Common Apartment Plumbing Problems & How to Fix Them
Plumbing problems in apartment buildings may be more common than in individual dwellings because of the cumulative effects of heavy use over many years. Here are some of the most common apartment plumbing problems and some practical solutions for fixing and preventing them.
Probably the most common plumbing problem in apartments (and other buildings) is a clogged toilet. Clogs can occur for multiple reasons, including accumulation of paper and other material in the drain pipes or broken sewer lines. This creates the potential for a toilet backup that could cause a significant mess, both in the apartment with the original complaint and in other apartments around or below that unit.
In many cases, a simple toilet plunger may be the solution to the problem. Plunge the toilet drain repeatedly to see if the added pressure from the plunger will dislodge the clog. If this doesn’t work, you may need to run a drain auger or “snake” into the plumbing drain to physically break up the clog. If these measures are unsuccessful, professional assistance from a plumber may be necessary.
Clogged drains in sinks can also be caused by material caught in the pipe. Sink drains can become clogged if grease or other substances build up. In bathrooms, soap residue, hair and bathing products can also clog up the drain. Try a commercial drain cleaner to see if this will dissolve and remove the clog. Many commercial cleaners are very effective. Plunging the drain lines with a plunger may also be sufficient at breaking the clog loose. Make sure the plunger is appropriate for sink drains, not the toilet.
Frozen Plumbing Pipes
Winter weather can easily cause plumbing pipes to freeze. When this happens, pipes can crack or burst, causing serious leaks or floods. As a result, water supplies to apartment residents can be interrupted. Frozen water pipes should be tended to immediately. If they’re fixed quickly, damage to any pipes can be prevented. Thaw out frozen pipes gradually to prevent additional damage. Do not apply flame to the pipes for thawing. Instead, use hot air from a blow dryer or apply warm water to the outside of the pipe. Prevent apartment plumbing problems from frozen pipes by:
- Opening cabinet doors to allow more warm air to get to pipes.
- Letting a small stream of water run constantly to increase water flow.
- Applying heating tape to pipes, so enough heat is generated to prevent freezing.
- Insulating plumbing pipes to prevent freezing, especially in areas that don’t receive heat from an HVAC system, such as in crawlspaces or garages.
Faucet and Fixture Leaks
Leaky faucets are of the most common apartment plumbing problems. Even small leaks can result in the loss of gallons of water over time, driving up water costs and wasting resources. Unseen leaks can also cause damage to floors, walls, cabinets and furnishings. Dripping faucets can often be fixed by replacing an internal rubber washer that has worn out, allowing water to flow around it.
Fixing leaks can also be accomplished by tightening connections or applying thread tape to create a barrier that stops leaks. Watch for unusual spikes in water usage or water costs for your apartments. This could indicate a leak in a hidden location. If there’s a leak in underground pipes or in a difficult-to-reach location, you’ll most likely need to call a plumber.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection, and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial, and Residential settings. For more information on solving and preventing common apartment plumbing problems, and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website!