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Why Spring Is the Best Time to Check for Building Plumbing Leaks

by Patti Althoff - Siwicki | Mar 13, 2019 | Property Manager, property management maintenance, Plumbing, Facility Manager, Preventative Maintenance, commercial plumbing | 0 Comments

spring clean your building plumbing system in chicago

With the outdoor temperatures warming, it’s time to think about spring cleaning your Chicago property. For most superintendents, maintenance teams and property managers, this often means checking the building envelope for leaks, visually inspecting facades for winter weather damage, scheduling roof and HVAC inspections and cleaning up the exterior of the property. However, you shouldn’t forget about your plumbing system. Cold weather can cause damage to your plumbing pipes, and as everything begins to thaw, you may notice water spots appearing on walls and ceilings.

Health and Plumbing

One of the greatest inventions for the health of mankind is the plumbing system. It takes water from the water reservoir and pumps it into a treatment facility where it is filtered and treated with chemicals to kill any bacteria and pathogens. Once the water has been deemed clean, it is pumped to homes and businesses across the city where it is used for drinking, cooking, cleaning and showering.

Of course, piping water from a lake, river or manmade reservoir isn’t a modern invention. The Romans and Greeks both had plumbing systems that consisted of aqueducts and either stone or lead pipes that pumped the water to certain areas, usually bathhouses and the homes of wealthy families. Unfortunately, when these civilizations fell, their plumbing technology was lost. It was only rediscovered in the 1800s. Between the fall of Rome and Greece and the 1800s, mankind experienced a plethora of illnesses due to contaminated water, including chronic diarrhea, vomiting, cholera, Guinea worm disease, parasitic infections, trachoma and typhoid fever. Not to mention, leprosy is caused by living in unclean conditions.

Today, in the United States, we’re less concerned about developing stomach and intestinal trouble and parasitic infections from drinking the water, but water can still pose hazards to humans and pets if it is left to stagnate. This is particularly true if plumbing pipes start leaking behind the walls and in the ceilings of your Chicago building. When water starts to leak, it can lead to the development of black mold, which is hazardous to humans and pets. Not to mention, if the leak isn’t fixed, it can lead to having to replace large sections of drywall and flooring as well as the structural components inside your walls. In order to prevent these things from happening, it’s important to check your plumbing system and building for signs of leaks, and the best time to do this is in the spring.

Why You Should Spring Clean Your Plumbing System

Spring is a great time to take a long look at your plumbing system because your maintenance team and staff are probably already moving through the building and fixing and inspecting other items, like the HVAC system, broken stairwell railings, light switch and outlet operation and changing burnt out light bulbs. Not to mention, you probably have staff sweeping and mopping floors, dusting and cleaning walls and other finishes to help give your building that fresh spring smell. As everyone focuses on cleaning and organizing the building for warmer weather, simply remind them to be vigilant for plumbing leaks, and if they find any mysterious water spots or staining to report them to management.

Find Damaged Pipes Before They Burst

Damaged and severely corroded pipes often start leaking before they completely fail. Slow leaks allow water to drip onto other surfaces, like the drywall and the floor beneath the pipe. While it may be impossible to detect water leaks below the pipe as this is often within the walls, it may be possible to see small water spots, rings and the beginning of mold development. If you, your staff or any of your residents find any discoloration on the walls or ceilings, have them immediately report it to maintenance so that a plumber can be called.

Prevent Low Water Pressure Situations

Low water pressure within a building is often the result of numerous small leaks. In order to prevent your residents from complaining about low water at their faucets and in the shower, it’s important to look for signs of leaks. This can include water puddles in areas where there are no water fixtures, damaged drywall and/or flooring and bubbling or peeling paint, especially if there are black spots under the paint.

Prevent Water Waste and High Bills

Water conservation is a hot topic and has been for many years. While 70 percent of the earth is covered in water, only 2.5 percent of that water is freshwater, and only 1 percent of the Earth’s water is drinkable, according to Worldatlas. For this reason, water conservation is extremely important in order to ensure we have enough water for every living creature. The other reason for eliminating leaks is to prevent high water bills. For example, a single faucet that produces one drip per minute wastes 51 gallons of water per year, according to DrinkTap. The city of Chicago charges about $3.95 per 1,000 gallons of water. While one slow leak may only amount to an increase of .20 cents, imagine if every unit in your condo or apartment has a slow leak. At that point, we could be talking about bill increases of hundreds of dollars over the course of the year.

Reduce Black Mold Risk

Black mold is toxic. It causes breathing difficulties in individuals who have lung ailments, and it can cause your building to develop sick building syndrome. Large amounts of black mold also have to be removed by professional mold restoration companies who have the proper tools and equipment to prevent the spread of mold spores and to clean the air in contaminated rooms. Finding and fixing leaks quickly can reduce the risk of your building developing a black mold problem.

Ways to Spring Clean Your Plumbing System

Along with visual inspections by your maintenance teams, residents and employees, our experienced plumbers, here at Althoff, recommend scheduling inspections of your plumbing system to help locate leaks and worn-out pipes before they result in a flood.

1. Pressure Test Your System

One of the easiest ways to test for leaks in your plumbing system is to have a pressure test performed. This service involves draining the system and introducing pressurized air. Once the desired pressure has been reached, the system is left in place for about 15 minutes. If there is a drop in pressure, the system has a leak.

2. Clean Out Your Drains

Consider having your drain and sewer lines cleaned. Spring and summer are big seasons for family get-togethers and cookouts. With the increased traffic through your building and the increased use of your facilities, existing minor clogs could become major clogs, resulting in sewer backups. In order to prevent this scenario, we recommend having your drain system and sewer line hydrojetted to remove any debris and clogs. 

3. Replace Worn Hose Bibs, Sprinkler Heads and Faucets

If you have old hose bibs, sprinkler heads and/or faucets in your building or on your property, we recommend getting them replaced. This will help to prevent water waste via leaking fixtures, and it may even lower your water bill. This is because new faucets, hose bids and sprinkler heads are designed to use less water per minute.

4. Consider Pipelining

If you have an older plumbing system, you may want to consider lining your pipes with epoxy. Pipelining with epoxy is a great way to fix current leaks and cracks, restore water flow and pressure and extend the useful life of your plumbing system. Here at Althoff, we often partner with Nuflow to provide comprehensive plumbing services that include pipe repair and replacement as well as epoxy pipelining.

To learn more about our spring plumbing services and how we can help you prevent water leaks, call us at 800-225-2443.

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