Common NYC Plumbing Issues to Look Out For

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New York City‘s nearly 8.5 million residents put an unbelievable amount of pressure on the city’s plumbing infrastructure. If you imagine there’s at least one toilet, one shower, and one sink for every resident, that’s a lot of risk of plumbing issues.

No wonder some of NYC’s plumbers make $200,000+ per year in overtime alone. The city’s aging infrastructure, coupled with the number of residents, means most plumbing companies operate 24 hours/day.

What are the most common NYC plumbing issues that they encounter daily? Can you prevent any of these problems before they happen?

Learn everything you ever wanted to know about NYC plumbing problems and some quick fixes below.

The 12 Most Common NYC Plumbing Issues

Plumbing issues common in a big city do not greatly differ from plumbing issues in smaller cities and towns.

Residents of New York City have likely encountered at least one, if not several of the following issues:

Running Toilet

Did you know toilets account for almost 30% of the indoor water consumed by the average household? And that’s when they’re working correctly!

Imagine if your toilet leaks or “runs” all of the time. (As one of the most common New York City plumbing problems, they often do.) How much water gets wasted?

A leak in your toilet can waste up to 180 gallons of water in only a week! Not only does this hurt the environment, but it also hurts your pocketbook.

Water Stains

Metal pipes carrying water last a long time, but not forever. Eventually, the pipes begin to deteriorate due to corrosion and other external factors.

If this happens to a pipe under your sink, you’ll notice when it begins to leak because water will pool in the cabinet and seep out. But what happens when the pipes in your walls or running above your ceiling start to leak?

Waters stains form. Paint and wallpaper peel from the wall. Unhealthy mold grows over the wet spot. And, sometimes, a nasty smell takes over the air in your home or apartment.

Rusty Water

Is the water flowing out of your tap clean and clear, or is it murky and rusty? Dirty or rust-colored water indicates the corrosion or rusting of your pipes. It could also mean the hot water boiler needs replacing.

No one wants to drink brown-colored water, but you may feel you can leave it until you have the time to get it fixed. Don’t do that! Rusty water often occurs soon before a major leak or a pipe burst, which will cost you a lot more in damages and repairs.

Slow and Clogged Drains

A slow drain is just a clogged drain before it clogs all the way. If you notice the water does not drain from your sink or shower as it should, that’s a clear indication there’s a clog forming down the pipeline.

Once the slow drain clogs fully, it could cause the wastewater to back up into your home and flood it. That leads to further damage that you could have prevented by dealing with the slow drain immediately.

Ceiling Damage from Leaks or Flooding

Do you live in an apartment or condo complex in New York City? A leak in the apartment above you could mean disastrous consequences for your home.

A small leak can lead to water stains over time that put a hole in your ceiling. A flood could cause the ceiling to give away completely and open up a gaping hole very quickly. It could also seep down through vents and other passages that connect the two apartments.

Hot Water Issues

Have you been taking cold showers and not for your health? If you have absolutely no hot water coming out of your tap, it could mean two things.

First, your hot water boiler stopped working because of a water issue; it could be a crack in the waterline, a build-up in the storage tank, or a hole in the tank. All of these are troublesome but not dangerous.

If the water is not causing the issue with your boiler, it might be the gas line. You can tell that you leak the gas line if it smells like rotten eggs by the boiler. Or if you notice the pilot light has changed from blue to yellow.

In either case, you need to call a plumber immediately because if the gas ignites, it will cause a fire or explode!

Low Water Pressure

Trying to wash dishes, and there’s not enough water coming out of the tap to rinse off the soap? Low water pressure is another one of the most common NYC plumbing issues.

You may want to ignore it even if it’s annoying. But that’s not a great idea.

Low water pressure could suggest a crack or leak in the water line leading up to the sink or shower. If you don’t take care of it right away, it could cause the pipe to burst completely.

Sewer System Problems

The sheer number of people in New York City puts significant pressure on the city’s sewer system. Clogs, cracks, and bursts in the city’s main sewer system can all cause issues for your home.

Clogs in the sewer line may originate on your property or form within the city’s main sewer system. In either case, a clog can lead to sewage backing up into your home.

Poor Plumbing Maintenance

If you live in a multi-family home or apartment complex, you likely have a landlord or building manager who takes care of the building.

Bad building managers who do not frequently check the plumbing are a major cause of plumbing issues in apartments.

When is New York City Responsible for Residential Plumbing Repair?

Believe it or not, the responsibility to repair plumbing issues does not always fall solely on you or your landlord.

Issues with sewer line backups, clogs, and replacements take a lot of time and cost a pretty penny. Unfortunately, the city does not always foot the bill for these kinds of issues.

If the issue happens within the sewer pipe on your property or in one of the upper or lateral pipes that connect your home to the main sewer line, the responsibility falls on you.

So, when will the city take responsibility for plumbing repairs?

New York City takes responsibility for any issues with the main public sewer lines. They cover the costs of removing sewer main blockages like fatbergs.

So, if you call a plumber because of sewage backing up in your home and determine the blockage from the main public sewer, it’s the city’s job to fix it.

Solutions to Typical New York City Plumbing Problems

Want to try your hand at fixing some of these issues before you call a plumber? Here are a few solutions to typical NYC plumbing issues.

Running Toilet

A running toilet can be a quick fix if you know where the issues generally occur. Open up the back of the toilet to look into the tank. You may want to grab a pair of rubber gloves to stick your hands in there.

Check to see if the float height needs adjusting and adjust it to the appropriate level. You can also inspect the flapper. If it’s leaking, you need to buy and install a replacement.

The refill tube may also need shortening if the water does not flow in easily.

Slow or Clogged Drain

You can generally solve a slow draining or clogged shower drain or sink with chemicals or a snake tool. Try sprinkling baking soda down a slow drain when it’s dry, and then pour down vinegar. It will explode through the pipe just like a volcano in a school science fair.

Alternatively, you can buy chemicals like Drano from the store and follow the packaging directions to fix the clogged or slow drain.

Another method for clearing a clog is to use a plunger to suction and release the mass blocking the drain.

Low Water Pressure

Low water pressure in the shower? Sometimes a dirty or blocked showerhead causes the issue rather than a leak or crack in the pipeline.

Remove the showerhead and soak it in white vinegar for about 15 minutes. Use a sponge, toothpick, safety pin, or toothbrush to scrub away any scum and mineral buildup.

If it’s really bad, you can try soaking it overnight in vinegar before scrubbing.

How to Prevent Future Plumbing Issues

Homeowners and renters cannot always avoid some of these plumbing issues. You can’t control your neighbor’s actions nor how often your landlord does necessary building maintenance.

However, you can avoid the majority of these plumbing issues by taking certain actions within your household.

Do Not Flush Products Claiming to Be “Flushable”

Even if a product claims that you can flush it down the toilet (here’s looking at you, “flushable” wet wipes), do not flush them! They may seem to go down the drain with no issue.

What you can’t see is that as soon as they encounter a 45-degree angled elbow, they often get stuck. The more wipes you flush down, the more accumulate. Over time, this will block the pipe from draining, and you’ll end up with a backup.

Other “Flushable” Products You Should Not Flush

The same goes for baby wipes and feminine products like tampons. Wrap up your tampon and place it in the trash bin instead of flushing. Throw baby wipes directly into the trash.

If you’re worried about the odor, you can always wrap it in a used plastic shopping bag before putting it in the garbage.

Use Single-Ply Toilet Paper

Singly-ply toilet paper may seem pointless, but it actually can make a huge difference on your plumbing. Single-ply tissue breaks down much faster than 2-ply, 3-ply, or ultra-versions of toilet paper. So, it does not cause the same clogging problems in your pipes.

You may be thinking, “I have to use so much more of the single-ply. Doesn’t the extra paper lead to the same problems?” It doesn’t!

Even if you use more single-ply tissue during a trip to the bathroom, it still breaks down faster. So, put back the Charmin Ultra Soft and try buying Scott’s or Marcal the next time you’re at the store.

Do Not Put Food Down the Toilet

Do you need to throw out some food that’s gone off? But, on no! Your trash can is full, and you don’t feel like taking it out right now?

You may feel tempted to flush the food down the toilet. Don’t do it! The pipes running from your toilet to the major sewer line are not designed for food scraps.

Also, food does not break down as quickly as you may think. Not only can food block your pipes immediately, but it can collect to make a “fatberg” as well. Some foods like rice and oats actually absorb water and will swell up to clog your sewer line if you flush them.

Be Aware of Flushing Beauty Products

Beauty products may seem harmless to flush down the toilet, but they can cause major issues for your plumbing and the environment. Many beauty products like facial and body scrubs contain non-soluble elements. These do not break down in the water and collect anywhere your plumbing pipes bend or turn, leading to a blockage.

Make-up, lotions, and other cosmetics all contain chemicals. Some of these chemicals remain in the water even after going through water treatment. They can negatively impact aquatic systems and poison the wildlife.

Always throw your beauty products in the trash, so they go to a landfill with protections in place to prevent environmental contamination.

Call a Reliable NYC Plumber to Fix Your Plumbing Issues Fast

Preventing the most common NYC plumbing issues takes some effort, but it can save you a lot of money in a very expensive city. Sometimes though, no matter what you do, pipes wear out and clogs still form.

Are you in need of a reliable NYC plumber to fix a growing problem?

Tidal Plumbing and Heating have served Brooklyn, The Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island, and Queens since 2000. Tidal’s plumbing gurus know the ins and outs of NYC’s plumbing and can get yours back into shape fast!

Contact Tidal Plumbing and Heating for any plumbing, heating, or gas issues today!