The role of a building service contractor (BSC) is ever-evolving: Gone are the days when his or her sole job was to clean; now, BSCs advise clients on a variety of issues from how to control infections, advance indoor environmental quality and operate more profitably to — amongst several additional offerings — improve facility security, increase occupant satisfaction and conserve natural resources.
It’s that last issue — conserving natural resources like water, as well as helping their customers ensure that all of their water-using devices are working properly — that is garnering increased attention.
In the past few years, increasingly more areas of the U.S. have been impacted by droughts and water shortages.
This often means that facilities managers have been forced to look for more ways to reduce water consumption to both save money and reduce their draw on already starving reservoirs.
Additionally, and largely because of the economic challenges of the past few years, finding ways to reduce operating expenses has been of paramount importance.
Calling and waiting for a plumber and then paying $70 to $150 an hour to have said repairperson address a leak or fix a toilet is something facilities managers want to avoid.
A familiar face to the rescue: Your Johnny-on-the-spot cleaning contractor turned light-duty plumber.
You’re not the only one who wins here; this can also benefit your BSC.
Fixing plumbing problems in buildings, especially in large facilities, campuses or the like, can prove to be a lucrative add-on service.
And, fortunately from either perspective, many plumbing problems are surprisingly easy to tackle.
What Your Contractor Can Do
The following are a few examples of common plumbing problems that can be solved by the individuals already servicing your building:
- Leaky faucets
The leaky faucet is probably the most common plumbing problem encountered.
A leaky faucet often can be fixed by just tightening the connections on the fixture.
If the pipe is leaking, the section with the breach will need to be removed and replaced.
Patch kits are readily available and straightforward in their application, but they are usually designed to be a temporary fix.
It should be noted that, if a pipe is leaking in one area, it often may spring a leak in another spot.
In this case, the whole section of pipe may need to be replaced or additional, more advanced repairs could be necessary, which is usually a job for a certified professional.
- Congested drains
Also high on the repair list are slow-draining or clogged drains.
Grease, hair and other debris can build up inside drainpipes, and a plumber’s snake can tackle this issue.
Slowly pushing and cranking the snake down the drain will break up the grease and debris clogging the orifice.
Some of the blockage will flow down the drain and some will be brought out with the snake, indicating the root cause of the problem.
- Clogged toilets
An incident such as a clogged commode is when your Johnny-on-the-spot contract cleaner turned light-duty plumber is really appreciated.
Usually, clogged toilets can be fixed by correctly using a plunger.
Using a plunger correctly requires not breaking the suction seal it has over the toilet’s drain, a key consideration that is often not followed by inexperienced repair persons.
To properly plunge a clogged toilet, turn off the water supply to the fixture, remembering to leave some water in the bowl.
Then, push the plunger in and then pull out sharply while maintaining the seal with the commode, repeating the process until the water begins to drain.
If plunging does not unclog the toilet, an obstruction somewhere in the pipe may need to be loosened or pulled out, which a plumber’s snake can usually achieve.
- Foul odors
You’ve cleaned the restroom, but a foul odor is still lingering in the air.
Interestingly, the odor may have nothing to do with the actual cleaning; instead, it may be coming from an unattended floor drain.
A floor drain will have a U-shaped or a J-shaped pipe directly underneath.
Normally, water builds up in these curved areas and prevents sewer odors from being released; but, if the water evaporates — which is quite common in schools closed for holiday and summer breaks — sewer odors are released.
The most effective way to address this problem is also the most simple: Pour a very small amount of a liquid trap primer into the drain.
A high-quality liquid trap primer can last for years, essentially eliminating the odor problem.
- Toilet gurgles
A gurgle is that final sound you hear when a toilet is working properly.
The water refills in the bowl and the tank and, when complete, it gurgles.
However, if there is no gurgle, it usually means the water is still running and being wasted.
A running toilet can often be corrected by doing something our mothers and fathers told us to do back in the day: Just jiggle the flush handle.
If a quick shake of the handle doesn’t work, the culprit is likely a sticky flapper, in which case you will need to remove the tank’s lid and lift on the chain to reset the flapper.
If neither of these simple solutions do the trick, the entire chain and flush valve must be replaced, both of which are surprisingly easy to install by following the instructions on the package.
When It’s Time To Call A Plumber
While a cleaning contractor can tackle these and many other plumbing problems that may arise in a facility, there are times when a plumbing professional is called for.
For instance, low water pressure can be the result of a variety of causes.
Many times, not only will a certified professional be required, but if the problem is serious enough, the local water utility may need to be called in as well.
Other examples of when soliciting the expertise of a professional plumber is a good idea include:
- A lack of hot water requiring repairing or replacing a faulty thermostat or installing an entirely new water heater
- Pipes that have frozen, thawed and developed cracks, resulting in a leak or a burst that floods a facility and causes extensive visible and unseen damage
- If, after snaking, water is still not draining properly and an obstruction is in the line going to the main sewer, requiring a plumber or a drain cleaning service to make the necessary repairs.
Be Aware Of The Downside
While BSCs may be asked to help repair minor plumbing issues in a facility, they also have to remember the potential downside: If you break it, you own it — and this can be expensive.
Helping a client with plumbing repairs can be a profitable add-on service that also helps build customer loyalty.
However, BSCs should always thoroughly check out the problem, weigh all of their options and discuss the possible outcomes with a facilities manager or building owner before proceeding.
In some cases, addressing a problem may be too time-consuming and potentially too risky to tackle.
In these extreme cases, let a plumbing professional offer the services he or she is trained to provide.