RealManage Insight

Condo Water Riser Repair: Why Is It So Expensive?

by Joseph Hansen on Oct 22, 2019 8:14:00 AM

Nothing is quite as unsettling as water pouring through your ceiling. Where is it coming from? How much is there? And how can you get it to stop? For condo owners and their management teams, plumbing issues are even more complex. Sharing walls and ceilings with other tenants makes the problem more difficult to solve. Condos share water risers that can span the height of multiple units. Finding the leak or faulty pipe is an exercise in excavation. The repair to the actual riser is compounded by repair to surrounding materials. Let's take a look at why condo water riser repair is so expensive, and who should be held responsible


Water risers are designed to carry water to every floor of the condo. This means that a leak may start in your condo or may trickle down from many floors above. Since one faulty pipe can affect multiple units, the damage can be quite extensive. In a one-story home, damage is often confined to one room, but in condos, the damage can be widespread.


Sometimes the problem isn't easy to find, especially when many units are affected. This may require plumbers to tear up flooring, slice through drywall, or remove rotting beams, just to get to the source. Even repainting or replacing molding can add to the costly repair. If water has spent some time in the walls, mold and mildew treatment will pile onto the bill. Installers say that the cost is doubled by searching for the issue. For example, if a pipe repair costs $1,000, expect another $1,000 to repair drywall and paint.


While leaks can happen, a well-made riser is built to last 40-70 years. Installers say those material costs mean you'll pay $40-$90 per foot to replace worn out risers. Inspecting and repairing along the way can extend the life of your risers. But excess usage will also shorten their life, and usage is hard to regulate in a condo. You'll want your repairman to use the best quality pipes, which means cost upfront, but prevention for years to come.


A tenant's failure to report a water issue can greatly increase the cost. What starts as one circle of water on a ceiling can turn into weeks of repair. Water finds its way through the smallest crevices and can do surprising damage. And mold and mildew spread rapidly, presenting a potential widespread threat. While condo managers have access to units on an emergency basis, if the tenant fails to report the issue, damage will accrue before the floodgates are closed.


When a water riser clogs or fails, the problems seem to multiply. From one tenant's low water pressure, to another's clogged shower, to another's water spots, maintenance expenses can skyrocket. In a condo, the interlinking plumbing means one problem can lead to another. The cost of correcting sluggish plumbing tacks on to the cost of the actual water riser repair.


After the initial crisis management, the inevitable question is, "who's going to pay for all this?" The answer is not totally black and white, depending on several factors. Some states have laws outlining who bears the cost, although insurance companies may still get involved. If the water riser repair is in common areas, the homeowner's association is responsible for the repair. Condo owners are often responsible for amenities and appliances, like refrigerators, dishwashers, toilets, tubs, and sinks, as well as drain lines and water heaters that serve only their unit.

It gets a little muddy when your neighbor's unit is the one responsible for the damage. The neighbor's insurance will usually step in, but your own policy may be left with some things to cover. Sometimes the association will cover the remediation, particularly if they require it to be done, or if neglect on their part can be proven.

An ounce of prevention is worth much more than a pound of cure when it comes to condo water riser repair. Regular inspections and preventative maintenance can keep problems at bay. Encourage tenants to report water issues, regardless of how simple they seem. Weak water pressure or a slow draining sink may seem like minor annoyances, but can signal bigger issues beneath the surface. To help stay on top of prevention and maintenance, a professionally managed condo owner's association is key.

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