Do you know how you’d handle a plumbing emergency in your condo, apartment building or multi-family housing complex? When you have a plumbing emergency, knowing what to do and how to pay for it can expedite the repair process because you already know who to call and how to shutoff the water to the leaking plumbing pipes. Here at Nu Flow, we recommend having a 24-hour emergency maintenance number available for your tenants to call, an emergency maintenance plan and an emergency budget.

 What is a plumbing emergency?

A plumbing emergency is any type of situation in which your building could experience catastrophic water damage if the problem isn’t remedied quickly. This includes burst pipes, overflowing toilets, sinks and floor drains, flooded bathrooms, leaking water heaters and boilers, sewer backups and soggy walls or ceiling tiles.

Types of Plumbing Emergencies

  • Burst and Leaking Pipes – When a water pipe experiences corrosion or damage that cracks the pipe wall, it can start to leak. Small leaks often aren’t noticeable until you feel or wee a wet wall or ceiling or notice puddles on the floor. However, burst pipes are readily noticeable because you’ll hear water flowing, and you may even see it spraying across the room or visibly soaking a wall or floor.
  • Frozen Pipes – Frozen pipes occur in the winter on cold nights where the temperature has fallen below 32 degrees. This most often happens with pipes that are located along exterior walls. Once the pipe freezes no water can flow through the faucets or connected appliances. In extreme cases, pressure may build up in the pipe to the point where it bursts.
  • Backed-Up Drains – Backed-up drains occur when a drain pipe or the sewer pipe is partially or fully clogged with debris. In multi-story, multi-family residential housing complexes, even a partially clogged drain or sewer is a problem because it restricts water flow. This means that there may not be enough space in the pipe to accommodate the flow of wastewater. When this happens, the drain can backup into bathtubs, showers and sinks.
  • No Hot Water – Having no hot water is a plumbing emergency. This could be due to a failed hot water heater or boiler that supplies hot water to your Chicago residents. The good news is that most hot water problems are easily and quickly repaired without having to replace the unit. However, if the reason for the lack of hot water is due to an extremely corroded and leaking water tank, it needs to be replaced.

What should you do if your Chicago building experiences a plumbing emergency?

If you have an emergency, you should turn off the water to the affected fixtures or tenant unit. If you cannot turn off the water close to the source, you will have to turn the water off to the entire floor or building. If any hot water heaters or boilers are affected by the water shut-off, you will need to turn those off to prevent damage to the units from lack of water. While your maintenance staff is turning off the water to lessen the amount of water damage, you should call an emergency plumber. Emergency plumbers are available 24 hours a day, even on weekends and holidays to deal with critical plumbing situations.

Do you have a plumbing emergency budget?

Emergency plumbing repairs should come out of your emergency maintenance budget, which should be an amount that is set aside in addition to your normal maintenance budget. SFgate recommends setting aside at least 2 percent of the property’s total value for maintenance and repair costs as well as extra money to take care of regular maintenance and building problems. Most Chicago properties either add their emergency budgets into the primary maintenance account, or they have it as a separate account. If you don’t know, it’s best to ask the owner or property manager where the emergency budget is lcoated so that you know which account to use.

What should you do if you do not have a plumbing emergency budget?

If you do not have an emergency repair budget, you could find yourself in a situation where you need to pay your emergency plumber from your general maintenance budget. While paying for the emergency plumber out of your maintenance and repair budget takes care of the immediate problem, you may find yourself short on funds as you near the end of the year. To prevent this problem, you should consult with your building’s owner and/or HOA board members and tenants in order to get approval to create a budget specifically for building maintenance emergencies.

What happens if you experience a plumbing emergency and can’t afford it from any of your maintenance accounts?

If you don’t have any funds allocated to pay for the repair, you may need to pool funds from other accounts in order to come up with enough money. In this scenario, your HOA would need to create a special assessment in order to replenish the maintenance repair accounts, and the money taken from other accounts in order to fix the emergency, and those other accounts may have included your payroll and general operating expenses. The bad news is that your residents will have to come up with additional money in order to pay their fair share of the assessment, which means this should be a last resort.

How do I prevent plumbing emergencies?

To prevent plumbing emergencies, you should have regular inspections and maintenance performed on your plumbing pipes. This includes getting a camera inspection at least once a year. Camera inspections can help determine the ages of your pipes, their corrosion levels and if any pipes are in dire need of repair or replacement. You may also want to consider getting a building pipe assessment and conducting a reserve study. These services can help you create a maintenance and repair and replacement schedule that fits with your budget and timeline. It’s also important to listen to your residents. If you notice multiple complaints of low water pressure, you may have one or more small leaks that need to be fixed. By being vigilant in repairs and general plumbing maintenance, you will be able to get the maximum useful life out of your pipes, and you may avoid catastrophic plumbing emergencies.

What is a building pipe assessment?

building pipe assessment is an inspection of your building’s plumbing pipes to determine age, wear and tear and corrosion levels. Here at Nu Flow, we typically perform assessments to determine if pipelining would help stop current pinhole leaks and leaks around joints and seams and prevent future plumbing leaks, but we can also use it to help you create a pipe repair and replacement plan. We can offer long-term pipe repair and replacement plans that involve both pipelining and traditional pipe repair services because we partner with licensed Althoff Industries. By utilizing this partnership, we can offer you combination services that involve both traditional pipe replacement and trenchless pipe lining technology.

To learn more about how we can help you create a long-term plan for your plumbing pipes and to schedule a pipe assessment, call us at 815-790-9000.