Did you know that the average age of plumbing pipes in the US is 45 years? That means that the majority of the water pipes were installed around 1978. The bad news is that all those plumbing pipes are reaching the ends of their useful lives, and the ones in your Chicago building may be in the same condition. This means that you could be experiencing plumbing leaks. If you’re not sure, you can review your water bills to see if they’re higher than normal and take a look at your maintenance requests, especially those related to low water pressure. Now, let’s take a look at the harms of plumbing leaks and what you can do about it.

Average Lifespan of Plumbing Pipes by Material

While these numbers may look good, if your building was built in 1978 or earlier and your plumbing pipes have never been replaced, they may only have a few years left.

  • Copper – Usually lasts more than 50 years
  • Brass – Lasts between 40 and 70 years
  • Galvanized Steel – Between 20 and 50 years
  • PVC – Usually lasts at least 50 years
  • PEX – Usually lasts more than 50 years

Signs Your Plumbing Pipes Are Nearing the End of their Useful Lives

  • Low Water Pressure – Usually more prevalent on the upper floors of highrise buildings.
  • Higher Than Normal Water Bills – You can review the last 12 to 24 months of water bills to determine this information.
  • Water Spots on Ceilings – usually in the form of yellow or brown stains.
  • Puddles of Water – In areas that shouldn’t have any water.
  • Bubbling or Blistering Wall Paper or Paint – This is a sign of moisture in the walls.
  • Discolored water – This is a sign that contaminants are getting into the water, possibly from a large crack.

Hidden Dangers of Plumbing Leaks

If you determine that your building has one or more of the above problems with the water system, you could be in for an expensive surprise if you ignore the signs.

Building Fires

If the water is leaking near electrical outlets or wires, it can lead to an electrical fire, which could severely damage your building. Additionally, if there are puddles on the floor and that water can come into contact with an electrical current, someone could get shocked.

Structural Damage

Leaking water can cause significant structural damage. It can rot wooden posts and floor joists. If the water leak is on an upper floor, it could damage the structural components on several floors. If the water leak is under your concrete slab or foundation, it can degrade the concrete, leading to building instability.

Increase in Pests

Having a plumbing leak can invite pests into your building. Moist environments tend to attract rats, mice, ants, crickets, lice, termites, and silverfish. Rodents tend to chew holes in walls, and they may even chew electrical wiring. Termites eat wood, which can accelerate structural damage.

Health Risks

There are two primary health risks with plumbing leaks, including mold and mildew and slips and falls.

Mold and Mildew

Water dripping in your building from a plumbing leak can cause mold and mildew to grow, which is a significant health hazard. It can aggravate preexisting breathing problems, like asthma and COPD. It can increase allergy symptoms, like sinus congestion, eye irritation, and sore throat. It can cause headaches and lung irritation. Some people may even experience brain fog, dizziness, and joint pain, which are signs of aspergillosis, which is a fungal infection.

Slips and Falls

If the plumbing leaks cause puddles of water on your solid surface floors, it can lead to an increase in slips and falls, which is the most common type of personal injury. Slips and falls, on average, can cost as much as $50,000 if the individual who fell issues a claim against you.

Cost Implications of Plumbing Leaks

If you suspect that you have plumbing leaks, don’t delay in getting it repaired. Delaying the repair of plumbing leaks could result in additional damage and additional repair costs.

High Water Bills

A small water leak can easily waste as much as 10,000 gallons of water a year. A leaking toilet flapper can waste thousands of gallons of water all by itself. A dripping faucet can waste 3,000 gallons. Leaks in irrigation systems can waste more than 6,000 gallons of water. Now think about those extra gallons of water added to your current water bill.

High Plumbing Repair Bills

Waiting to fix the leak could be disastrous for your maintenance budget. The average cost of a plumbing repair is $325 per job, according to Bankrate. However, actual costs can range between $100 and $4,000. However, if you fix the problem immediately, you won’t incur any additional repair bills.

Mold Remediation

If you leave a leaking pipe alone, you’ll most likely need a mold remediation service. Mold remediation, on average, costs between $1,125 to $3,345. It’s often priced by the square foot, and most companies charge between $10 and $25 per square foot. It’s also more expensive to remove mold from wood, concrete, and drywall. If it infiltrates an HVAC system, removing it from that system can cost between $3,000 and $10,000 or more, keep in mind that if it enters your air ducts, it can quickly infest your entire building.

Structural Damage

If your building incurs structural damage, it could be very costly. Hiring a structural engineer costs an average of 2.5 percent of the total project or between 50 cents and 2 dollars per square foot. Repairing the structural damage to your building could cost between $5,000 and $20,000 or more.

Pest Removal

If the standing water attracts pests, you’ll need to hire a pest removal company or an exterminator. The average cost to hire an exterminator can range between $80 and $370. Some exterminators may even charge per unit.

Property Value Impact

Unresolved leaks can greatly decrease your property’s value. Imagine a potential buyer walking into your building and seeing visible water stains on the walls and ceiling. It’s even worse in the ceiling, floors and walls are warped because of it. Needless to say, the potential buyer, if he or she is still interested, will bid down to account for the cost of the repairs.

Preventive Measures

If you’re worried about all the costs involved in long-term plumbing leaks, there are things you can do to prevent the damage in the first place.

Get Regular Plumbing Inspections

The first step to handling leaking pipes is to make sure they don’t leak in the first place. To accomplish this, you’ll need to schedule regular plumbing inspections. Most places recommend having your plumbing system inspected every one to two years.

Have Your Water Pressure Tested

It’s also a good idea to get your water pressure tested. High and low water pressure are both bad for your residents. High water pressure can damage your pipes, but low water pressure can make it hard to clean or take a shower. In addition, you should have your pipes pressure tested. During this test, if there is a pressure drop, it means there are leaks in your plumbing system.

Keep an Eye on Your Water Bills

Next, keep an eye on your water bills. If they start to dramatically increase, but you’re not actively using more water, it could be due to one or more leaks in your building.

Take Reports of Plumbing Leaks Seriously

If your residents or tenants start complaining about low water pressure or they report an active leak, make sure to investigate it right away. If there is a leak, remember to have it repaired as soon as possible before it results in additional costs.

Prevent Plumbing Leaks with Help From NuFlow Midwest

If you want to prevent leaks and rehabilitate your plumbing pipes, we can help you at NuFlow Midwest. We offer epoxy pipelining that can help rehabilitate your plumbing pipes while eliminating corrosion and preventing water leaks. The process starts with a pipe inspection via our building pipe assessment. The assessment checks the condition of your plumbing pipes, tells you if your pipes are good candidates for pipelining, and provides you with an estimate.

To learn more about our pipelining process, please contact us!