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You may have been noticing an increase in the frequency of plumbing system replacement, at very high costs. Now that a significant portion of the housing stock we serve within Washington Community Associations has reached or is near the 50-year mark of life, expect that trend to continue. But what do you plan for in terms of timing, and cost? Why isn’t total replacement typically in your reserve study?

Answering the last question first, reserve studies are limited to exterior visual inspection and research, for budget purposes, guided by National Reserve Study Standards that state:

  1. must be common association responsibility;
  2. must have predictable useful life;
  3. must have predictable remaining life;
  4. must be significant in cost.

It is the hidden and unpredictable nature of plumbing that often keeps replacement out of the reserve study, unless there is a higher level of evaluation underlying the projected timing and costs. There are so many other issues that associations know about and can see every day, that cause plumbing to go out of view.

It is also a challenge to plan for, because there are many types of plumbing systems, configurations and site conditions that can lead to full replacement in as few as 15 – 20 years, or as far away as 75 – 100 years[1]. There are different material types, grades and wall thickness of piping, water chemistry, fittings, etc. As reserve study providers who regularly track actual expenses in our region, we have noted replacement costs around $10,000 per unit, to recently over $90,000 per unit factoring: asbestos, tight in-wall install conditions, currently high inflation and extensive unit interior repairs.

So again, what do you do? We suggest that you begin by hiring a reputable engineering consulting firm to thoroughly evaluate your particular system conditions, providing recommendations for both near-term care and the most likely timing and rough order of magnitude cost, specification options as basis for planning. This is our approach as proactive reserve budget consultants.

At the end of the day, it is better to have an idea when this large expense may be coming, than continuing to let it slip from view, to someday turn into an even larger disruptive and costly “surprise”. End Of Article

[1] Source: Kent Engineering

By Association Reserves Washington, LLC

By Association Reserves Washington, LLC

Chapter Happenings Sponsor, May 2021

Written by Jim Talaga, RS

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