Plumbing for Condominium Owners - Sutton — Canadian Real Estate Listings & Agents |

Plumbing for Condominium Owners

01 February 2018

Plumbing for Condominium Owners

More than one in eight Canadians live in condominiums, according to Statistics Canada. Multi-unit complexes offer owners the convenience of carefree landscaping and the cost-savings of common facilities, but on the other hand, shared walls can result in shared problems—including expensive plumbing mishaps.

Condominium owners typically give very little thought to the pipes running behind their walls and may consider them to be the responsibility of the strata, but this is only partially true. Pipes within a unit’s walls are the responsibility of the owner. Those ultimately connect to the main water lines and drainage pipes within the building.

If there is a blockage in a condo unit’s drainage pipe and it causes a flood in other parts of the complex, the homeowner can be held responsible. If a toilet overflows or a tap is left running, water can spread into other units staining walls and carpeting, damaging furniture and warping wooden floors.

An owner who is found to be at fault can be liable for the damage to other units and may also be required to pay the strata’s insurance deductible, which can be $5,000 or more. Standard homeowner insurance policies do not automatically protect people from such costs. This can be an expensive shock!

Insurance companies do offer coverage, but it may require a separate ‘rider’. This can add a few dollars to the monthly insurance premium, but it is a wise investment since plumbing issues are common and costly.

In addition to adequate insurance, homeowners should protect themselves by maintaining their drainage pipes.

Smart De-clogging

Caution: Plungers are very handy for clearing away clogs, but if a clog does not clear after a couple of plunges, STOP. Excess pressure can damage pipe joints and cause a more expensive problem. For stubborn clogs, contact a plumber.

A useful tool to remove hair clogs is a product called “Zip-it”. It is a thin, flexible piece of plastic with thorn-like protrusions along its length. Holding the handle, slide the Zip-it down the drain, then pull out. It successfully removes hair clogs without the use of chemicals.

Essential Pipe Maintenance

In the kitchen, food particles, flour residue, grease and coffee grounds can develop into a clog. If an owner is lucky, the clog will be within the sink’s ‘p-trap’, or less fortunately, further down the line, in which case it will require a plumber to clear it with a cable auger (a.k.a. plumber’s snake), which is a long, flexible steel cable wound around a spool fitted with a crank.

Prevention is key. Never pour grease or fat down a drain; pour it into an empty milk carton or into newspaper, then dispose of it in the garbage. When baking, scrape flour residue into the garbage instead of rinsing down the drain. Coffee grounds can be put into a compost bin or the garbage. When washing dishes, capture food particles with a drain stopper or filter.

In the bathroom, hair and oily products such as conditioner and lotion can quickly form into a nasty clog. Always use a ‘hair catcher’ on the bathtub or shower drain. Dissolve the other offenders on a regular basis by using a cleaner.


Vinegar – The acetic acid in vinegar helps to kill bacteria as well as to break down fats and grease. Pour half a cup of vinegar down the drains and let it sit overnight, then run hot tap water. This should be done on a monthly basis.

Vinegar, salt, oxygen bleach and baking soda – Pour half a cup of baking soda and a few teaspoons of salt and oxygen bleach down a drain. Pour in a cup of white vinegar and let the mixture bubble away for an hour or so, then run hot water down the drain to further dissolve oils and wash away the cleaner. This should be done three to four times per year.

Chlorine bleach – This product creates unhealthy fumes and can endanger drinking water. The previously mentioned cleaner (vinegar, salt, oxygen bleach and baking soda) will often do as well, or better.

Commercial drain cleaners – Despite television advertisements showing a glass pipe with a clog magically removed by Drain-o and similar products, in truth, these cleaners can dissolve hair in a clog just enough to form a tougher plug, warns long-time plumber Rudy Katoschke. Although he adamantly advises people to avoid using these products once a clog is present, he does recommend them for preventative maintenance. Gel or liquid versions can be used three times per years can help to prevent clogs.

Lastly, all condominium owners should be aware that any tradespeople, including plumbers, doing work in their unit should have liability insurance and worker’s compensation coverage appropriate to their province. An uninsured worker can nullify insurance claims.

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