If you are a property manager or owner of one of the apartment buildings, condos, or co-ops that have a membership with ABOMA or a Chicago property manager that will soon be in control of one of the new 15+ Chicago highrises to keep an eye on, you are probably wondering how to avoid large-scale plumbing repairs and plumbing mistakes. The first step to preventing plumbing mistakes is understanding the most common plumbing errors performed in multi-unit, high-rise residential buildings. Once you understand the most common plumbing mistakes, you can take steps to prevent them and save yourself time and money.

1. Not Explaining the Hazards of Drain Cleaning Chemicals on Pipes

When most plumbing consisted of copper, cast iron, and other metals, using caustic drain cleaners to occasionally unclog pipes rarely caused damage to the plumbing system. However, caustic drain cleaners do cause problems with plastic plumbing pipes, including PVC, CPVC, and PEX. This is because conventional, store-bought drain cleaners contain a mix of powerful acidic chemicals that are designed to eat through clogs. Unfortunately, those chemicals don’t know the difference between your plumbing pipes and the clog, so they eat through everything, and it is especially true if the cleaner fails to dissolve the clog. In fact, when the cleaner fails to dissolve the clog, it sits in the plumbing pipe and dissolves the pipe.

For these reasons, you should explain the harms of using drain cleaners to clear clogs in toilets, sinks, bathtubs, and showers to your residents and advise them to never use any type of drain cleaner inside your residential building. If they do need to unclog a drain, instruct them to use a high-quality plunger that is designed for either a sink or a toilet. If the clog cannot be jarred loose and rinsed through the pipe with the help of a plumber, encourage your residents to call your maintenance team for further help or a plumbing company. Plumbing companies have drain augers, also known as snakes, that can safely break apart clogs so that they can be rinsed through the pipes.

2. Tenants Performing Their Own Plumbing Repairs

To save money or to avoid calling your building’s maintenance personnel, your tenants may decide to fix minor plumbing problems themselves. These plumbing repairs could include unclogging a drain, repairing a leak, or changing out a water fixture, like a sink faucet or showerhead. While these may seem like easy fixes, they can lead to disaster. The most common tenant mistake is the failure to turn off the water to the fixture or the unit prior to performing repairs. This can lead to floods and extensive water damage. The second most common tenant mistake is improper installation of the fixture.

If those issues don’t sound horrible enough, imagine a tenant cutting out sections of drywall to repair a leak in a wall, and instead of cutting out the leaking section of pipe and replacing it with a new section, they simply put tape over the leak and cover the hole with a painting or piece of furniture. In this scenario, not only is the leak not fixed properly but now there’s a hole in the wall that you’ll only discover after the tenant moves or if the unit and/or surrounding units flood.

3. Improperly Vetting the Plumbing Company

When you do need the services of a professional plumbing company, it is essential that you and your tenants, if they must hire their own plumber, properly vet the company. This process typically starts with reviewing the plumbing company’s website and BBB rating. If the website looks good, and the BBB rating is an A, it’s time to call the plumber and ask a few questions. If they are eager to answer your questions, friendly, polite, and professional, you may want to put them on your shortlist of plumbers to use for your plumbing issue. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices to two or three plumbers, it’s time to call and get detailed, written quotes for the project. After reviewing the quotes, choose the best plumber for your needs and budget.

If you still feel confused as to which plumber you should hire, you can also contact other apartment buildings or condos for plumbing company referrals, if you have that option. Additionally, you should always make sure the plumbing company is licensed, insured, and registered in the state of Illinois. Performing all of these tasks prior to hiring the plumbing company will help ensure that you get timely, professional, and long-lasting repairs. Not to mention, if you like the work the plumber has performed, you can use them for all your future plumbing needs, which can save you time and potentially money, especially if the plumber offers annual maintenance plan packages.

4. Not Keeping an Eye on Pipe Corrosion

For Chicago property managers that are in charge of older buildings that have a significant amount of copper or metal piping, it is essential that you stay on top of pipe corrosion. Pipe corrosion occurs when the water moving through the pipes interacts with the metal. This can lead to the pipe rusting, forming a layer of scale, and eventually leaking. The good news is that annual pipe inspections can help keep you informed about the status of your pipes and if any pipes need to be repaired now or in the near future. In addition to pipe inspections, you should also pay attention to the signs of pipe corrosion, which include odd-smelling or tasting water, yellow or reddish water, greenish-blue stains around water fixtures, and a drop in water pressure. If your plumbing system has numerous leaks, you may also notice an unexplained increase in your water bill.

Preventing Pipe Corrosion with Nu Flow

Here at NuFlow, our pipe lining technicians can help you prevent future leaks with epoxy pipelining. Pipelining is approved for use in potable water systems and drain and sewer lines in Chicago buildings. The process starts with a pipe inspection that determines the level of corrosion in your building’s plumbing pipes and whether or not your building would be a good candidate for the pipelining process. If your building is a good candidate for pipelining, you can expect many benefits, including no holes in your drywall, a quick installation process, and prevention of future pipe corrosion and water leaching of heavy metals from your pipes. It also repairs small pinhole leaks and has the ability to restore the structural integrity of drain and sewer lines. Epoxy pipe lining also comes with a ten-year warranty.

For more information on our pipe lining services, call us at 815-790-9000. We serve all of Chicago and the greater Chicago area, and we’re always happy to answer your plumbing questions.