When water supply pipes go bad
Having water supply to your home is fundamental to modern living. It’s a vital resource we often take for granted. So when that supply is compromised because of pipe damage, you’ll want it sorted fast.
Water supply pipes can be an expensive problem to have, considering the type and age of materials used and where the pipes are located. If they break or fracture, the leak can cause significant damage not only to the originating lot, but also to others.
And as supply pipes are constantly under pressure, it’s inevitable these will degrade over time.
So what kind of pipes are commonly found in apartment buildings?
Galvanised pipes were traditionally used for gas and water supply and are made from iron or steel. They typically have a lifespan of about 40 years. If your building has galvanised pipes, chances are these will be close to or at the end of their service life and will require replacement.
Common characteristics of deteriorating galvanised pipes include an orange rust stain on the outside (if they’re not painted), a metallic taste, discoloured water or stains on washing and a reduction in water pressure.
Flexible plumbing hoses, often referred to as a flexi hose, have a flexible steel braid and typically have a lifespan of around 10 years. These pipes have been used for about 15 years now and could well and truly be at the end of their service life.
Signs of deterioration include rust spots and bulging of the pipe.
Flexible braided hoses may be marked with the date of installation. If it is approaching the 10-year anniversary, it is advisable to have a plumber inspect and replace as required. If there is no date but the lines have been in place for 10 years, inspection is recommended. If there is uncertainty as to when the line was installed, a plumber should be able to assist in assessing the condition.
Although it may appear easy to work with flexible hoses, these should be installed by licensed plumbers to minimise the risk of breakage and leaking caused by improper installation.
What about insurance?
It’s true that a burst galvanised service may be excluded from cover by the insurer given most galvanised services would now be beyond their service life. An insurer may regard the timely replacement of a galvanised service as a requirement of proper maintenance and thus deny a claim arising from a burst galvanised service.
Owners are responsible for the maintenance of a service which serves their lot exclusively or by the operation of the Articles for a company share scheme and Service Agreement for a stratum estate.
Owners with a galvanised water supply should have it inspected by a licensed plumber and replaced as required.
Building policies effected by Owners Corporations and company schemes will usually cover water damage to buildings. A policy typically covers the reinstatement arising from a water flow if the cause is within the policy inclusions.
If there is a broken pipe, resultant damage may be covered. However, the cause such as replacing the pipe is usually not within the policy wording, although there may be an allowance for exploration to determine the cause of the leak.
It is strongly recommended owners have the required maintenance carried out including replacement where necessary.
For your own peace of mind, owners should seek advice from their insurer or insurance broker to ensure appropriate protection is in place.