Have you ever heard the term, ‘out of sight, out of mind’? It refers to the fact that people tend to forget things that are not readily within their view. For example, if your bathroom trash is under your sink and behind a door, you may notice that it’s full the next time you go to throw something away. However, if you don’t have time to deal with it right then, you’ll just close the door and forget about it. Over the next few days, you’ll add more trash until it’s spilling out behind the door. The reason is simple, you can’t see your trashcan all the time. Your plumbing pipes are the same way. They are hidden behind walls, in ceilings, and in floors, and since you can’t see them every time you walk down the hall, you probably don’t think about them. This can lead to big plumbing problems if you don’t create a plumbing maintenance plan that involves having your pipes inspected.
Types of Pipes and Why It Matters
Most plumbing pipes are designed to last between 25 and 100+ years. Since that’s a huge time frame, you need to know what type of plumbing pipes are in your building and the date your building was built, or the last time you had a full pipe replacement. This is because any building built before 1996 may have hidden plumbing problems that are not only costing you money in the form of higher water bills but also damaging your building, like destroying structural components.
Galvanized and Zinc-Coated Steel Pipes
Galvanized or zinc-coated steel pipes are heavy and generally have a gray coloring. The problem with zinc is that the coating on the pipe will eventually wear away, which can lead to internal corrosion. The effects of galvanized or zinc-coated corrosion may first be seen in reduced water pressure. By the time you notice the reduced water pressure, the pipes may be close to being entirely clogged. The good news is that galvanized pipes are no longer used commonly in building due to their quick corrosion, but if your building was built prior to 1960, you may still have a few. These pipes can start to corrode and fail in as little as 20 years.
Copper pipes are very popular in older buildings due to their lightweight and strength. They also absorb heat well and have a long lifespan. If your copper pipes have turned dark brown and/or green, they are showing signs of age. Copper is prone to pinhole leaks and corrosion. However, that’s not the worst of the problem. Copper that was installed prior to 1986 may contain lead solder, which was used to connect joints and seams. Over time, that lead can lead to lead leaching, which can poison your water. Copper can last 50+ years, and you can have it lined with epoxy if you are worried about lead leaching from old solder.
Brass pipes are not used as often as copper. It is an alloy or mixture of copper and zinc, and it’s used in plumbing systems because it does not corrode, and there is no friction loss on the inside of the plumbing pipe. They are also easier to thread, which means they are easier to install. It is most commonly used for fittings, but it may also be used in large plumbing distribution systems. The trick is to make sure your brass plumbing pipes do not contain any lead. Modern building code does not allow for any lead in potable water systems. Brass plumbing pipes and fittings typically last between 40 and 70 years.
PVC Plumbing Pipes
PVC plumbing pipes are typically white. They are made out of plastic and can be used in place of brass and copper pipes. They are rated to last indefinitely as long as they are installed correctly. Plastic plumbing pipes do not rust or corrode because they are not made out of metal. However, there is some debate as to whether they contribute to chemical leaching. The good news is that if you are concerned about chemical leaching in your PVC pipes, you can have them lined with epoxy, which is rated for potable water and does not add harmful chemicals due to leaching.
Paying Attention to your Building’s Pipes
Some Chicago building managers will completely ignore potential plumbing problems unless they see a leak, signs of a leak, or get a complaint about water pressure. This wait-and-see attitude can create expensive plumbing disasters for both your management team and your residents.
- Expensive repairs
- Water shutoffs while repairs are being made
- The need to entirely replace some or all of your plumbing system
- Water damage to drywall, ceilings, and finishes
- Mold behind walls
- The need to cut out drywall and ceilings to replace pipes
- The need to hire additional contractors to repair damage to walls, ceilings, and floors after the plumbing system has been repaired.
Camera Inspections to Stop Plumbing Problems Before They Happen
The good news is that you can take steps to stop plumbing problems before they happen with annual camera inspections. We recommend these once your plumbing pipes are halfway through their expected lives or you’ve noticed an increase in plumbing complaints and repairs. A camera inspection provides an in-depth look at the conditions of your plumbing pipes. Our pipelining technicians at NuFlow view the footage on a screen and record it so that you can view it later. These inspections can find pinhole leaks, cracks, and corrosion before you notice any problems with your plumbing system. Once the inspection is complete, we can tell you the age of your plumbing pipes, how much longer you can expect them to function, and whether or not you’d benefit from epoxy pipelining.
Epoxy Pipelining with NuFlow Serving Chicago
Pipe relining from Nu Flow Midwest restores corroded or eroded pipes without costly and disruptive pipe replacement. Nu Flow’s pipe relining system involves cleaning and drying your building’s pipes from the inside. Once clean and dried, a safe, epoxy pipe coating is introduced to fill any leaks and to reline the pipe’s interior. The process can add decades to the lifespan of your building’s water pipes and serve to prevent problems in the future.
Don’t be reactive, be proactive with your building’s aging and corroded plumbing pipes by paying attention to what is behind your building walls. To learn more about pipelining and to have your plumbing pipes inspected with a camera, give us a call at 815-790-9000.