By Kathy Danforth / Published March 2018
Pipes are usually hidden and forgotten, but they serve critical functions in buildings and thus can leap up the priority list for an association. Since major pipe projects are, fortunately, relatively infrequent for any one building, many board members do not have personal experience with pipe repair and the options currently available. To provide more familiarity with the pipelining process, several companies have provided project profiles to help develop an acquaintance with this option and how it might work for your community.
Plumbing Old Port Cove in West Palm Beach, an oceanfront condominium built in the early 1980s, found that they were encountering repeated slow drains and leaks in the walls. After paying to cable the drains for a couple of years, the board decided they wanted a permanent solution. After talking with different contractors and manufacturers, they settled on a pipeline repair with Mike Douglass Plumbing. The only other option available was to cut open walls and replace pipe, which would have displaced cabinets, drywall, tile, and now-unmatchable wallpaper—a much costlier and lengthier endeavor.
Multiple meetings were held with the board and residents to answer questions and determine priorities. “Residents were concerned about being inconvenienced—when they would be able to use their sinks, if we would make a mess, if we would block hallways. None of that happened, and they hardly knew we were there,” recalls David Ray, executive vice president with Mike Douglass Plumbing. “We wrap walls and floors with protective covering, and everything is put back as it was.”
The community had some money allocated, but decided to prioritize, based on video of the drains and contractor recommendations, and conduct repairs over three years. All of the kitchen lines in two-26-story buildings were just completed, and bathroom drains will be split into two phases.
To repair the kitchen drains, access points were opened up every six to seven stories. The pipe was cut open and everything in the unit was wrapped off. All sludge and build-up was flushed out to prepare totally clean pipes for a new liner to adhere to.
The project proceeded as planned with the exception of encountering broken cables in the pipe. Prior contractors who had used cables to clear the drains had left cables that broke in the pipe, leading to even worse blockage and build-up. When the high-speed chain cleaners with water flushers met the cables obstructing the pipe, they wrapped up the equipment, which had to be pulled apart and returned to operational use before proceeding.
After cleaning, the liner is cut to length and inserted in the pipe. The C.I.P.P. liner has a thin plastic coating on the outside while the inside is a fabric material to absorb the epoxy. A two-part epoxy is applied to the porous side, and the liner is inserted into the pipe with an inner tube that is inflated to press the liner against the existing pipe. After curing for four to five hours, the liner hardens into a new pipe with a smooth finish, which material will not adhere to, unlike the original cast iron pipe.
The liner has a tested life expectancy of 50 years, but Ray notes, “That’s how long the manufacturer has been around, so that’s just how long they have been able to test it. It doesn’t shatter, break, or crack when we run a vehicle over it. Realistically, the community can stop funding a reserve fund for the drains once they are all fixed.”
Thirty-two lines were completed in a two-week period. Homeowners were without their kitchen drain during normal working hours, 8–4, if their stack was worked on that day, and full use was restored after that period.
For those considering pipe problems, Ray recommends first studying the available options and processes. Then, follow best practices and check references and deal with a reputable company.
Silver Thatch Atlantic Plaza, built in 1977 in Pompano Beach, is a 360-unit condominium consisting of two 18-story buildings. As a result of age and environmental factors that accelerated the process, the complex faced deteriorating pipes that needed restoration. Tenants were struggling with leaks, corroding pipes, and sewer back-ups. Since these issues were only addressed on a repair-as-needed basis, residents were becoming frustrated. The maintenance staff was continually clearing blockages through conventional plumbing methods, and tenants wanted a long-term solution.
The condominium association was looking for a plan that would address the problem with minimal impact on the units and the owners. They conducted a thorough search with varying cost estimates and solutions, including plumbing contractors with conventional replacement methods as well as three other lining companies using different products and installation methods. We educated the board leadership on our proprietary products and patented installation methods, explaining in detail the how and why of each step in the process. From the initial board meeting, we walked away with a date to come and conduct preliminary investigative measures involving video inspection of vertical stacks and underground sanitary sewer and storm drain pipes. After completing its research, Silver Thatch condominium association turned to Specialized Pipe Technologies (SPT) due to our environmentally safe products (containing no volatile organic compounds) and our patented pull-in-place installation method that eliminates the need to reinstate laterals. Our communication and professionalism showed our ability to implement a restoration plan that would get the job done with the least amount of disruption.
SPT proposed our C.I.P.P. (Cure in Place Pipe) lining system. The system would renew the vertical stacks and underground sewer pipes for 50 or more years of residential use. During this project, SPT restoratively cleaned and lined a total of 7,500 feet of cast iron pipes, 44 total vertical waste stacks with a length of 170 feet each, and about 1,400 feet of cast iron sanitary underground sewer lines ranging from four to eight inches in diameter. SPT’s cure-in-place liner, a trenchless technology, provided Silver Thatch Condominiums with an alternative to complete pipe replacement.
One building has been completed since September 2017, with the second to follow. Homeowners may have drains unavailable up to eight hours per day, with 24-hour advance notice provided. The work and conduct of the team has been praised by the board, with back-ups already eliminated in the stacks, which have been lined. The cure-in-place pipeline restored, repaired, and renewed Silver Thatch’s corroded piping systems with minimal disruption to tenants. Compared to other companies’ traditional re-piping and/or replacing methods, SPT’s C.I.P.P. technology enabled Silver Thatch to save as much as 80 percent in repair time and disruption to tenants as well as 40 percent savings in cost.
Located in Jacksonville Beach, Oceans 14 is a 15-story high-rise with 125 homes which was built in 1976. Due to the effects of age, the building was having ongoing issues with the main sanitary stack backing up, sewer odor, and, in some cases, pipe failure that was causing unit damage.
The building has cast iron piping consisting of 40 vertical sanitary stacks 160 feet in length, 20 wet stacks (diameter 3-in. and 4-in.), 250 closet drops, and 672 branch fittings. As problems developed, failed pipes were being replaced by traditional plumbing as needed. This caused a significant inconvenience to homeowners, including holes in walls, removal of cabinets and vanities, and the time and invasion involved in traditional plumbing projects.
When the community had a reserve study in early 2017, the plumbing was identified as a major concern. That summer, the community contacted BlueWorks for a site visit and bid. During the visit, BlueWorks was notified of a concern regarding long-running lateral lines that tie in to the main stack and how those would be addressed. The company met with the board to explain the pipelining process and the spin casting process. The board unanimously approved using stop/start pull-in-place liner with spin casting of the restroom branch lateral lines.
The company followed standard procedures for the project:
Work began at the roof with access points made at the 8th floor, with some adjustments made to accommodate homeowners. The project ran approximately 12 weeks using a four-man crew. Though some piping was too rotted for lining and had to be replaced, the overall project was a success, with very little disruption to any resident. The residents were extremely pleased to see immediate results as soon as BlueWorks began the work.
David Ray is with Mike Douglass Trenchless Technologies. For more information, call (877) 426-8660, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.PipeLiningMD.com.
Specialized Pipe Technologies (SPT) can be reached by calling (855) 979-8291 or visiting www.sptpipe.com.
BlueWorks Inc can be reached by calling (877) 258-3664, emailing team@blue workscompany.com, or visit www.blueworkscompany.com.