Canada's Condominium Magazine
In Condos, the common elements are a strength. Sharing fitness facilities, plumbing, party rooms, maintenance, recycling management — it’s very efficient. But sometimes, those efficiencies go “down the drain” if residents forget drain guidelines in the kitchen sinks. Food, waste, grease all ends up in the common “kitchen stack” for the condo, building up over time, sometimes creating smells, and usually slowing down the drain. Damage could occur if there’s a block. It’s also bad for the environment if people pour down certain prohibited chemicals.
“The pipes that run along the inside of a building from one kitchen to another is known as the kitchen drain stack – referring to the “stack” of kitchens that runs from the top of the building to the bottom. This interconnectivity can be highly efficient, but can also lead to significant issues when residents are not careful,” according to CPL
Simple “kitchen sink” best practices help
Educating residents is critical. If only half the residents follow the best practices for disposing of grease, and the other half do not, the entire “stack” will still suffer. Shared plumbing isn’t just efficient — it means shared problems, too. Cleaning the kitchen stack may be a routine maintenance activity for the condominium community, but increasing the frequency of cleaning can add to overall common costs. Cleaning also might involve entering condominiums to access stacks.
It is also a health issue. That smell coming from the pipes is bacteria, which accumulates and grows in moist places. It also causes corrosion and clogging.
Have a look at this video of “jet cleaning” a condo stack to get an idea of what the “bacteria goop” looks like and also one method it can be communally cleaned:
Call the plumber? Prevention is better
Typically, in a detached home, when you have a clog or smelly pipes, you might call a plumber. This can cost between $300 and $500 on average. Kitchen stack cleaning in a condo is much more expensive. Even if the condo community stack isn’t clogged, incorrect sink etiquette can result in a visit from the plumber to your unit to unclog your sink.
The better solution (for both house and condo) is to educate residents (in the case of condos), self-educate in the case of home-owners, and practice “good train conduct” which includes:
- Never pour grease, oil or fat (hot or cold) down the sink. Instead, pour grease/oil into a sealable container and dispose of as specified in the guidelines for the community (and by the city).
- Always use the trap in the sink to prevent solid waste, even small sized, from going into the drain where it can accumulate
- Pour a kettle of boiling hot water down your sink drains every week as preventative. The hot water helps dissolve and move-along oil/grease.
- Use traps: especially in the kitchen and bathroom/shower. Hair and soap scum in bathrooms collect and grow over time in pipes if allowed past the trap.
- Add drain screens: to all your drains.
- Never pour paint or thinner down drains!
- Clogs: if you are clogged, check the community rules: you may or may not be allowed to call your own plumber. Avoid self-help methods that might cause issues for communal plumbing.