Do duplexes share plumbing?

If you’re buying or renting a duplex, you’ll have many questions. Duplexes aren’t like single-family houses or apartments. One of the things you’ll want to know is whether duplexes have shared utilities. So, do duplexes share plumbing?

Yes, duplexes share plumbing, and it has advantages like lower repair costs and a single drain line. But the disadvantages such as difficulties identifying clogging sources, low hot water supply, and vulnerability to failure make it a bad idea. Therefore, duplexes shouldn’t share plumbing systems.

However, if your duplexes already share plumbing, there are things you can do to prevent the failure of the plumbing system. Here, we discuss whether duplexes share plumbing, its pros and cons, and what to do with a shared plumbing system.

Can Duplexes Share Plumbing

Duplexes can share plumbing, but it’s less common. Duplexes are more like houses than apartments, so the two housing units usually have different plumbing. The layout is what determines if the units can share plumbing. That’s why most houses where duplexes share plumbing are old houses. These houses were most likely converted to duplexes from regular homes. So, they maintained the existing plumbing layout. In newer duplexes, both units have independent plumbing.

Advantages Of Shared Plumbing

There are a few advantages to having shared plumbing in your duplex. They include:

1.  Lower Cost of Repairs

Every plumbing-related issue is traceable to one system if you have shared plumbing in a duplex. So, you will be fixing all the problems at once. Since shared plumbing is mostly common in older houses, you may need to replace the plumbing. That’ll also cost you less since you’ll be replacing one system instead of two.

2.  Single Drain Line

The number of drain lines a building has will depend on the plumbing system. When the two units in a duplex share plumbing, there’ll be a single drain. In case of any issue with the plumbing in either of the housing units, the first point of call will be the drain line. This could save the plumbers a lot of time when troubleshooting the problem.

Disadvantages Of Shared Plumbing

Shared plumbing might have some advantages, but its disadvantages require more attention. These include:

1.     Difficulties Identifying Source of Clog 

When the housing units share plumbing, you may find it difficult to identify the clogging source. Usually, clogging will occur when someone flushes an object that’s not meant to be flushed. This could be a paper towel, cosmetics, chewing gum, nail polish, hair, facial cleaning pads, non-biodegradable band-aid, etc.

When there’s a clog, the landlord can charge the tenant responsible. In a duplex with shared plumbing, identifying the source is difficult. Everyone can deny responsibility. This could lead to the landlord or rental company charging everyone. If you’re the landlord and choose not to do this, you’ll spend your own money fixing the issue.

2.     Lower Supply of Hot Water

If the units share plumbing, It’s also possible that housing units in duplexes share water heaters. This is usually not a good idea because the water heater will run out faster. So residents will have to settle for cold showers more often than they should.

3.  More Vulnerable to Failure

A shared plumbing system is more likely to fail because of the heavy load. This can worsen if there’s no proper maintenance. Even with maintenance, the heavier load means the wear and tear will happen faster.

Tips For Landlords with Shared Plumbing

If you’re the landlord of a duplex with shared plumbing, you’ll have more work on your hands. Here are tips to make your duties easier

1.     Video Scope For Cracks

When managing a multifamily unit, it’s important to detect the problem early because failure to do so will cost you more. In addition, shared plumbing means there’ll be a strain on the plumbing system. So, it’s best to inspect the plumbing regularly. Video scoping let you discover problems before they become serious, and you can fix them. Temporary fixes can mitigate the problem until you find a more permanent solution.

Early detection is important if you need to do a major revamping of the system. You can give your tenants advance notice of when you’re fixing the plumbing. This can make the difference between aggrieved and satisfied tenants.

2.     Inspect For Sewer Leaks 

There’ll be some signs when the sewer starts leaking. It could be the unexplained standing water or an unusual smell. Once you notice that, you should investigate the problem. Sewer leaks are serious issues that could affect residents’ health and drive up your repair costs. Ensure you inspect regularly.

This issue might remain unnoticed until it’s too late and sewage backup in one of the housing units. So, it’s best to pay attention. If you notice your water bills are rising, this could be a sign. Difficulty in flushing could be because of sewer leaks.

3.     Regular Maintenance

If the housing units in the duplex share plumbing, the frequency of maintenance should be high. If one plumbing feature temporarily clogs, there’s a good chance it’ll soon affect the whole building. That’s why it’s important to maintain the plumbing. Once you notice any issue, you should call a plumber for maintenance. Don’t opt for quick fixes. Instead, do a complete overhaul as often as necessary.

4.     Check For Dirty Water

Dirty water coming out of the tap could be the symptom of a bigger issue. This is likely to occur in older houses. The water and sewer lines could break down, leading to corrosion. This affects the water quality. So, make sure you observe the water and once you notice any difference in quality, inspect the plumbing.

5.     Add Drain Screen

Adding screens to the drain is important if you share plumbing in a duplex. This is one of the best ways to prevent drainage from clogging. Any debris that could clog the drain won’t be able to get past the screen and will save you a lot of trouble. Of course, you won’t be able to screen the sewers. So, you’ll have to educate the tenants on objects that could cause clogging.

6.     Set Aside Some Money For Plumbing

If your duplex shares plumbing, you should also plan when the plumbing will fail. Set aside funds for that purpose. This is very important if the building is old, which means there may need to replace the plumbing.

Should Duplex Share Plumbing

It’s not advisable for duplexes to share plumbing. Each housing unit in a duplex is a house and should have its independent plumbing system. This might cost more initially, but the long-term benefits outweigh that.

In Conclusion

Duplexes can share plumbing. But it’s not the best practice due to the strain on the system, among other issues. Before moving into or buying a duplex with shared plumbing, you should know that the system will require a higher level of maintenance.