How much do you know about your plumbing system? For most tenants and condo staff members, the answer may be: not very much. After all, many of us don’t think about the plumbing system until water starts spraying from the walls or creating puddles on the floor, or the toilets start overflowing and sinks start backing up with putrid wastewater. Fortunately, knowing a few basics about condo plumbing systems can help you better determine what might be wrong and when to call a Chicago plumber for a repair.

Condo Plumbing System Basics

Like all plumbing systems, condos have potable water and drain pipes. The potable water pipes are pressurized and carry clean water from the city’s municipal water system to your water-using fixtures, including sinks, washers, dishwashers, showers, toilets and bathtubs. The drainage system funnels wastewater from your water-using appliances into the sewer pipe and onto the city’s wastewater treatment plant. It’s important to note that these two systems are completely separate because clean water should never come into contact with wastewater. In fact, condos are required to have backflow valves and other safety features in their plumbing systems to prevent accidental contamination of clean, potable water with wastewater or water treated with chemicals, like the chemicals used in swimming pools and hot tubs.

Types of Pipes Found in Condo Plumbing Systems

  • Pressurized Water Pipes (Potable Water Pipes) – These are the plumbing pipes, usually manufactured from copper, PVC, CPVC or PEX that carry clean water to your sinks, faucets, showers, bathtubs and water-using appliances.
  • Risers – Risers carry potable water between the floors of multi-level buildings.
  • Gravity Tanks – Gravity tanks are large water storage tanks that are located on the roofs of tall buildings. They are used to help keep the potable water system pressurized and to avoid low water pressure situations.
  • Drain Lines – Drain lines are connected to sinks, showers, bathtubs, washers, dishwashers and other types of water-using appliances. Their sole function is to funnel dirty or used water from the fixture to the sewer pipe and on to the wastewater treatment plant. It’s important to note that drain lines typically deal with greywater, which is water that has soap, dirt and possibly chemicals in it, but not human waste.
  • Waste Stacks – Waste stacks, like drain lines, also funnel water into the city’s wastewater treatment plants. However, the dirty water that drains down waste stacks has been contaminated with human excrement, which means that waste stacks are typically connected to toilets, urinals and bidets. However, they may also be connected to showers and bathtubs.
  • Sewer PipeSewer pipes connect your Chicago building’s drain and waste stacks to the city’s sewer system. These pipes are located outside and underground.
  • Vent StacksVent stacks are used to balance your building’s plumbing system. These pipes do not carry water. Instead, they are used to allow air into and out of the system. Without vent stacks, plumbing systems would frequently clog and cease to function due to air pressure problems.

Why Condo Systems Are More Complex Than Other Types of Plumbing Systems When It Comes to System Repairs

When a plumbing pipe in a condo breaks, clogs or develops a small leak, it can be difficult to determine who pays for the repair. This is because condo plumbing systems are divided into public and tenant-owned pipes. In general, the pipes inside a unit and immediately surrounding the unit are the tenant’s responsibility, while the pipes located in public areas are the condo’s responsibility. It gets even more complex when you realize that two or more units may share a particular section of plumbing pipes. The good news is that most condos have detailed schematics on the plumbing system and which pipes are considered whose responsibility

Common Condo Plumbing Issues

Condos tend to have a few common plumbing issues. Depending on where the plumbing issue is located, it may be the responsibility of the HOA or board members, or it may be something the unit owner has to have repaired.

  • Clogged Drain Lines – Clogged drain lines can occur just beneath a water-using appliance, or it could be located in a waste stack or the main sewer line. If the clog is related to a shower, sink or toilet, it’s probably the responsibility of the unit owner. If it’s located in a waste stack, the main sewer line or in a pipe adjacent to a public area, it may be the responsibility of the HOA.
  • Corroded Potable Water Pipes – All potable water pipes deteriorate over time. As the pipes get older, the chemical composition of the water combined with the water pressure can cause pipe corrosion, cracks, pits, leaks and blowouts, especially at joints and seams. If the corroded pipes are located within a unit, they are probably the responsibility of the unit owner. If they are located in a public restroom, kitchen or break room, they are probably the responsibility of the HOA.
  • Leaking Pipes – Potable water and drain lines can both leak. Signs of a pipe leak include a foul or musty odor, water spots on walls and the presence of black mold. If there are enough leaks in the building, water pressure may also be compromised. Leaks can pose a repair problem for condos because most pipes are located inside walls, which may be designated as a public wall or a wall shared by two units.
  • Sewage Backups – Clogs in the waste stacks and/or main sewer line can create sewer backups, which may involve one or more tenant units. If the clog creating the backup is located in the main sewer line, it may be the responsibility of the HOA. If it is located in a shared drain line or waste stack, an evaluation may need to be performed in order to determine who is responsible for fixing the problem.

Trenchless Technology from NuFlow Serving Chicago Can Help Restore Your Condo Plumbing System

Trenchless technology from NuFlow can help correct common condo plumbing issues and restore the function of your condo plumbing system. Our pipe liners and epoxy coatings are designed to seal leaks and prevent further corrosion, which extends the lives of your plumbing pipes without damaging drywall and expensive finishes. Our pipe lining technicians can even work with the HOA and individual unit owners in order to create a custom pipe lining solution that meets your HOAs covenants and guidelines while repairing your condo plumbing issues.

To learn more about how pipelining can help increase the useful lives of your plumbing pipes and fix common condo plumbing issues, call us today at 815-790-9000.