Plumbing – buy cheap, buy twice

All businesses are at risk of water damage due to plumbing systems that are improperly installed, maintained, or repaired.

However, this risk is particularly high in high-rise commercial buildings and high-end buildings, as well as in hospitals, clinics and health centers. The extent to which these buildings suffer water damage due to water supply problems is also usually more severe and the resulting losses higher than other types of buildings. This takes into account the extensive use of bathrooms in these buildings and their water-intensive outlets.

Insurance companies only cover the cost of water damage if it is sudden and unforeseen. Therefore, the insured cannot make a claim if water damage is due to the deterioration of plumbing systems over time. Additionally, homeowners cannot make an insurance claim if water damage is the result of improper plumbing system design; poor quality of plumbing work; or the use of substandard plumbing materials. Insurance companies only cover the costs of repairing damage caused by wear and tear on sanitary facilities in exceptional cases. Even in such cases, the property owner bears the full cost of repairing or replacing damaged plumbing systems. These unplanned costs can be extremely high, not to mention the resulting water damage, which is often much more costly. Given the risk involved, it is advisable for property owners or renters to ensure their plumbing systems are properly installed, maintained and repaired. Qualified plumbers issue a certificate of compliance for their plumbing work. They are responsible for the quality of the work they do.

“Water damage can have a significant negative impact on business. I’m not just referring to the cost of replacing damaged inventory, furniture, and equipment, which alone can be exorbitant. Many businesses may also not be able to operate at full capacity, or at all, by the time repairs are completed, resulting in lost revenue over that period that depends on the severity of the damage. Worryingly, many companies are still willing to take this risk, as evidenced by the rise of substandard plumbing jobs in the country. It’s certainly not just homeowners who hire the services of unqualified “plumbers” or skimp on maintenance,” says Brendan Reynolds, executive director of the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA). IOPSA is the official voice of the South African sanitation industry. The institute’s strong membership consists of qualified plumbers as well as manufacturers and suppliers of high-quality plumbing products.

There are two types of plumbing leaks that can damage property. This includes incoming freshwater and outgoing wastewater.

The leading cause of indoor water damage in multi-story buildings with stacked plumbing is leaking toilets. Toilets have several parts that can deteriorate over time. As a rule, inlet hoses for toilets need to be replaced at least every three to five years – even if they don’t appear to be worn out. Up to 113 liters of water per day can leak from a small hole in a toilet hose or drainpipe. This may not be immediately apparent and could potentially become a more serious problem if left unattended. The damage is compounded by the cost of wasted water, which shows up on the monthly electric bill. Higher than normal utility bills are always a telltale sign that there are leaks in the premises.

Now, up to 950L of water per day can leak from a 1/8-inch crack in a pipe, causing significant damage and excessive water wastage over time. The extent of damage caused by a leaking pipe can vary from mild to severe, especially when water seeps into walls or floors. These leaks can also damage the foundation of a structure that is not intended to be exposed to moisture. Older buildings are particularly vulnerable to this risk given the age of their plumbing. One challenge, however, is that serious pipe defects may go undetected for a long time before it’s too late. This is when you consider that many pipes on a property are hidden in walls, floors, underground or in ceilings. Internal corrosion, which ultimately leads to pipe ruptures, can also remain largely undetected. A qualified plumber is trained to detect leaks in hidden pipes and determine if they will fail due to internal corrosion problems. Various sophisticated methods are used to locate leaks in pressure pipelines and pressureless pipe systems. The most suitable method will be determined after a comprehensive site inspection.

Burst water pipes almost always cause major damage. The main causes of pipe breaks are extreme weather events, construction activity and soil erosion as well as the age of the system. A qualified plumber can tell you if it’s time to replace a water line. Older systems used steel tubing, which was prone to corrosion and reactive with most chemicals, while polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tubing is now widely used in these applications. PVC water pipes are also free of biofilm contamination, which can be a breeding ground for bacteria, and are very effective in preventing unnecessary water waste from source to consumer. All plumbing from the meter to the private property is the responsibility of the owner or tenant as required by the lease. It is therefore advisable to always hire a qualified plumber when servicing or repairing any plumbing on the property.

A sewage backup is very messy and undesirable. In large properties, this problem is caused by natural disasters, as well as clogged or damaged pipes. Qualified plumbers can mitigate this risk through scheduled maintenance and inspections of sewer lines. They also repair damaged systems in the right way. This is when you consider that there have been many instances where improper repair methods and overuse of chemicals have damaged sewer lines, costing the property owner more in the long run and potentially jeopardizing community infrastructure.

Aside from property damage, there is another risk related to sewage backlog and other types of water damage in diseases. These include typhoid and scarlet fever, cholera and dysentery, as well as diseases of the brain, lungs or kidneys. Exposure to contaminated water can also impair the immune system. Leptospirosis is another particularly harmful bacteria that grows in contaminated water. It causes acute inflammation, fever and jaundice. At the same time, mold and fungi, which contain neurotoxins that cause serious respiratory diseases, also grow in humid areas. In addition, these wet areas attract pests and vermin, which also carry disease.

Electrical wiring damaged by water can also cause electric shock or fire. Vacant properties during the lockdown were particularly at risk considering leaks would go unnoticed for extended periods and cause significant damage, including to electrical systems in buildings.

“It’s really a case of buy cheap, buy twice. The many risks associated with skimping on plumbing maintenance; poor quality of plumbing work; and using inferior plumbing products just to save some money just isn’t worth it. Dealing with a qualified plumber gives you peace of mind that your plumbing systems have been installed, maintained and repaired correctly and safely. Should a disaster strike, you know you’re covered.” Reynolds concludes.

Visit www.iopsa.org for more information

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