If you are managing a multi-family residence, then you should have the basic understanding of how the plumbing system works. Even the smallest of issues–such as a clogged sink–can cause issues for the entire housing unit. Therefore, it is essential for you to understand these basics so you can relay the necessary information to members of the Homeowners Association or others who may not be familiar with multi-family plumbing systems.
Potable Water Supply Pipes
These are the pipes that provide safe drinking water for your tenants. Potable water pipes are connected to your main pipes and lead into each individual apartment. It is important to maintain these pipes so they do not get contaminated by the other water supplies.
While copper pipes have been the standard in potable water pipes, studies have shown they might not be the safest option. In fact, these studies have connected high copper residue in drinking water to Alzheimer’s Disease. So, there is a chance you may have to remove the copper piping or install water filters to prevent this residue.
Other options for these potable water pipes include PVC, CPVP, PEX, or Galvanized. However, copper is still the best choice for pipes that run hot or cold water. As long as you are aware of the health risks and take the proper installation steps, you should be safe.
Each unit in your residence should have its own control valve. The purpose of the valve is to isolate the water source to each individual apartment. This way, the water usage of one apartment won’t affect another, which is very useful in preventing a building-wide plumbing issue.
A typical family home can contain hundreds of control valves. If not used frequently, these valves can build up corrosion, which can lead to leaking. To prevent this from happening it is important for you to exercise your control valves every few months. By doing this regularly, you are ensuring your pipes are running clear and reducing costs should a valve fail.
Water Pressure and Drainage System
In a multi-family home, you are going to have to run your water at a higher pressure than you would a normal house. This is so water can reach the top floors just as well as the lower levels.
You will also need to maintain your drainage system to ensure human waste and wastewater can get out of the building. Most multi-family homes just have one big drainage system that every unit shares (even without knowing it). The drain pipe needs to be vented properly to prevent air pressure buildup. Also, check your drainage pipe to be sure there is no corrosion going on under the surface.
Members of your HOA will probably never understand the true complexity of your plumbing system, which is why you should. Having basic knowledge under your belt will help prevent major damage from occurring along with a costly visit from a plumber. Understanding your plumbing system is just one step in being a great property manager.