Silent but Destructive—Leaking Pipes

Fixing a leaky pipe can be comparable to a trip to the dentist—some will avoid it until there is no other option, substantially increasing the cost of the repair. Like an obvious cavity, some water leaks can be easily identified while others may require a professional.

What To Look For

Some pipe leaks are obvious, transforming your kitchen into a waterpark. Others silently drip dollars behind the wall. Have you ever noticed discoloration or mildew on the wall near the floorboards? Have you seen mysterious puddles appear on the floor? Have you walked into the dish room and noticed a musty odor even though the entire room is dry? Have you ever pushed on a wall and noticed the wall is soft? How about water in your grout lines or coming up through when you step on a tile? These are all the unfortunate signs of a leaking pipe or fixture. Our instinct is to minimize the importance of these seemingly insignificant nuisances and that instinct will cost you considerably more in the long run. When given the opportunity, water will flow downhill, and there is no telling where it will pool up. It will drip, run, leak, humidify, and sit stagnant in places otherwise thought of as impossible to access—water always finds a way.

How To Address The Problem

The first thing to do is minimize any additional damage if possible. If you can potentially cut off the water to the affected area, great! If not, the next step is absolutely vital in keeping your facility operational; find a qualified contractor who can respond quickly. You’re going to want more than the average plumber—you will need to enlist a specialist. This specialist can address any structural and finishing damages, as well as the underlying problem. You’ll also want a contractor who can keep you operational, preserving your cash flow during repairs, as this may be an intricate project depending on the extent of the damage (it may go as far as the subfloor).

When Contacting A Professional

When selecting a contractor, ensure they have a clear and consistent form of communication. This project is going to be more complex than most, and not knowing how far you sit from completion is incredibly frustrating. After the selection process, you want to make sure the scope of work includes all necessary materials and repairs. Depending on the extent of the leak and the area where it is located, you may have drywall and FRP damage, rotted structural studs, or even disrupted or compromised electrical wires. Typically, if the water damage has spread this far, the job is going to last more than 1 day so it’s important for your contractor to leave the area clean, functional and protected to avoid further damage. After the job is complete, make sure the contractor is available to walk the job with you or one of the staff to ensure satisfaction, or address any concerns.

Here are some tips to effectively prevent future water issues:

  1. Train your closing employees on cleaning practices that will minimize the use of water. A hose is NOT your friend in a kitchen environment.
  2. Do a weekly walk-thru to check all plumbing connects. A small leak can be devastating over time if not corrected.
  3. When making wall repairs after damage has occurred, remove two rows of tile on floor, waterproof to a minimum of 18” up wall before replacement. This will minimize future damage and protect the substrate.
  4. Develop a grout program. Missing or low grout can be the perfect waterway for leaks to cause problems throughout the kitchen and can cause serious issues with the floor itself.

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