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Know the Life Expectancy of Your Community's Pipes – Before they Fail

Know the Life Expectancy of Your Community's Pipes – Before they Fail
Like most things in life, pipes don’t last forever. To accurately estimate the useful life of the piping systems at your property, as well as plan for maintenance costs and large capital improvement projects, it’s critical to understand how the environment, geography and other factors impact the resilience of those systems. When it comes to different pipe types (i.e., polybutylene, copper, galvanized steel pipe), each has an overall expected usable life based on their material. But when you look beyond the manufacturers’ data and national averages, location is key. With over 25 years of industry experience, we know that in certain areas of the United States, piping systems are failing at a faster rate.  While nationally the average life of polybutylene (“poly”) pipes is 26 years, in states like North Carolina and Virginia, poly pipes are failing up to ten years earlier.  Likewise, for galvanized steel pipes, the average life nationwide is 50 years, but in states like California, we are seeing galvanized pipes fail in as few as 18 years.   We have seen some copper pipes in perfectly good shape at 75 years old, while others have sprouted pinhole leaks at only 10 years of age due to the quality of the copper and the corrosiveness of the water. Cast iron pipe is expected to have a usable life of 50 years or more based on manufacturers claims, but there are reports of newly made Chinese Cast Iron that are failing at a much faster rate. For reasons “why” these certain......
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Guest — Phil
John, am I reading the chart wrong? We are in the San Francisco Bay Area and have problems with galvanized pipes failing now. Bu... Read More
Tuesday, 28 March 2017 12:33
John V. Griffith, Jr.
Phil,Thanks for taking a second to read my article and for the note. While the article focuses primarily on the negative impacts ... Read More
Tuesday, 28 March 2017 14:04
Guest — Phil
The pipes started failing at about 28 years, which seems a little early. We are having massive failures and spend alot of money t... Read More
Tuesday, 28 March 2017 15:07
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Corrosive Consequences Of Low-Flow Toilets

Corrosive Consequences Of Low-Flow Toilets
The Energy Policy Act of 1992, which became law in 1994, mandates a maximum flush volume of 1.6 gallons for toilets manufactured and installed after this date. Prior to enactment of the Energy Policy Act, toilets used from 3.5 to 5 gallons per flush.  According to the EPA, the water saved through implementation of the act has had a number of positive environmental consequences, including restoration of wetlands and fisheries and savings in the amount of energy needed to pump water. While intended to yield environmental benefits, the Energy Policy Act has unfortunately resulted in some unintended consequences on the nation’s plumbing systems. In older properties, the majority of drain pipes are galvanized steel or cast iron, which over time become corroded and rusty.  When an older property upgrades to low-flow toilets, there is often not enough water to keep waste and other disposables moving through the pipes. Further, as a result of the low-flow requirements, the ratio of water to sewage has changed, making the flow of waste thicker and slower, allowing the build up of bacteria, and producing a corrosive acidic gas that also causes corrosion in the piping system. Often, if the pipe is already corroded, toilet paper and waste can get caught on the rough corroded surface, further exacerbating the problem.  In the end, reduced flow and more concentrated waste result in a rapid acceleration of the corrosion process, ultimately leading to clogs, back-ups, broken pipes and leaks. Corroded drain pipes cause the overwhelming majority of water d......
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Brent Williams
Fascinating blog - thanks, John.
Friday, 23 September 2016 13:41
John V. Griffith, Jr.
Sincerely appreciate the venue Brent and thanks for the note.
Friday, 23 September 2016 14:57
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Rising Tides: The Catch 22 For Condos That Need A Repipe

Rising Tides: The Catch 22 For Condos That Need A Repipe
Your building is leaking.  Your pipes are failing.  Your insurance company might even be calling.  You need a repipe.  The problem is that it’s going to cost millions of dollars, and your board doesn’t have it in your reserves.  Do you take out a loan, issue a special assessment, or both to cover the costs?  Or do you wait, hoping you can raise the funds over the next several years, and try to buy more time? Unfortunately, for boards facing the prospect of a repipe in their community, making this choice is increasingly difficult, increasingly costly and increasingly litigious.  As I write this article, there are pending lawsuits against condo boards on both sides of the equation.   Pay Up and Stop The Leaks! In Hawaii, where a typical cast iron waste line replacement costs tens of thousands of dollars per unit, most properties, and homeowners, simply don’t have the cash to pay for it out of pocket.  Buildings that are in critical condition are declaring a “state of emergency,” and taking out loans to get the pipes fixed.  To pay off the loan, each owner’s portion of the loan payment is added to their monthly condo fees in order to cover the loan costs.  Sure, no one is happy about the increased fees, but the job gets done and the leaks stop. Clogged drain pipes, like this one, are causing a variety of problems in buildings across Hawaii including leaks, odors, slow running drains, and corrosion. But what happens when you live on......
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Daniel Andersson
Thanks for the useful article.
Tuesday, 23 August 2016 00:28
John V. Griffith, Jr.
You're quite welcome Daniel and thank you for taking time to read it.
Tuesday, 23 August 2016 00:34
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Selling a Multifamily Asset? Don’t Let Leaking Pipes Sink Your Deal

Selling a Multifamily Asset?  Don’t Let Leaking Pipes Sink Your Deal
There is no doubt, leaking pipes at your apartment complex are a nuisance.  From residents to property managers to maintenance supervisors to owners, everyone is impacted when a property is leaking.  Oftentimes, the thought of selling the property to get rid of the headache seems appealing.  However, leaking plumbing is hard to hide, and chances are you will not be able to pass off the property without taking a valuation hit unless you get the pipes fixed. If you are thinking of selling your property and are in need of a repipe, it is in your best financial interest to get your piping systems fixed before you list. With turnkey contractors who are able to quickly and cost effectively complete a repipe without moving out residents, selling a hassle free building will most assuredly increase the value of your property, which will typically offset the cost of the repipe. Because new pipes (installed behind patched walls) have no curb appeal and an ambiguous correlation to increased rents, many property owners are hesitant to make this upfront investment before listing their property.  However, inspectors, insurance agents, appraisers and potential buyers are sure to uncover the evidence if your property is leaking, and will either lose interest or submit a low-ball offer knowing the property has issues. By being upfront about the investments you have made (just like you would promote a new roof or renovated kitchens), promoting a recent repipe indicates to buyers that the property is well maintained and worth their......
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Multifamily Acquisitions? Don’t Let A Repipe Deter Your Investment

Multifamily Acquisitions? Don’t Let A Repipe Deter Your Investment
It’s common knowledge in the multifamily industry that as properties age, they experience complications and failures of essential services including their various piping systems.  Historically, investors have stayed away from these properties due to the misperception that a leaking property is a money pit. However, an older property in need of a repipe doesn’t have to be an automatic disqualifier during the acquisition process. Recently, savvy investors have been specifically seeking out these types of properties, knowing they can scoop them up at great prices and have the repairs completed at a reasonable cost. With turnkey contractors who are able to quickly and cost effectively complete a repipe without having to move out residents, buying a property in need of pipe replacement can be a great financial investment if you plan ahead. By building the cost of a repipe into your transaction, you can very quickly realize some significant gains. Taken at face value, property owners are hesitant to invest in pipe replacement because new pipes (installed behind patched walls) have no curb appeal and an ambiguous correlation to increased rents.  However, what is often missed in the financial analysis of the potential acquisition is that a repipe can significantly improve your bottom line. Reduced maintenance/operating costs, decreased damages, fewer insurance claims and increased resident retention all contribute positively to your operating budget, and can often quickly offset the costs of the repipe. Those benefits, paired with the reduced purchase price of a leaking property, can all add up to a sig......
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Is Your Property’s Reputation Being Flushed Down The Drain?

Is Your Property’s Reputation Being Flushed Down The Drain?
In the age of ‘everything online, all the time’, bad news spreads quickly; and residents are leveraging various online channels (BBB, Yelp, Google Reviews, Facebook, ApartmentRatings.com, and others) to communicate their displeasure and frustration with property issues – particularly when it comes to plumbing. Prospective tenants are utilizing these channels to gain insight into how property management responds to requests and handles problems, before they decide where they want to live. Repeated negative posts and reviews tarnish a property’s reputation. Sometimes all it takes is one negative review to impact your occupancy rate and for prospective tenants to look elsewhere. To become the property of choice for new tenants, as well as to increase or maintain your current tenant retention rate, properties must now address and solve problems before they tarnish their reputation.  This includes taking proactive steps to maintain functional and problem free plumbing systems, such as using a seasonal checklist for properly maintaining your pipes. In addition, ensure your property management staff is proactive in responding to any and all online feedback by providing timely responses and direct contact information for residents to reach out with their concerns. Not only will tenants be pleased with your property’s dedication to resolving their issues, but potential residents will see the diligence & commitment of staff to providing top-notch customer service. Don’t let negative reviews tarnish your property’s potential. By providing a comfortable and properly functioning property for your residents while maintaining a proactive and professional customer-service model, you’ll be well on your way to kee......
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Lessons Learned: The Flint, Michigan Water Crisis – Part II

Lessons Learned: The Flint, Michigan Water Crisis – Part II
  Municipal Water Is Heavily Treated, But With Differing Approaches To Treatment Water authorities are required to add many ingredients to the water supply to comply with the Clean Water Act and many other State and Federal regulations. As a result, different regions have distinctly hard water, soft water, low/high pH water and water with high dissolved solids based on their primary water source and treatment approach.   Water Reacts With Your Pipes The steady flow and temperature of water through your system erodes your pipes over time. Your pipes also have a slightly negative charge which can attract particles flowing through the water. These particles react in various ways with your plumbing – leaching pipe materials, creating fissures, pinhole leaks, oxidation, brown/red water and other forms of corrosion. The lead in the Flint, Michigan water was likely pulled from the pipe walls because of the water composition.   Pipes Can Be Protected From The Harmful Effects Of Municipal Water As reported by CNN, “According to a class-action lawsuit, the state Department of Environmental Quality wasn’t treating the Flint River water with an anti-corrosive agent, in violation of federal law. Therefore, the water was eroding the iron water mains, turning water brown.” For over 80 years many water authorities have used anti-corrosives to prevent the harmful effects of water through their pipes, but these additives can be expensive. Anti-corrosives could have likely prevented the Flint, Michigan tragedy from happening. Because of the expense, water authorities typically only protect their supply pipes, and lea......
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Jennifer
"Don’t leave your water safety to chance; protect your pipes, and plan for the potentially harmful effects of treated water before... Read More
Friday, 27 May 2016 08:37
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The Problem With Epoxy

The Problem With Epoxy
Epoxy pipe lining is often viewed as an alternative to replacing the old piping with a completely new system.  In theory, the lining process involves coating the inside of the pipes with an epoxy resin to seal off pinholes and corrosion, creating a lasting solution to solving your pipe problems.  That’s the theory. In practice, the challenges with epoxy are numerous: For one, there is no way to know how well the epoxy adhered to the inside of the pipe, and if an even coat was achieved, without cutting into the pipe. Second, if a leak occurs at a future date, repairing an epoxy-lined pipe is very difficult. The resin cannot take heat, and application of a torch to try and solder in a new piece of pipe or a fitting ruins the integrity of the lining at that location. Likewise, use of a “press-fit” connection (the solution by many epoxy companies for epoxy-lined pipe repairs) may crack the epoxy lining at the point of the repair, allowing water to get between the pipe and the lining, further corroding the pipe. The initial epoxy lining process itself creates a certain amount of pressure on the pipe walls, and may blow out at weak spots or threaded areas. And lastly, critical elements of the piping system are often excluded in an epoxy lining job. Because of these challenges, SageWater encounters failed epoxy lining jobs, or partially completed epoxy lining jobs, that now require a full pipe replacement.  These, as well as other epoxy......
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