Apartment building plumbing nightmare

3 Replies

I am under contract for a 12 family that has older plumbing stacks.  We did our inspections yesterday and all the stacks are bad (cracked to various degrees).  This owner is not willing to lower the price so I will be walking away from the deal.  

Could anyone provide some insight for the future on the approximate cost to replace an apartment building stack (3 story) in its entirety?  How much hassle is it to do this when tenants are in place?

I am tempted to say I'll only consider buildings that have updated stacks, but that will eliminate a lot of good possibilities.  Thanks for any other thoughts or advice that I can take into the next deal.

@Leslie Schwab this is a tough issue, and I feel your pain. I am working on buying a 19 unit deal in Berwyn, and I already know the plumbing will be an issue as the building is 100 years old. The answer to your question really lies more with your "team" than anything else. I have a bunch of different contractors I can call (some licensed, some not), and pricing is mostly about how much they will charge you for labor. Are you paying guys $25 per hour to do the work, or are you paying a licensed plumber $150 per hour? Either way, you will find that the price would be 10-15k on the very low side for just the plumbing (not the drywall repair) and probably double that or more if you use an expensive plumber. 

This would be the type of deal where you would be much better served doing a full gut rehab of the building and moving out all of the tenants in staggered groups as you rehab. Obviously, I am not sure if this is worth it or not in this particular case. 


Older plumbing stacks are usually cast iron and always vertical. Its harder for the vertical portion to crack because the waste/water falls straight down. In my experience drain stacks crack at turns, tees, and fittings. Most of the time ive had these small sections cut out and replaced with a pvc fitting. (plumbers can make solid connections between cast iron and pvc). I hate to see you derail your deal for something very fixable.

If the entire structure is settling that could also put stress on your vertical drain stack and cause it to crack. If thats the case you would be best to walk away from the deal. Ive had a plumber do this here in Buffalo and it ran me $3k plus i removed the stack myself. In that 3k they had to dig and do some under ground drainage as well.

I hope this helps.

Brian P

Thanks, John and Brian.  My fear with repairs on 100 year old stacks is that we won't be able to find any solid pipe to tie into and will have a forced whole replacement.

I just saw another fully-occupied building that has 12 older waste stacks and got a knot in my stomach at the thought of having to displace residents to do the updates.