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Thread: Condo repipe

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member veryamusing's Avatar
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    Default Condo repipe

    Hi there! Thank you for sharing your expertise with me.

    Background: I live in a ground floor condominium unit with about 550 square feet on concrete slab foundation. (Please see the attached photograph of the pipe(s) in question.) My current arrangement is one kitchen sink, one full-size dishwasher, one bathroom sink, one toilet, one tub / shower, and a small 30 gallon water heater.

    On Friday afternoon, I noticed a pinhole leak in the supply line to my water heater. I taped it, and had a local independent plumber come out on Sunday to take a look. His $85 service call resulted in a rubber pad a hose clamp. Additionally, he said my pipes (circa 1972) were so bad that he recommended a complete repipe to the tune of $2000.

    My questions for the forums are as follows:

    1. I don't doubt that the repipe is necessary, but what questions should I ask of the prospective plumbers? Should I specify a certain pipe material, or let them make suggestions?

    2. In addition to the new pipes, I would like to take this opportunity to add hook-ups for a washer and possibly regain some closet space by replacing the water heater with a tankless model. I have also been considering a bathroom remodel, to include new fixtures (sink, lavatory and shower). Is the repipe opportune for the bathroom remodel, or should I plan to complete this work in stages? The plumber advised me that the tankless water heater was a no-go because it would require an 80 amp circuit and possibly a new panel.

    3. Another good reason to do the repipe is that I share a shutoff valve with my upstairs neighbor. The plumber said her supply lines go up through my unit, and he could replace just the pipes in my unit and reattach the old stuff going to her unit to the new stuff he is installing in my unit. And he also said I would have to run the new lines through the ceiling.

    Just wondering if all of this sounds legit. Please let me know, and thank you very much for your time.

    Ben in Orlando
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  2. #2
    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    First thing you need to do is discuss the problem with your condo association. Most of condos are under very strict rules on what can and can not be done. and by whom it can be done. If you were in a private single family home, then the ball would be in your court. You have discovered one of the big problems in retrofitting a tankless water heater. Whether gas or electric, they require more power than homes are normally equipped with. There are other negative factors, but that's not part of your question. As far as the material to repipe with, again you condo association may have some say in this, but Pex is likely the best option as it would require less demolition of walls, but, listen to the plumbers. They know the water conditions in your area and they can determine if a flexible pipe like Pex is better for your situation than a ridge material. In my opinion, this is a one-time-do-it-all-at-once job.

  3. #3
    DIY Junior Member veryamusing's Avatar
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    Thanks for your post!

    Incidentally, I am the condo board vice president. We do not restrict the owners, and largely impose restrictions by exception (e.g., we mostly deny requests as they occur, but are most definitely quite lenient). Plus, the board consists of myself and one other owner and the manager for 45 units. The board president just recently did a lovely remodel to one of his units, which included a new tankless water heater and stack wash / dry.

    I will certainly let the plumbers do the talking.. I intend to get at least three written estimates before choosing anyone in particular.

    Thanks again!

  4. #4
    Plumbing Contractor for 49 years johnjh2o1's Avatar
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    Being your the president of the board it may be wise to have all the units re-piped. If your starting to get pin holes in the copper your problems are just starting. You could re-pipe your unit and one of the adjoining units could develop the same problem and flood your unit plus several others. You will get a far better prices for the entire complex then you would get on individual unites. This is a very common thing in your area.

    John

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    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    If copper deterioration is common in your area, do consider pex. Repipe is a big job which will require at least some access in walls and ceilngs.

    As a board memeber myself, I concur that repipe of the whole complex is probably in order, and I also suspect that your chances of getting 75% of the owners to sign on to that special assessment are about the same as the Chargers going to the super bowl EVER!

    Yes, I would ask your upstairs neighbor to take care of his pipes in your wall while the wall is open.

    Mainly, I would advise you to take a look at all your insurance. You need to carefully read your CCRs. What happens if a big leak in piping to an upstairs unit causes $40K damage to a downstairs unit...and the upstairs guy has NO INSURANCE...and no assets to sue? Most of the damage is common area, and will have to be repaired by the condo. Personal property loss by the downstairs owner is on them. I our case, we have a $5K deductible, and after it happened once, our insurance told us that if we made another claim, they would cancel our insurance. Here in CA, at least, we cannot force homeowners to have insurance. I personally have UPPED my personal property insurance so in case of fire or whatever I will be made whole. I am also on the top floor, so don't have the flood to worry about!
    Do everything you can to encourage all the owners to have lots of liabilty insurance, and personal property coverage.

  6. #6
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    quote; Being your the president of the board it may be wise to have all the units re-piped.

    Condos are "owner occupied" and the association can ONLY make suggestions to the owners regarding ANY issue within the unit itself.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

  7. #7
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    quote; Being your the president of the board it may be wise to have all the units re-piped.

    Condos are "owner occupied" and the association can ONLY make suggestions to the owners regarding ANY issue within the unit itself.
    That varies with the CCR. In my association, any utility ( water, elect, drain) which services ONLY your unit...is yours. In our case, that does apply to the water supply, but many associations the water is not completely segregated. Drains....the unit waste at some point joins a stack and/or lateral which is common to multiple units. It can be a nightmare!!!!!

  8. #8
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    around here, ONCE it is inside your unit, it is yours. The association is ONLY responsible for items in the "common areas", which can be the "party" walls if the units do not have segregated water and drain lins.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

  9. #9
    Plumbing Contractor for 49 years johnjh2o1's Avatar
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    In my area there are some that all you own is from the the drywall into the unit. The association is responsible for the maintenance of the building.

    John

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    DIY Senior Member bluebinky's Avatar
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    Could someone explain the appeal of "owning" a condo? I just don't get it!

  11. #11
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bluebinky View Post
    Could someone explain the appeal of "owning" a condo? I just don't get it!
    Most any type of property can be had with a condo type of ownership, single family homes, flats, townhouses, and others. The advantage is that you cede the maintenance of the common areas to the group, rather than having to deal with it on an individual basis. Ideally, if you have a decent managment plan, all you'll have is a single maintenance fee that covers stuff like painting, roofing, snow plowing, grass cutting, etc. Since this is negotiated on a group basis, the cost per individual is smaller, and if budgeted properly, you'd have no large expenditures, since the costs for this was collected over the years, rather than having to come up with it when it's unconvenient. This is really handy as you get older, or travel a lot, or just don't want to deal with it.
    Jim DeBruycker
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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  12. #12
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    Typically, condos are basically an apartment, but you own it. My condo is VERY typical for this area.....13 buildings, each with 8 units, mix of one and two BR. Some condos are a few more units, some are 2/3 BR. , etc. Bottom line of course is that it is a small unit with minimal land area per, so you can buy a condo for a lot less than a house......that is why they are popular.

    The drawbacks are....if several owners go BK/Foreclosure, those maintenance fees are never collected. The expenses are divided up amongst those that are left standing!

  13. #13
    DIY Senior Member bluebinky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimbo View Post
    The drawbacks are....if several owners go BK/Foreclosure, those maintenance fees are never collected. The expenses are divided up amongst those that are left standing!
    Aside from living in an "apartment", that's one of the downers that keeps me away... Also, as time goes on, the maintenance goes up, right? It's not like a house where you can just remodel and start over (sort of). I can put a new roof on a house myself during my off days, but in a condo?

    I guess as long as real estate prices go up it might be ok, but those days are gone for now.

    Sorry for the hijack

  14. #14
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    As I said, a condo is a form of ownership...it could just as easily be a stand-alone house as a flat in a multi-family building. You own the 'limited private areas', you as a group own the rest of the building and the grounds. Mine is a townhouse. I've remodeled pretty much the entire interior...you do need to get permission to make changes to the outside, and they may or may not be approved by the owner board. If it is well run, there are no surprises, as there's a buget to fix the common area things as they wear out. Because plumbing and electrical work may affect others, there are much stricter rules about what you can do and who is authorized to do it (generally only licensed workers). This is to protect the integrity of the whole complex.
    Jim DeBruycker
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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    DIY Junior Member veryamusing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimbo View Post
    As a board memeber myself, I concur that repipe of the whole complex is probably in order, and I also suspect that your chances of getting 75% of the owners to sign on to that special assessment are about the same as the Chargers going to the super bowl EVER!
    Thanks for your advice! I believe that I am one of only a few units left that has not been repiped at the Association's expense. No special assessments--we have fully-funded reserves to cover the cost.

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