One of the burdens that accompanies home ownership is plumbing issues. And in condominium associations, a plumbing event can not only affect the home where the event occurred, but surrounding homes as well. We interviewed Eric Stein of One Stop Contractors to hear first hand the biggest plumbing concerns for condo associations, and best practices to prevent issues.

HOA plumbing responsibilities

Typically, homeowners don’t think much about plumbing issues until they have one. For condo plumbing issues, the first thing owners want to know is who should be held accountable, and who will pay to repair. While there may be the occasional gray area in terms of responsibility, there are some simple guiding principles. HOA plumbing responsibilities follow the same principle as all other responsibilities in the association:

  • the HOA is responsible for all shared and common assets
  • individual homeowners are responsible for what is solely theirs
  • individual homeowners are responsible if what is solely theirs damages others’ property

Consult your association’s governing documents for how it specifically defines plumbing domains.

What Boards should be familiar with

An HOA’s board will need to take care of equipment to serve the common areas or the entire building:

  • hot water heaters
  • boilers
  • sump pumps
  • circulation pumps

This means the board will need to execute capital purchases to replace these expensive machines contributing to condo plumbing issues. The board is also responsible for the regular upkeep and maintenance of the equipment.

The other thing boards need to be knowledgeable about is local and municipal codes. The codes are designed to protect building dwellers. Failing to adhere to the codes can result in disastrous plumbing events that end up costing the association and homeowners much more in the end.

Preventing condo plumbing issues

Eric shared that the most common plumbing problems in townhouse and condominium associations are clogged pipes and leaking seals. Eric recommends checking the following to prevent destructive issues.

Daily best practices
  1. Watch for leaking shower valves or faucets. These may seem harmless, but it could be slowly dripping down behind the scenes and affecting the owner below.
  2. Cover all drains to filter out debris and hair.
  3. Be mindful of what hair products you use and how much. Conditioner is especially prone to drain clogging.
  4. Use your garbage disposal judiciously, and do not dump grease or oil down the sink.
Monthly

Clean drains. There are several ways you can clean shower drains. For sinks:

  1. Run the faucet until the water is hot.
  2. Close the drain.
  3. Fill up the sink with hot water, and unplug the drain once the sink is full.

The full force of the hot water cleans the pipes.

Every 3 months

Check your toilet seal by looking for any visible moisture or discoloration in the grout. A small leak in the toilet seal can destroy flooring and the ceiling in the unit below.

Annually

Hire an HVAC company to complete an annual HVAC checkup. Among other reasons, HVAC drainage and humidifier lines can leak.

Plumbing considerations when remodeling

Before starting any remodeling project, examine the condition of the pipes. Look for indications of aged pipes. Galvanized pipes are generally older and less durable; copper are safer (no lead) and have a longer lifespan. If your pipes are galvanized, you are best replacing them with copper. Further, check the condition and age of the sink and toilet. All of these factors are signs of old plumbing that may not be up to code, or should otherwise be replaced as part of your remodeling project. Once you open the walls and expose the plumbing, you are legally obligated to bring everything up to code.

 

“Burst pipes. January 1, 2015” by sloanpix is licensed under CC BY 2.0