Condo Plumbing can be a bit tricky.
If you own a home (or have in the past), you probably know a bit about plumbing.
When you need to work on it, you can turn off the water. Easy Peasy!
This is so not the case in many condos!
Shared Waters Systems for Condos
Condos are often on a shared water system. By shared, we don’t mean just on city water, we mean shared, as in: the pipes run from one unit to the next, or they’re all fed off of one (or more) main valves. Shutting off the service to one unit may mean shutting off the service to all of them in the complex, or to a bunch of them that are in the same building (if the development has multiple buildings).
If you want to do some plumbing work on your own unit, you need to schedule a maintenance period with the HOA (Home Owners Association). The HOA is often managed by an HOA Management Company.
This might take a few days, or it could take a few weeks.
Working on Condo Plumbing
You may or may not get to pick your shut-down time to work on the plumbing in your unit. The HOA might tell you when you can do it, and then you get to work within that time frame.
You must find a reliable plumber that will show up on time, and make sure the job is completed before he leaves, so that the water to all of the affected units can be turned back on. Some HOAs will want the licensing information for the plumber before approving the maintenance, so your friend Joe-the-handyman who will work for beer and $20 might not pass muster.
And here is the painful kicker to all of this: shutting off the water isn’t as simple as just shutting off the water like it is for a single-family home. The water may take a while to drain from the system. It could take 20 minutes, it could take an hour or more. More units = longer time to drain.
And then, let’s say the work gets done, and the plumber wants to tests the work for leaks. It also takes a while to turn the water back on. Sometimes the plumber won’t have permission to turn the valve back on – maybe the maintenance guy has to do that, and you might have to hunt him down, first. And if the new connections leak, it’ll take the shared plumbing system a while to drain again before more work can be done.
A Real Life Condo Plumbing Story
You may be asking: where do they GET this stuff they write about?
Real life, of course.
Here is a real life shared condo plumbing tale of woe.
- Woman buys condo.
- Hall bathroom is UGLY.
- Woman orders new countertop for hall bathroom.
- Counter is delivered and can’t be installed because the water shut-off valves under the sink don’t turn all the way off, which means the faucet on the old counter can’t be removed.
- Woman learns that replacing the shut-off values requires shutting off the water main for 8 units.
- HOA gives permission after checking plumber’s license, notifies residents of 4-hours for a water-off maintenance window.
- Maintenance man shuts off main valve at designated time.
- Plumber and woman wait and wait and wait.
- The plumbing system takes an hour to drain before work can start.
- Plumber replaces two shut-off valves under the sink.
- HOA maintenance man turns water back on.
- New shut-off valves work properly.
- Woman pays plumber $180 for two hours of work that would have taken 20 minutes for a single-family residence.
And that would be the end of the story . . . except . . .
- When the water is turned back on, some debris (scale) in the hot water pipes of the older plumbing system clog the shower valves in both showers.
- Both showers that used to have full water pressure now have very low water pressure.
- Fixing THAT is going to require another planned maintenance, and the HOA doesn’t want to approve it quickly due to the inconvenience to the other unit owners.
Bottom Line on Condo Plumbing
When you live in a development like a condo where some resources are shared, it just takes longer to get some stuff done. More coordination is necessary. More people are going to be in the mix for getting stuff approved, scheduled, and completed.
That doesn’t mean don’t buy one, it just means: know what you’re buying and make sure you’re ok with the trade-offs that condo living brings to your lifestyle.
Sacramento plumbing says
A plumber can help install a variety of new plumbing systems in your home. This type of work can often be difficult to do unless you have skills and working knowledge in the area. Generally, those who plan to install new systems will benefit from calling on a professional to do the work for them. Doing so could help cut down on the costs and make the process to go smoothly. Several precautionary steps can prevent problems with a new system.
Yep, I have a condo and it is a pain when you want or need to do plumbing. I am installing a new countertop, then the plumber has to turn off the water to entire bldg., disconnect the faucet and dishwasher. They install the countertop. Someone has to turn the water back on. I wait 24 hours then the plume has to turn the water off to the whole bldg again ti install the new faucet and reconnect the dishwasher … that means dual notices to my neighbors that there will be no water for hours . Yeah for condo living …been here 17 years . ..but this drains you pardon the pun
hello, we live in a townhome, 3 levels. our hot water works on the bottom floor, second floor but not in the top shower, or other bathroom with the tub….Our toilet screams, so we expect one thing will break down at a time. Any suggestions?
Should the condo owner pay for the building maintenance managers time to shut off the water?
What would be the scenario if :
– I need I plumber to fix a valve in a Condo I live.
– My plumber (owners plumber) shut off the water instead of HOA – And mayor issues arises
– My plumber is not covered or with low coverage compared to damages
What can happen to all of us -the owners and or me ?
Thanks for your answer.
I live in a condo and the property manager gets paid Only $150 per month! I wouldn’t bother getting out of bed for $150/mo so I guess I can’t get too upset with her! BUT in her under paidness, she makes some STUPID decisions… Including putting a padlocked door on the shut off valves to the entire complex’s hot water!!! Isn’t this illegal!?!?!
Abreha Berhanu says
Hey is there any reason why the water flow is somewhat weak in the shower and the temperature is fixed on Luke warm?
Priscilla E Townes says
I purchased a condo three years ago at the time not until closing and the money was wired was I told of outstanding water bill of 40,000. Now the boilers go out everyone told to purchase their own hot water heater everyone was spending a couple thousand causing water problems all over the place people were having pipes burst being a senior community they had to walk away from their homes empty units started vandalism the Association had to replace windows one unit they stole the pipes causing a water leak they cut off the water main shut off I was at work I no longer have water I called plumbers I don’t have a leak but for some reason they can’t seem to get my water restored any suggestions
I just found out that the condo I purchased 10 years ago was taped into another units hot water line. The problem was just discovered and now the HOA is wanting me to replace it. Do I have any recourse?
A concerned condo owner!
I have a question? I am living at condo . One day from Association sent the letter and asked all the units must shut off the main valve, and to be sure drained water from all the pipes from bathrooms and kitchen pipes , and to be sure no leaking from any pipes, because that day plumber was working on the building . I did the same . After I checked all the faucets, I left home with shut off main valve. After a few hours , I received emergency called from Association which from my unit water is leaking to the unit below me and they asked me to come home immediately.
After I got home the plumber was working in the building that day came to my unit and shut off the cold and hot faucets to my washer !!!!! And Association charged me $360.00 for that accident and blamed me for that , but the unit didn’t have any damages from this leaking, just the ceiling got a little wet and no complaints.
My question is here , how come my main valve was shut off , i drained water from all the pipes and my washer was off , but water got to my washer ? That day plumber was working on the building to checked all the units , and they found out some of the units had leaking , and replaced the main valves for them . I asked the plumber why this is happened while my main valve was working fine and was off ? He replied because I left my washer on !!! I told him we are waiting to replace the washer, because my washer is broken and was off the time I left home . Now Association blamed me because my washer was broken, water got to my unit, but I told to association , my washer was off , my main valve was shut off , and I drained all pipes and I left home , but still they want me to pay the money !!!!
After one week plumber installed new washer and he said I shouldn’t have any leaking even with the broken washer , because the main valve in my unit was fine and was off . Also washer was off too !!!
Recently I checked my main valve with License plumber to be sure my valve is not broken and I don’t have any leak , everything is working fine even washer . The plumber checked the pipes and cold and hot faucets to the washer as well .
Please can you advice me why and how that leaking happened to my washer while my main valve was off and my washer was broken, but was on off position that day ? But the plumber was working in the building the same time of leaking!!!!!
Thank you so much ,
Ray Jender says
Can a bathroom exhaust be tied into the plumbing venting system? Right now there is a faux exhaust fan that vents nowhere. There is no pipe to vent outside.
Thank you for this site. My brother bought a condo for me to rent. The upper condo drains the bathroom water into my bathroom sink. So I knew that it must be a delicate matter. See my sink fills up with water that flows over. I had to put a tub under the sink to catch the water.