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The Ins and Outs of Multifamily Residential Plumbing

multifamily residential plumbing
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Burst pipes, clogged drains and low water pressure are all plumbing nuisances that we have to deal with from time to time. In a free-standing home, the onus is obviously on you to sort out repairs but the multifamily residential plumbing that often exists in condos, apartments and townhouses can present some uncertainty as to who is responsible for repairs. These interconnected systems can be highly complex with problems in one part of the system creating a chain reaction that ends up affecting other parts too.

How Multifamily Residential Plumbing Works

In a standard condo or apartment set-up, there will be some pipes that serve solely the plumbing needs of the individuals occupying that unit. Generally, the pipes directly beneath the toilets, sinks and showers will serve that apartment or condo exclusively. On the other hand, pipes that serve the whole building or multiple condos are public pipes; these are generally the ones that bring in fresh water from the municipal supplier and the ones that carry away the dirty water to treatment plants. Often, there is one valve that controls the water flow to multiple units and shutting off the water supply to your unit may mean shutting it off for everyone else in the building too. The key issue here is to determine which pipes are essentially owned by the owner of the property.

multifamily residential plumbing

Common Plumbing Issues

As you can imagine, these multifamily residential plumbing systems can become quite complex and it can be difficult to determine exactly which pipes are shared and which pipes serve only a single unit. Unfortunately, this is essential knowledge in the event that an issue arises. These are some of the most common problems that occur in residential plumbing systems:

    • Backing Up of Sewage

      This often occurs in the main waste stack which is the plumbing line that carries away sewage for multiple units. The line becomes clogged and the source of the clogging will need to be determined.

    • Clogged Drains

      This usually occurs directly beneath the various drains in your home. Hair is a common culprit when it comes to clogged shower drains and sending too much solid food or oil down your sink is also a sure-fire way to create a blockage.

  • Corroded Water Pipes

    Pipes don’t last forever and over time, chemicals in the water they carry can corrode the metal leading to cracks and leaks in the pipes. This occurs most frequently at joints and seams.

Who is Responsible?

The big question is, when there’s a plumbing problem will I be the one who has to pay for it? The answer is usually dependent on which portion of the plumbing system the problem occurs in. If there is a blockage or leak in a pipe that serves your unit exclusively as describe above, it’s likely that this will have to be repaired on your account. On the other hand, if the problem occurs in a shared pipe, then it will likely be the responsibility of the Home Owner Association. Have you ever wondered how the HOA of your condo complex or apartment complex actually spends your monthly fees? Upkeep of shared resources is a significant component of their expenditure. This allocation of responsibility makes sense because a blockage directly below your shower could only have been caused by the occupants of the unit, whereas it would be difficult to determine who caused a blockage in the shared waste stack.

One important issue to be aware of is that even if you have determined that a repair is your responsibility, you may still need to inform your HOA of your intention to conduct repairs as the repair job may affect the water availability for other residents. Furthermore, the HOA may ask you to provide them with licensing information for the plumber that will be conducting the work so that certain quality standards of the building can be upheld.

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Who to Call

So, your plumbing has sprung a leak and your HOA requires that you use a licensed plumbing technician to conduct the repair work. Who do you call? Whether it’s a minor drain clog or a serious sewage back-up, Art Plumbing AC and Electric is always up to the task. Our licensed technicians will assess the damage and take the necessary course of action to ensure that your plumbing is restored to working order, with minimum inconvenience caused to other residents in the condo complex or apartment block. Don’t hesitate to call us at 1-800-475-1504.


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