Toronto has become “The City” for condo living. With a population of 5.6 million people, the city has seemingly decided that condos are the ideal way to go in providing housing to all those who want to live here.
The developments keep growing: 20,000 new condos were built in Toronto in 2014, and it is estimated that another 60,000 are still on the way.
While condo living is attractive for many people, providing access to amenities and conveniences not available to those in single family homes, it also raises some issues; for example,who is responsible for residential plumbing repairs? The answer depends on a number of factors that we will examine here.
A Look Behind the Walls
Generally, space in a condo development can be categorized in three ways:
1) Common elements. These elements are accessible to all residents, and most visitors. They include lobby areas, hallways, stairs, landscaping, and certain other areas designated within the condo corporation’s bylaws. They also cover certain systems, such as electricity and plumbing that serves the whole building.
These elements are maintained by the condo board or, by extension, the property manager, with funds from assessments collected from residents.
2) Exclusive-use elements. Private areas of condos are the purview of the individual unit owners. This encompasses the units themselves, as well as areas where you might have exclusive access, like your yard.
3) Other elements. An in-between kind of area, this encompasses places that are restricted for use by employees or workers of the condo corporation, such as maintenance facilities, storage closets, or areas that house mechanical aspects of the building.
If you are ever confused about whether a part of your residential plumbing in Toronto is considered a common element or an exclusive-use element, the first place to consult is with your building’s declaration, bylaws, rules, and regulations. You can also speak with the property manager or condo board itself to seek clarification
Often, you will find that pipes which are specific to your particular unit will be your own responsibility, while structures that service more than one unit, or the entire building, fall under the responsibility of the condo corporation.
What to do When a Problem Arises
The first concern when a plumbing issue occurs is to obtain assistance as quickly as possible. Residential plumbing problems can quickly cause wide-spread damage that can ruin personal property, carpet, walls, wood floors, and more.
Avoiding water damage is a top priority, as such damage can be highly disruptive and also dangerous – water can spread to unseen places quickly, which can promote the growth of hazardous mold.
For residents, the first place to turn should be the property management company, particularly for leaks that are noted in the common areas, or which may be affecting more than one unit. Many offer emergency lines that operate 24 hours per day.
If you are a condo board member or property manager, it is important to have plumbing contractors who understand high rise plumbing systems at the ready. This ensures you have a crew that is responsive and dependable, and who can answer emergency calls, even outside of normal business hours. For issues that are individual to a resident’s particular unit, then the right place to turn is a residential plumbing company in Toronto, like Aquazen Services.
At Aquazen Services, we offer 24 hour services, licensed plumbers, and fast response times for your plumbing needs. We specialize in all areas of high rise plumbing, and can assist with both individual unit calls, as well as issues that impact multiple units in the building.
Minimizing the Potential for Plumbing Problems
While all plumbing systems experience wear and tear over time and will eventually require replacement, repair, and general maintenance, there are things that both residents and condo boards can do to reduce the likelihood of potential problems.
1) Avoid dumping fat, oil, and grease down drains. One of the top problems that occur in residential plumbing systems is the presence of fat, oil, and grease (FOG). It is possible that anywhere from 40% to 50% of all sanitary sewer overflows occur due to FOG blockages, resulting in anywhere from 10,000 to 35,000 incidents per year.
Fat and grease can either go into Green Bins, or can be soaked up with paper towels and disposed of in the trash. If it is poured down the drain, blockages can form when the fat and grease cool and harden.
Even if residents clean their individual systems with any of the “do-it-yourself” remedies available, the FOG will eventually congeal, either elsewhere in the high rise stack, or in the public sewer systems, causing widespread problems.
It is important for condo boards and property managers to take the initiative in educating residents about proper disposal of such items.
2) Have regular inspections. The cost of maintenance over time is significantly less than the cost of an emergency repair. By having a professional inspect the systems on at least an annual basis, you can ensure small problems are caught before they turn into big problems.
3) Rehabilitate aging pipes. If your building is aging, you may want to explore pipe rehabilitation options like re-piping and pipe lining. This can extend the life of your plumbing system and eliminate problems like pinhole leaks and corrosion. Aquazen offers comprehensive pipe lining services, and can answer any questions you have about this process.
4) Have pipes cleaned regularly. Condo buildings should be equipped with cleanout installations. Part of the residential plumbing maintenance process includes power washing the pipes to eliminate grease and fat buildup as much as possible.
If you are a condo unit owner who is in need of residential plumbing in Toronto or anywhere in the GTA; or a property management firm looking for cost-effective solutions for your mechanical and plumbing needs, contact Aquazen Services today at (647) 559-4719. We can help you evaluate your current plumbing needs, maintain your systems, and can be prepared to help your community when plumbing emergencies strike.