water, which is known to cause central nervous system damage, learning problems and low IQ in children. It can cause birth defects and premature birth if pregnant women drink lead-contaminated water, and adults may develop cardiovascular and/or kidney disease if they drink water contaminated by lead.

9. What could happen if I fail to maintain the plumbing pipes in my Chicago building?

If you fail to inspect and maintain the plumbing pipes in your Chicago building, you could incur expensive repair bills and extensive water damage. If your building is a condo or co-op, you may find that your HOA has to perform a special assessment in order to pay for the repairs. Since special assessments increase the cost to live in your building, it may disgruntle your residents and make it harder for you to sell or rent units in your building once the new tenants learn of the additional fees and possible ongoing plumbing concerns.

10. How many plumbing repairs have you had to make over the last six to 12 months?

If you have noticed a dramatic increase in the number of repair calls you’ve made to your local Chicago plumbing contractor, it’s time to create a short and long-term pipe repair and replacement plan. Waiting until your plumbing pipes fail and then fixing them is not a good financial plan, especially if all your pipes are the same age.

Repairing or replacing once section that failed does not address the issues with the other pipes in your Chicago multi-unit residential building. Creating a short-term repair plan to fix the most critical plumbing pipes in your building and a long-term plan to repair, restore or replace the less critically damaged pipes can save you money and keep your water system running smoothly.

11. Should my plumbing repair and replacement plan take into consideration trenchless pipe restoration?

If replacing all of your water supply lines and drain lines seems daunting and expensive, consider trenchless pipe restoration. Applying an epoxy coating or relining your pipes can prevent lead from leaching into your residents’ drinking water, stop leaks, restore structural integrity and halt further corrosion. Pipe restoration is also less costly and less invasive than traditional pipe replacement. Not to mention, choosing pipe restoration with epoxy pipe liners is less disrupting to your staff and residents.

12. How can Nu Flow help me with my Chicago building’s plumbing pipes?

Our pipe technicians at Nu Flow can help you with your plumbing pipes by performing a Building Pipe Assessment. A building pipe assessment is designed to tell you everything you need to know about your plumbing pipes, including their age and condition. It includes a camera inspection of all your plumbing pipes and a detailed report of what was found during the inspection. Our technicians also tell you whether or not your building is a good candidate for pipelining. If your building would benefit from epoxy pipelining, the report also contains a quote.

To learn more about epoxy pipe lining and building pipe assessments, give us a call at 815-790-9000.