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At Wm. T. Spaeder, we’ve seen a wide variety of commercial plumbing issues in the Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Erie areas. Today, we’ll talk about the top 10 commercial plumbing repairs businesses should know about.

Commercial plumbing systems are built to handle more than their residential counterparts. According to OSHA guidelines, one toilet can handle up to fifteen employees. Can you imagine your bathroom at home being enough for that many people?

You might not think about your plumbing system every day, but it plays a vital role. If commercial plumbing repairs aren’t addressed quickly, businesses can lose customers, employee productivity, and manufacturing productivity. That all affects the bottom line.

What seems like a small plumbing problem can lead to unsanitary conditions, noncompliance with regulations, and hefty fines. If a customer can trace an illness to a business’ bathroom conditions, the stakes get higher with the possibility of a lawsuit. Let’s go over some common commercial plumbing problems and how to avoid them.

1. Sewer Line Clogs

Your main sewer line carries all the wastewater away from your business, including everything else that makes it down the drain. The sewer line isn’t often thought about until something goes wrong. Here are a few things that clog sewer lines:

  • Tree roots are attracted to the moisture and grow into the pipe over time. Eventually, roots can fill up the inside of a section of pipe, as well.
  • Grease is another big cause of clogged sewers. In fact, grease causes about 71% of sewer backups in New York City.
  • Corrosion can cause older pipes to break or collapse.
  • People flush all sorts of things down the toilet, especially in public restrooms.

As you know, the wintertime in the Northeast is cold. Fats, oils, and grease (FOG) solidify much faster in cold pipes during the winter, which is why it’s important for restaurants and other food service establishments to have a commercial drain cleaning this time of year. Professional plumbers use tools like high-pressure water jets, grease rodding, and trenchless sewer repair to restore sewers to peak functionality.

2. Low or No Water Pressure

Water pressure issues are also common causes of commercial plumbing repair. Pressure can drop because of clogged pipes, malfunctioning or insufficient pumps, leaks, or valves that have been accidentally left half-open. Commercial buildings use water pumps to maintain a steady water pressure throughout a large network of pipes, and pumps have complex parts that need routine maintenance.

With so many different causes, water pressure issues can seem like a mystery. A plumbing specialist can diagnose the situation to find out why your building isn’t getting the right pressure.

3. Broken Toilet Handles

Toilets in commercial buildings take a lot of abuse. Some people kick toilet handles even when the handle isn’t designed for it. Handles can break under repeated use or from corrosion, too.

A non-flushing toilet is a serious health concern even for a short period of time. Some designs are more impervious to abuse, like the button-style flush located on the top of the tank. If you deal with this issue, our commercial plumbing services can also upgrade your toilets to automatic-flush toilets.

4. Silent Pipe Leaks

Sometimes, a leak is obvious. But in other cases, a leak can go undetected for quite some time. For example, it’s difficult to notice leaks that happen inside the walls or in pipes buried underground. As more time goes by, more money goes out of your pocket to pay increasing water bills. Here are a few signs to watch out for:

  • Bulging walls
  • Blistering paint
  • Soil that stays wet in one area
  • Plants that grow faster in one area
  • Musty smells
  • Increasing water bills

Our commercial plumbing services use specialized leak detection equipment to find the source of the leak. If you have a hunch that your commercial building is bleeding water, don’t hesitate to contact us for emergency services available 24/7.

5. Leaking Faucets

Is it worth it to fix that dripping faucet? In fact, it is. A leaking faucet might seem like a small thing, but the cost can add up. According to the EPA, one faucet that drips once per second can waste 3,000 gallons of water per year.

Multiply that by the number of dripping faucets in you building and the cost isn’t trivial. It can quickly become more than the cost of fixing the faucet, which is an easy plumbing repair. A leaking faucet can also lead to other issues like deteriorated caulk and grout or damaged floorboards depending on the location of the leak.

6. Automatic Bathroom Sensors Malfunctioning

Automatic sensors in the bathroom improve sanitation and convenience until they malfunction. Customers or employees may complain about over-sensitive toilets flushing multiple times or under-sensitive sinks not turning on. The first problem wastes water, and the second discourages people from washing their hands, cancelling out the sanitation benefits of touchless technology.

The issue could be a simple calibration or a more complex electrical problem. Our commercial plumbing repair technicians are familiar with all the modern touchless bathroom systems and can take care of any technological problems your business might have.

7. Sewer Odor

Almost nothing’s worse than dealing with sewer odors in your business. It can expel patrons almost instantly, and a bad sewer problem can win you negative press in the local media.

Your business uses a vent system to equalize atmospheric pressure in the pipes and let sewer gas escape to the outdoors. If the vent is blocked or broken, the gas will escape into the building instead. While rare, a damaged drain line can also release sewage under your building. This usually only happens to old pipes or after an event like an earthquake.

A dry trap can also cause sewer gas to escape. Every drain has a U-shape trap that uses a small amount of sitting water to hold back gas inside the pipe. If you don’t use a particular drain for a long time, the water in the trap can dry out and gases can escape.

8. Frozen Pipes

The cold can lead to many plumbing issues, but frozen pipes are one of the worst. In the best scenario, you lose access to water through the faucet or out the drain connected to the frozen pipe. But freezing often makes the pipes crack or burst, and a plumbing service will need to repair them before use. Finally, if a main water pipe bursts, you could be dealing with an interior flood along with the water line repair.

You can avoid frozen pipes by making sure your pipes and your building have adequate insulation. If it’s 72 degrees in office but 32 degrees in the basement, that’s not good. If you know the temperature is about to drop, you can also wrap heat tape around exposed pipes to keep them from freezing.

9. Water Heater/Tankless Water Heater Issues

Business owners depend on commercial water heaters to deliver hot water whenever they are called upon. When they fail, residential tenants complain, kitchens can’t properly sanitize, and manufacturing facilities can’t maintain smooth operation.

With tank water heaters, problems include corrosion on the tank, sediment buildup, pilot light issues, water leaks, and smelly or rusty water. Tankless water heaters are subject to mineral buildup, electrical issues, and blocked air/exhaust.

Also, if the water temperature is wrong, it might signal a plumbing issue with water temperature valves instead. Buildings use valves to regulate temperature across many faucets and fixtures. Valves can clog, wear out, and fail over time.

10. Gas Leak Repair

A gas leak is another plumbing emergency that needs immediate attention. Burning natural gas creates carbon monoxide. A leak in the exhaust pipe can cause CO2 to build up and pose a risk of poisoning to people in the area. A rotten egg smell can tip you off, but other odors can mask it. If it goes unnoticed, a natural gas leak can cause dizziness or asphyxiation.

Reliable Commercial Plumbing Repair in Pittsburgh, Erie, and Buffalo

At Wm. T. Spaeder, we provide fast and reliable emergency service for commercial plumbing systems large and small, available 24 hours a day. Whether your restaurant is dealing with grease trap issues or a frozen pipe burst beneath your manufacturing facility, we have the extensive experience and the right equipment to solve a range of plumbing needs. Contact a plumbing specialist today to get emergency service or to schedule a repair.

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