Timberline Blog

5 Common Commercial Plumbing Problems and How To Prevent Them

May 28, 2024 by Timberline

Commercial plumbing systems have pipes, fixtures and appliances in networks that are often more complex than residential buildings. These systems must accommodate high-volume use and, in many settings, the diverse needs of various businesses.

Consequently, they can be affected by a wide variety of plumbing problems. These issues can cause everything from minor inconvenience to catastrophic flooding and property damage.

plumber fixing pipe in bathroom

The good news is that most problems can be prevented or minimized through proactive maintenance and effective building maintenance practices.

Let’s dive into some of the most common commercial plumbing issues and methods for preventing them.

How To Keep the Plumbing in Your Commercial Building Functioning Correctly

In our experience, the five most common commercial plumbing problems, in no particular order, are:

  1. Clogged drains and toilets
  2. Leaky faucets and pipes
  3. Running toilets
  4. Water heater issues
  5. Sewer line problems

Read about these issues and how to prevent them below.

Clogged Drains and Toilets

Clogged drains and toilets are a common occurrence in high-traffic commercial settings. Hair, grease, food scraps, paper products and even foreign objects can accumulate over time, leading to blockages that disrupt business operations and potentially create unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

Prevention tips:

  • Regular cleaning. Establish a schedule for routine drain cleaning, especially in high-use areas like restrooms and kitchens. This can involve using enzyme-based cleaners, drain snakes or hydro jetting to break down and remove debris.
  • Proper disposal. Educate employees and customers about what should and shouldn’t be flushed down toilets or poured down drains. Provide clear signage in restrooms and break rooms.
  • Grease traps. If your business generates a significant amount of grease, ensure proper installation and maintenance of grease traps to prevent clogs in the sewer line.

Leaky Faucets and Pipes

A slowly dripping faucet might seem like a minor problem. However, in a commercial setting, it can waste a substantial amount of water and increase utility bills. Leaks in pipes also waste water and can lead to damage, mold growth and even structural issues if left unchecked.

Prevention tips:

  • Routine inspections. Conduct regular inspections of all faucets, pipes and fixtures to identify leaks when they first develop. Look for signs of water stains, dripping or unusual sounds.
  • Prompt repairs. Address leaks as soon as they are detected. Replace worn-out washers, O-rings or gaskets and repair or replace damaged pipes.
  • Water pressure regulation. Excessive water pressure can strain pipes and fixtures, increasing the risk of leaks. Consider installing pressure-reducing valves (PRVs) to maintain optimal pressure levels.

Running Toilets

Toilets are designed to refill their tanks after being flushed, stopping when the designated level is reached. However, that process can sometimes fail, causing the toilet to run continually. That scenario wastes water and can also be a source of annoyance. The problem usually stems from a faulty flapper, fill valve or handle mechanism.

Prevention tips:

  • Regular maintenance. Periodically check toilets for leaks and proper function. Ensure the flapper seals tightly, the fill valve shuts off at the appropriate water level and the handle operates smoothly.
  • Prompt repairs. Replace worn or damaged parts promptly to prevent water waste, expense and further damage.

Water Heater Issues

Commercial water heaters often have a higher demand than residential units and may be subject to more wear and tear. Leaks, inadequate hot water supply and strange noises are common problems.

Prevention tips:

  • Regular maintenance. Schedule annual maintenance for your water heater. This typically involves flushing the tank to remove sediment, inspecting the anode rod (if present) and checking the pressure relief valve.
  • Water softener. If your area has hard water, consider installing a water softener to prevent mineral buildup in the tank, which can lead to leaks and reduce efficiency.
  • Insulation. Insulating hot water pipes can reduce heat loss and improve energy efficiency.

Sewer Line Problems

Commercial sewer lines can become blocked by grease, tree roots or debris, leading to backups and unpleasant odors.

Prevention tips:

  • Regular cleaning. Have your sewer lines professionally cleaned on a schedule recommended by a plumber, especially if your business generates a lot of grease or food waste.
  • Root prevention. Consider installing root barriers or using chemical treatments to prevent tree roots from infiltrating your sewer lines.

Proper disposal of materials. Ensure that employees and customers know what they should not flush down toilets or pour down drains to prevent blockages.

Additional Tips for Preventing Commercial Plumbing Problems

In addition to the problem-specific prevention tips above, there are other actions you can take to reduce your risk of encountering plumbing problems in your commercial building. For example, you should invest in high-quality components when installing or replacing fixtures, pipes, etc. Saving a little money by purchasing lower-quality items can (and probably will) come back to haunt you.

It’s also a good idea to educate building staff, business owners and their employees about how to prevent problems and the importance of reporting issues when they first develop and are easier to fix. Finally, it’s crucial to create and follow a plumbing system maintenance schedule. Regular inspections, cleaning and repairs can help ensure problem-free operation and save you money in the long run.

Leverage Commercial Plumbing Services as Needed

Plumbing problems in commercial buildings can potentially cause significant property damage and inconvenience. While you and your onsite team can likely tackle some of the minor issues, seeking assistance from professional plumbers for more complex problems is crucial.

Licensed commercial plumbers, like ours at Timberline Mechanical, have the expertise, tools and experience to diagnose and repair plumbing issues safely and efficiently. They can also offer valuable advice on preventive maintenance and help you develop a customized plan to keep your commercial plumbing system in top condition.

By following the prevention strategies above and working with a trusted plumbing professional, you can minimize disruptions caused by plumbing problems, protect your business investment and ensure the comfort and safety of everyone who works in or visits the building.

Contact Timberline today to learn about our commercial plumbing services.

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