Have you ever wondered if wastewater in your condo or apartment building can backup from an upper apartment to a lower-level apartment drain? While this may sound impossible, it’s not unheard of. Let’s take a look at how and why this occurs.

1. Can Black and Greywater From Upper Apartments Backup into Lower-Level Units?

If you own or manage an apartment or a condo, you might be wondering if the wastewater from upper-level units can cause a condo sink backup in a lower-level unit. The short answer is yes. However, the clog causing the drain backup is likely located beneath the lower apartment that’s being affected. What happens is that the upper-level apartments are likely pouring things down their drains that don’t belong there, like grease, oil, lard, coffee grounds, and paper products that aren’t toilet paper. The solids and the water then flow down the pipe but get stuck along the way. In this case, that wastewater makes it under the lower level unit. Once the clog completely blocks the pipe, the wastewater from the affected unit and the upper-floor units fills the pipe and backs up into the lowest drain, which just might be the first-floor bathtub or shower.

2. How Does Plumbing Work in an Apartment Building and Condo?

Plumbing systems in apartment buildings and condos contain multiple types of plumbing pipes, including vertical stacks, branch lines, and horizontal pipes. All of these different types of plumbing pipes work together to ensure your drain lines drain.

Vertical Stacks

Vertical stacks consist of soil, vent, and waste stacks as well as leaders. Multiple apartments or condos are often connected to the same vertical stack.

  • Leaders are vertical stacks that only carry rainwater from the roof to the stormwater drainage system.
  • Soil stacks are typically connected to toilets and urinals as well as dedicated water closets.
  • Vent stacks only have one purpose and that is to balance the system by releasing trapped air.
  • Waste stacks are connected to fixtures that do not contain human waste. These can include bathroom and kitchen sinks, bathtubs, showers, and washing machines.

Branch and Horizontal Lines

Branch and horizontal lines help funnel wastewater into the sewer system.

  • Branch drain lines connect water-using fixtures, like sinks, bathtubs, toilets, and urinals, to the appropriate vertical stack.
  • Horizontal drain lines are typically run underground and under concrete slabs. These lines funnel the wastewater into the city’s municipal sewer system.

3. Why do Condo and Apartment Drains Backup?

Condo and apartment drains can backup for a variety of reasons. The most common is that someone or multiple people are flushing and rinsing items down the drains that shouldn’t be put down drains. This includes grease, oil, lard, and any type of meat scraps. Vegetable rinds, eggshells, and coffee grinds should also never be put down the drains.

When it comes to bathrooms, it’s important to tell your residents to never flush anything but toilet paper down the drains, not even flushable wet wipes. The latter is because many people believe they are buying flushable wet wipes when in fact, they are not. Wet wipes can cause huge problems, not only in your building but also in your city’s sewer pipes. Pet owners should also never flush pet waste down their toilets and this includes cat litter.

4. How do I Keep my Drain Lines Flowing Smoothly?

The first step in ensuring that the drain lines in your condo or apartment building flow smoothly is to educate your residents. Drain lines are not designed to handle every liquid or solid substance. This means that you’ll want to periodically hand out a pamphlet or notice that explains what can and cannot be put down the drains in your residential building. When everyone follows the best practices of drain usage, the entire building benefits.

The second thing you should do is have your drain lines regularly inspected and hydro-jetted. Having your drain lines inspected can catch partial clogs before they start affecting your wastewater drainage system to the point where disgusting water starts backing up into the units. Having your drain lines hydro-jetted once or twice a year can also maximize water flow and remove clog-causing and potentially damaging debris, which can extend the useful life of your plumbing pipes.

5. How Can You Detect Condo and Apartment Drain and Sewer Line Problems Before it’s Costly and Inconvenient?

It’s important to note that drain lines and sewer pipes do not fail without warning. For drain lines, you may start getting maintenance tickets for slow drains. If it’s just one unit, the problem is likely that unit. However, if multiple units start complaining about slow drains, there could be a problem in your main pipe, and it’s time to call a professional Chicago plumber. For your sewer line, pay attention to apartments on the first floor that are complaining about nasty smells and slow bathroom drains. You may even have tenants tell you that their toilets are making sucking or gurgling noises. You can also tell your maintenance team to keep an eye out for unusual puddings on your property, which could be signs that your sewer pipe has cracked.

Condo and Apartment Drain Line Pipe Repair with Nu Flow

If your vertical stacks, horizontal drain lines, or sewer pipes are corroded or in disrepair, epoxy pipelining can help restore the structural integrity, maximize the internal pipe diameter and keep the wastewater flowing into the municipal sewer system.

During the pipe lining process, your drain lines are hydro-jetted and prepared to accept an epoxy-soaked pipe liner. The liner is then inserted into the pipe, inflated, and left to cure. Once the installation and curing processes are complete, the pipe liner is as hard as a new pipe, and all the cracks, leaks, and pipe collapses are sealed. This restores your drain lines and helps keep your wastewater flowing smoothly.

For more information on pipe lining and how it can help you optimize the function of your condo and apartment drain pipes, contact us at 815-790-9000.