Who’s Responsible for Sewer Main Backups?
The struggles of living in a shared building rely heavily on overall proper maintenance. In a city like Toronto, with over 371,750 households living in condominiums, it’s important to ensure that your condo board is keeping their units safe and well serviced.
One of the most unfortunate pipe problems is a backed up sewer main. This could be caused by a root intrusion in an underground line, blockages from fat, oil, and grease, corrosion over time, or a burst pipe due to temperature fluctuations.
Whatever caused it, it’s a messy situation to deal with, and cleanup can require the replacement of home fixtures such as walls, floors, and carpets, not to mention re-establishing a sterile environment free from air pollutants.
So, who’s responsible for cleanup?
For all condominiums, the responsibility for the common areas rests solely on the shoulders of the condo board or property management company. This means that all pipes servicing the majority of the building or areas accessible to all residents, are the responsibility of the condo board.
This includes, but is not limited to common areas such as:
- Landscaping systems
- Parking Garage
If a backed up pipe from one of these areas were to spill over into a residents unit, it’s the condo board’s responsibility to adequately pay for repairs.
This also means that all sewer line replacement and maintenance is the responsibility of the condo board.
Ensuring that the sewer main is free from blockages, backups, or damage is important in the flawless waterflow to and from your building. In fact, one of the most common blockages isn’t caused by use, but by the invasion of tree roots on your property.
The Art of Proper Sewer Line Maintenance
Sewer line replacement is not the sole requirement for maintenance, it’s actually suggested that the inside of your sewer mains are snaked and power washed to ensure that buildup isn’t gathering inside your pipes before considering an entire replacement.
This means that a trenchless video camera should be run through your sewer lines to ensure that your system is running without blockages, and if necessary, power-washed or snaked with cutting tools to ensure proper water flow away from the building.
In the case that your pipes are damaged beyond surface repair, then we would recommend full sewer line replacement services. These services don’t mean the end of the world though, they can be managed with trenchless pipe repair to ensure minimal disruption to your residents.
- Sewer Gases
The release of sewer gases, most commonly hydrogen sulfide, can be hazardous to the health of your residents if released through cracked pipes, or dry taps. Exposure to hydrogen sulfide in low levels can cause lung, throat or eye irritations, while high levels can result in unconsciousness, and in extreme cases death. Detecting a sewer gas leak can be as easy as smelling it, as hydrogen sulfide can be identified by a rotten egg smell.
Running a building means that you need to ensure that the vent pipes that carry these gases are properly sealed and vented away from each unit and common area to the roof. These pipes should be serviced regularly to ensure that vents are clear of debris and sealed properly throughout the building.
Teaching your residents:
While the condo board may be responsible for the main sewer main line and gas vents, it’s important that your tenants are made aware of proper drainage policies to prevent clogs in their personal pipes, as well to ensure your entire system remains healthy. A clog in an individual unit, or because of the actions of residents in an individual unit, is the responsibility of that unit owner.
Approximately 40% of home insurance claims are water-damage related, according to a study from the Canadian Institute of Actuaries. So arm your tenants with the information they need to prevent water damage before it happens.
- Prevent Problems:
- Don’t let random items flow down drains such as; toys, paper towels, excessive amounts of hair, sanitary items, cat litter, coffee grinds, or rags.
- Furthermore, pipes are the perfect place for the buildup of scale and silt such as fats, oils & greases — so no pouring bacon grease down the drain.
- Suggest that your tenants start using drain filters for the sinks and bathtub to prevent unwanted objects from slipping through the cracks, and instruct them not to flush anything that isn’t toilet paper.
- Dry taps can occur in sinks that aren’t used frequently. Recommend that your residents run taps every once in awhile to prevent the catch basin from drying up and allowing sewer gases to leak into their home.
- Easy fixes for your residents:
- Being a source of information for your residents can ensure that everyone’s personal pipes are maintained to the best of their ability, but to keep corrosion to a minimum you can suggest pouring a “volcanic” concoction down the drain.
- One cup of baking soda
- One cup of hot vinegar
- 4 cups of boiling water once it sizzles
- Repeat if needed
- Suggest regular maintenance for resident-owned pipes:
- Whether you have pipe maintenance written into your condo rules and regulations or not, you should provide a process for your residents to understand both a timeline and a method for their drain maintenance.
While it is your responsibility to keep the main sewer line and common area drains clear, it is not unreasonable to rely on your residents to continuously maintain their systems as well. We recommend that condo boards keep a regular, proactive, maintenance schedule every year to not only save money in emergency costs, but to keep sewer line replacement in Markham to a minimum. Knowing exactly what the integrity of your pipes are allows you to plan and budget for big, costly replacements.
If you’ve recently discovered a sewer line issue and are looking to understand your options, give Canadian Pipe Lining Technologies a call today! We’re located throughout Toronto and the GTA and for all your sewer line replacement needs in Markham.