Business owners like you have plenty to worry about daily. With a full schedule, it’s easy to forget about your building’s plumbing system — that is, until something goes wrong.
The more you know about potential commercial heating and plumbing problems, the easier it is to prepare, prevent, and manage them.
Discover the top ten most common commercial plumbing issues you might encounter as a business owner below.
What are the Most Common Commercial Plumbing Issues?
1. Clogged Sewer Line
The sewer line carries wastewater away from your building, and it also carries away anything else that goes down the drain or gets flushed down the toilet.
If items that shouldn’t enter your pipes find their way inside, you could eventually end up with a clogged sewer line.
Other issues can also interfere with sewer pipes, however. For example, tree roots can grow into a section of the line and block it. Corrosion can also cause old pipes to collapse or break altogether.
Signs of a clogged sewer line include slow drainage, a gurgling sound from your drains, a strong smell around the drains, or flooding/water buildup outside the building.
2. Low or No Water Pressure
If the water isn’t exiting your faucets as forcefully as it once did, something is interfering with your building’s water pressure.
Several issues can contribute to low or no water pressure, including clogged pumps, a malfunctioning pump, a leaky pipe, or a valve that hasn’t closed all the way.
Because commercial buildings have more complex pipe networks and plumbing systems, it can be tricky to identify the cause of low or no water pressure on your own. However, a professional can utilize camera services and other techniques to find the source and resolve the problem.
3. Silent Pipe Leaks
You won’t always hear a dripping sound when a pipe in your building is leaking. Silent leaks can sometimes go undetected for days, weeks, or even longer.
Silent leaks often occur inside your building’s walls or underground pipes. You might not notice something is wrong until one of the following issues pops up:
- Your water bill is suddenly much higher than usual (all that water leaking from the pipe is essentially money leaking out of your bank account)
- Your wall starts bulging outward from water build-up
- The paint starts to blister
- The soil outdoors is constantly wet, even if it hasn’t rained recently
- You detect a musty smell in your building
If you don’t address a silent leak as soon as possible, you could end up with serious (and expensive) water damage, as well as issues like mold and mildew.
4. Faucet Leaks
A leaky faucet is more than just a nuisance; it can also be a sign of a bigger problem, from damaged fixtures to broken pipes.
Keep in mind that leaking faucets are also expensive. The EPA estimates that a faucet dripping once per second can result in 3,000 gallons of wasted water yearly.
Along with wasted water, faucet leaks can deteriorate the surrounding caulk and grout or damage your floorboards. The sooner you can get them under control, the better off your business will be.
5. Frozen Pipes
In the warm Texas climate, it’s easy to assume that frozen pipes will never be an issue. They’re more common than you might think, though.
One survey showed that 16 percent of Texas residents experienced a frozen and burst pipe in the winter of 2021. That works out to about 1.2 million flooded homes.
Imagine what could happen to your business if a pipe froze and your building flooded. Nobody wants to deal with that kind of mess!
Signs of frozen pipes include whistling or banging sounds. You might also notice a bubbling noise when you flush the toilet. If you spot puddles or dampness, that’s a sign that the pipe may have burst.
6. Insufficient Hot Water
If the water doesn’t warm up no matter how long you run the faucet (or if it takes an extra-long time to heat up), your water heater is likely malfunctioning.
Insufficient hot water can interfere with your ability to sanitize your hands or other items effectively when washing them, so it’s essential that you address the issue as soon as it arises.
Several issues could affect your tank water heater, from corrosion on the tank or sediment buildup to a leak or problem with the pilot light. If you have a tankless water heater, it could also malfunction due to mineral buildup, air/exhaust blockages, and electrical problems.
A plumber can help you identify the reason for limited hot water and recommend the best action to fix it.
7. Clogged Toilets
Sometimes, a clogged toilet requires a plunger.
However, if you’re constantly dealing with clogs, or if you have a clog that you can’t seem to fix, no matter how hard you try, you need to contact a professional.
Frequent clogs could result from people flushing items other than toilet paper down the toilet. They can also indicate a more severe problem, such as damage to your sewer line, that needs immediate attention.
8. Broken Toilet Handles
A broken toilet handle is a nuisance that can easily pop up, especially when you run a business with many people coming in and out throughout the day.
To avoid an awkward situation with a client or coworker, it’s best to address broken toilet handles promptly.
You can either replace them with a more robust option or switch to a motion-activated flushing system for better hygiene and less maintenance. This is a relatively simple fix but also creates a better environment for your colleagues and customers.
9. Internal Toilet Damage
Internal elements of your toilet can also malfunction, become damaged, or wear out. These issues could result from regular wear and tear or from people consistently misusing the bathroom and flushing things that don’t belong in your pipes.
If you have a toilet in your building that seems to have issues regularly (such as frequent running, slow filling, or loud noises), the problem could be internal, requiring an inspection and repairs from an expert.
10. Sewage Smells
Few smells are worse than the smell of sewage.
This unpleasant odor can quickly drive business away (after all, what customer wants to work with a company that smells like a sewer?). It can also indicate major and potentially expensive plumbing problems, including the following:
- Built-up sewer gas in the plumbing or venting system
- A dried-out p-trap (a specialized fitting designed to keep sewer gas out of your building)
- A clog or damage to your main sewer line
In some cases, the fix for a sewage smell is relatively simple (for example, you can address a dried-out p-trap by pouring water down the drains). However, it can also point to something much worse (with a much higher price tag).
How to Prevent Commercial Plumbing Issues
Some plumbing problems are beyond your control.
You might not be able to do anything about old pipes or a tree root growing into your sewer line. However, you can prevent many of the issues discussed above by following these best practices:
Prioritize Preventative Maintenance
Regular inspections (once every year or two) from a qualified commercial plumbing service can help you catch potential problems sooner. The plumber can also provide tune-ups to your system to keep all the components functioning.
Partner with a Trustworthy Local Plumber
It’s best to work with the same commercial plumbing contractors.
Say you establish an ongoing relationship with one company rather than just searching for “commercial plumbing companies near me” or “commercial plumbers near me” when it’s time for another inspection. If you do this, it’ll be easier to keep your plumbing working correctly and feel confident that you’re getting expert advice.
Ideally, your preferred plumber will be local to your area, familiar with plumbing issues that businesses like yours experience, and have access to equipment like commercial jetting tools.
You can also find plumbers who specialize in assisting certain companies, such as commercial real estate plumbing or medical commercial plumbing businesses.
Educate Your Employees and Customers
Make sure your employees and customers understand the basics of preventing plumbing problems.
Hang signs in all the bathrooms reminding them not to flush anything besides toilet paper down the toilet (even wipes that claim to be flushable can cause clogs). Put up a sign in the breakroom letting employees know that all food scraps, coffee grounds, etc., should go in the trash rather than down the sink.
Encourage employees to report any plumbing-related issues they notice to you or another higher-up as soon as possible.
It’s great to have your building inspected by a professional who offers commercial plumbing repair services. However, you can also conduct your own inspections to check for issues before they escalate.
For example, you can look at the pipes under the sink in the breakroom or bathroom to ensure they aren’t leaking or assess the drains to ensure no bad smells are coming from them.
These periodic inspections may be too time-consuming at first. If they help you prevent damage that interferes with business and takes a big chunk out of your bank account, aren’t they worthwhile?
How to Handle Commercial Plumbing Problems
If you notice an issue like a leaky faucet or lack of hot water, you must take immediate action. Here are some specific steps you can take to handle the problem and prevent it from getting worse:
Call a Plumber as Soon as You See a Problem
Don’t wait and hope for the best. If you detect signs of plumbing trouble, it’s time to call a trusted commercial plumber. They can resolve the problem before it escalates and identify other issues that could have contributed to it.
Call and request emergency commercial plumbing services when dealing with a severe issue like flooding. More minor problems like a leaking faucet can wait until the morning (but don’t push them back any farther than that!).
Turn Off the Water
If you’re experiencing leaks, turn off the water supply to your building.
The water shut-off valve is usually located near the area where piping joins with the structure (if possible, take some time to find it before a leak occurs so you know exactly where to go).
The valve will have either a round wheel or a lever-style handle. Turn it clockwise (to the right) to close it — continue rotating until you can’t turn it anymore. Then, contact a plumber if you haven’t already.
Don’t let people continue using plumbing equipment that is already damaged or malfunctioning.
For example, say you have a toilet in your bathroom that is running, has a broken handle, etc. Hang a sign on that stall apologizing for the inconvenience and letting people know it’s out of order. Place caution tape or another barrier over broken faucets as well.
Depending on the severity of the issue, you might need to keep employees and customers out of the building temporarily. Remember that doing so will help you protect them and prevent damage from getting worse.
Get Commercial Plumbing Help in the Greater Houston Area
All kinds of issues can interfere with your building’s plumbing, from clogged toilets to frozen pipes. Luckily, you can also take several steps to prevent or correct these problems before they escalate.
If you’re looking for help with 24/7 commercial plumbing in Houston, Austin, or San Antonio, JBS Plumbing Services is here for you.
From commercial water heater repair to sewer jetting and camera inspections, we offer a wide range of services to keep your building’s plumbing system working properly.
We offer commercial plumbing maintenance services, 24-7 emergency services, and everything in between. Get in touch today to learn more, or get a quote to find out how much our commercial plumbing services cost.