Are you wondering if the plumbing pipes in your facility need to be descaled, replaced or lined with epoxy? The repair choice will depend on the type of pipe material and the degree of corrosion. For example, a corroded cast iron pipe that has had its internal diameter reduced by scale, may be a good candidate for descaling, but a galvanized pipe that has been hampered by severe corrosion and rust may have to be replaced. Here at Nu Flow, serving Chicago, we can help you determine the best way to restore the function of your plumbing system.

Common Problems with Commercial Plumbing Pipes in Chicago

Commercial plumbing pipes in Chicago tend to develop clogs in drain and sewer lines. They can be susceptible to corrosion and they may develop scale along the internal diameter that reduces the pipes internal diameter.


Corrosion is a problem in metal plumbing pipes, including potable water lines and drain and sewer lines. Common types of metal pipes include copper, galvanized steel and cast iron. Corrosion is the result of the chemical reaction between the chemical properties of the water and the metal of the plumbing pipe. Factors that affect the composition of the water include the water’s pH, the amount of dissolved solids and the concentration of oxygen in the water. Additional factors include the water temperature and the pressure of the water as it moves through the plumbing pipes.

As the water moves through the plumbing pipes, it continuously reacts with the metal to cause rust and scaling. Over time, this corrosion can lead to pits and holes in the pipe wall as well as a loss of internal pipe diameter.

Signs of Pipe Corrosion, According to Material

Signs of pipe corrosion and the effects on the pipe vary according to the material, but it always occurs in metal plumbing pipes. Corrosion doesn’t develop in plastic pipes. Though, it may occur on metal fittings.

  • Copper – Green discoloration on the outside of the pipe, usually around joints and seams, loss of water pressure, pinhole leaks
  • Cast Iron – Rust or a red or brown discoloration on the pipe, discolored water and loss of water pressure or flow
  • Galvanized Steel – Rusting, narrowing of pipe diameter, loss of water pressure and flow

Clogged Sewer Lines

Clogged sewer lines are a common problem in large industrial and commercial buildings and in multi-tenant family properties where there are numerous people and bathrooms. Clogs are often due to the wrong items being flushed down toilets, like sanitary products that aren’t toilet paper, grease, soda and food bits. A lot of these problems stem from individuals believing that toilet drains are massive, all-purpose drains that can handle anything you flush down them. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, and flushing anything that isn’t toilet paper down the toilet will result in partial and full clogs. It may even result in a nasty sewer backup. Thankfully, one way to slow the frequency of clogs is to keep your employees and residents up-to-date on acceptable and unacceptable things to flush down toilets and pour down drains.

Additional reasons that sewer lines get clogged include bellying in the line, which means a section of the line has fallen or the pipe isn’t sloped toward the city sewer system. This can lead to waste products losing their momentum and sitting in the line, which eventually causes a clog. If the pipe is metal, it can develop severe corrosion and even scaling that significantly narrows the internal diameter of the pipe, causing more frequent clogs and the need for professional pipe cleaning services, especially if residents are putting forbidden items down the drain lines.

Scale Flakes

Scaling is actually a part of the corrosion process and most commonly occurs in cast iron pipes and can lead to clogs and a narrowing of the internal diameter. Over time, usually decades, the cast iron pipe rusts. This creates an uneven buildup on the pipe wall, which narrows the drain or sewer line diameter and can lead to partial and complete clogs. When the rust breaks away and enters the stream of water, it is called scale flakes.

Another type of scale that forms on the inside of drain and potable water pipes is limescale, calcium scale and mineral deposit buildup. This is the white substance that can be seen on water fixtures, and it can build-up on the insides of your plumbing pipes, causing the internal diameter to narrow and water flow to decrease. When this type of buildup occurs, it can often be scraped away.

Pipe Repair Solutions

When it comes to repairing these common plumbing problems, building owners in Chicago typically have three options They can have their pipes descaled. They can perform a pipe replacement, or they can have their pipes lined with epoxy. The type of repair you choose will depend on the material of the pipe, the level of corrosion and the thickness of the remaining pipe wall.

Pipe Descaling

Pipe descaling is the process of removing the corrosion and/or limescale from the interior of your plumbing pipes. Since corrosion and limescale can be difficult to remove, it often requires special equipment that can scrape and scrub the pipe walls without damaging them. Thankfully, there are pipe cleaning heads that are designed for specific pipe diameters.

When it comes to determining if your pipes would be good candidates for pipe descaling, it depends on the age of the pipe and whether or not the pipe wall has been significantly damaged. If the pipe can be safely and effectively descaled, the building owner can expect the full diameter of the pipe to be restored, and the pipe walls to be smooth. This will reduce the frequency of clogs. However, since the pipe wall will still come into contact with water, the corrosion process will start again, potentially leading for future descaling.

Pipe Replacement

Pipe replacement is the process of physically removing all the old plumbing pipes and replacing them with new pipes. The benefit to this is that the Chicago building owner can choose the material of the new pipes, according to the needs of the building. Common pipe materials include cast iron, copper, PVC, PEX, HDP or CPVC, and the expected lifespans for these materials can range from 40 to 100+ years.

The downside to pipe replacement is that it can be a costly and time-consuming process because each plumbing pipe must be located and removed, and this includes pipes that are hidden behind drywall and masonry walls, which means sections of the walls may have to be removed along with finishes, including moldings.

Epoxy Pipelining

Epoxy pipelining is another way to restore the diameter of your plumbing pipes and extend their useful lives. This process involves cleaning your existing plumbing pipes down to the pipe wall, which removes all the corrosion and scale. Then, the pipes are lined with epoxy. For potable water lines, the pipes are lined with a blow-in epoxy that coats and seals the entire pipe. This helps repair small pinhole leaks and cracks and prevents future corrosion of the host pipe.

For drain lines, a felt liner is soaked in epoxy and inserted into the drain or sewer line. It is then inflated and pressed against the pipe walls and left to cure. Once the liner has completely cured and hardened, water service is restored. The upside to this process is that the host pipes will not develop future corrosion. This is because water no longer comes into contact with the metal.

The downside to epoxy pipe lining is that the process of preparing the pipe to accept the epoxy coating or liner can reveal pipe walls that are extremely thin or completely blown out. When this happens, the severely damaged pipe must be replaced. Thankfully, most pipelining companies, including NuFlow, serving Chicago, has licensed plumbers on staff that can immediately replace extremely worn pipes so that the pipelining process can resume quickly.

Choosing the Right Type of Pipe Repair with NuFlow

Here at Nu Flow, our plumbers and pipelining technicians can help you choose the right type of repair for your Chicago building’s plumbing pipes. Our building pipe assessment includes a camera inspection and evaluation of your existing potable water and drain and sewer lines. This inspection can help determine whether you need your pipes descaled, replaced or lined with epoxy. If your pipes are good candidates for the epoxy pipe lining rehabilitation process, we will provide you with a detailed estimate so that you can make an informed decision when it comes to rehabilitated your existing water pipes.

For more information on epoxy pipelining and to schedule an appointment to see if pipelining would be right for your Chicago building, call us at 815-790-9000.