How much do you know about the plumbing system in your building? If you’re like most people, you know that if you turn on a shower or a tap, water flows out. If you don’t capture it in a glass, pot, or another type of vessel, it’ll go down the drain where it makes its way into the city’s wastewater treatment system. The truth of the matter is that most of us just don’t think about the state of our potable water pipes, drain lines, or sewer lines until we experience plumbing problems.

Why It Makes Sense to Pay Attention to Your Chicago Building’s Plumbing System All the Time

If you’re not used to thinking about your building’s plumbing system and how it’s operating on a regular basis, you could be surprised to find out that hidden leaks and broken pipes can happen without your knowledge. This is because small leaks, which are the result of tiny cracks and holes in the pipes, may not affect water pressure right away. Partial clogs may not result in a significant enough drop in water flow through your drain pipes to trigger complaints from your building’s unit owners or tenants. Unfortunately, just because you can’t see the plumbing problems and no one’s noticed yet, doesn’t mean you and your residents can’t be affected.

Leaking Water Can Affect Your Health and the Health of Your Residents.

When it comes to your plumbing pipes, it is imperative that you know the details of your system before it starts failing. Water damage from leaking pipes can lead to mold, mildew, and even fungus growth, which could negatively impact your residents’ health.

It Can Lead to Higher Than Expected Water Bills and Affect Your Operating Expenses.

Broken, cracked, and leaking plumbing pipes wastes water and increases your water bills. If the leak is severe enough and goes on for long enough, it can seriously affect your operating expenses, and for buildings with HOAs, it may lead to the need for a special assessment for your condo owners. The EPA estimates that 1 trillion gallons of water are wasted each year as a direct result of leaking water fixtures and pipes. Thankfully, you can prevent these catastrophes, save water and be mindful of the environment by knowing and understanding these three questions.

1. Do you know the details of your plumbing system so that you can accurately describe the plumbing problems to your local plumber?

Every Chicago property manager should know the macro and micro details of their residential building system before a plumbing problem occurs. This information starts with knowing the components that could be inside your plumbing system so that you can describe problems to your Chicago plumber when something goes wrong and possibly tell him what you think may be wrong. For example, if you don’t have any water pressure and your building has a roof tank, the problem could be a failed water booster pump.

  • Booster Pumps. Booster pumps turn off and on in order to give all your residents consistent water pressure. Booster pump failures can lead to low water pressure and unhappy residents.
  • Drain Lines. Drain lines extend from every water fixture in your building. They funnel waste water out of your building and into the main sewer line. Drain line failures are often caused by grease being poured down drain lines and flushing toys, Kleenex, or other items down toilets.
  • Fixtures. A plumbing fixture is anything that supplies and drains the water, including showerheads, faucets, bathtubs, and toilets. A malfunctioning fixture can waste thousands of gallons of water per year.
  • Hot Water Heating Systems. A hot water heating system is anything that is used to heat water, including boilers and hot water heaters. A blowout from a tanked hot water heating system can cause thousands of dollars in water damage not including the repair or replacement cost.
  • Plumbing Pipe Age. Plumbing pipes are designed to last anywhere from 20 to more than 100 years. It is up to you, as a Chicago property manager, to determine the ages and expected useful lives of all your plumbing pipes. If you are not sure how old your pipes are or their condition, you can schedule a building pipe assessment.
  • Plumbing Pipe Materials. Plumbing pipes can be constructed out of rigid or flexible plastic and various types of metals, including copper, iron, and galvanized steel. Each material has its own pros and cons and expected useful life.
  • Potable Water Lines. Your potable water lines supply hot and cold water to sinks, dishwashers, showers, and washing machines. Problems with your potable water lines can lead to low water pressure, leaks, and discolored water.
  • Risers. Risers are vertical water supply lines that supply water to the various floors in a high-rise building. Leaks in your risers can result in low water pressure on the floor above the leak and water damage.
  • Roof Tanks. Roof tanks are used to increase the water pressure in high-rise buildings. While roof tanks are an older system, they are still in use on some high-rise buildings
  • Vertical Stacks. These pipes run from your roof to the sewer and storm drains beneath your building. When you see one vertical stack, you should see two. One stack is for sewage. The other is for ventilation. If one or both of these pipes are not functioning correctly or are blocked, you could experience a sewage backup.

2. Where are your plumbing pipes located?

In multi-unit high-rise apartment buildings, condos, and co-ops, the vast majority of the vertical vents and risers are located in the walls. You can determine where these pipes are located by going up to your roof and visually looking at the vent stacks. Once you know where they are located, determine if they are located behind drywall, brick, cinder blocks, or concrete blocks. The type of material that your pipes are located behind will determine how hard it will be to reach your pipes and part of the cost of replacing your plumbing pipes. Additionally, you can locate and look at your building’s plumbing pipe schematic, which will not only tell you where your vent stacks are located but tell you where every pipe is located. If you live in a condo, you may also have a diagram that shows where the common use and private unit pipes are located. This can be helpful in determining who’s responsible for paying for plumbing repairs when problems occur.

3. Have you explored all your pipe repairs and replacement options, including trenchless?

The last question you need to answer is, how do you plan to repair your pipes and who should you call? For most property owners and building managers, this comes down to two choices, including traditional pipe repair and replacement and trenchless pipe repair and replacement.

  • Traditional Total Pipe Replacement. Traditional pipe replacement involves physically removing all the plumbing pipes in your building and replacing them with new pipes. This method requires the plumbers to cut through walls, floors, and ceilings, and it is the most expensive way to fix an aging plumbing system because you have to replace all the pipes and then hire contractors to fix drywall, floors, and ceilings, and reinstall finishes.
  • Trenchless Pipe Replacement and/or Lining. Trenchless pipe replacement and/or pipe lining involves accessing the pipes at the beginning and end of the pipe to be lined or replaced. This is less invasive and less costly than traditional pipe replacement. It’s also an ideal solution for historic buildings with original features because the finishes aren’t damaged during the pipelining process.
  • Patch Repairs. Patching and/or repairing a leaky pipe involves cutting out the failed section and replacing it with a new piece of pipe. This method is good for fixing immediate leaks, but it does not fix an aging or severely worn plumbing system.

Inspecting and Lining Your Plumbing Pipes with NuFlow Midwest

Our pipelining experts, here at NuFlow, can inspect your building’s plumbing pipes via a building pipe assessment and determine if your building would make a good candidate for trenchless pipelining. A building pipe assessment starts the process because it includes a camera inspection of every plumbing pipe in your building, a comprehensive report of our findings, the best way to fix your plumbing pipe problems, and the feasibility and estimated cost of installing pipe liners.

Many property managers and building owners choose trenchless pipelining because it’s less intrusive and damaging than traditional pipe repair. This is because holes are not left in your walls, floors, and ceilings. Instead, existing cleanouts are used or new cleanouts are created and a door is installed at the new access point. Many government buildings and historic buildings choose this option because they don’t have to perform as many repairs to the historically significant details of the building.

To learn more about how trenchless pipelining can repair your pipes and prevent future problems, contact us at 815-790-9000. We’d love to talk to you about rehabilitating your existing plumbing pipes.