KKN Plumbing Update
In November John Longmire and I attended a Condominium Council of Maui seminar on the topic of aging plumbing in condominiums presented by a project management firm from Oahu involved in plumbing renovation work. It was a timely topic, as we have been experiencing several pipe breaks over the past few years. We learned that the cast iron pipe installed in the 60’s and 70’s is failing all across the Islands. In Hawaii it lasts between 35 to 50 years; KKN is about 45 years old. Oahu is about 10 years ahead of us in dealing with this problem, as their building boom started in the late 50’s and 60’s. It was an eye-opener to learn the extent of the problem and what is involved in a plumbing renovation project.
We know firsthand that the pipes inside the walls at KKN are deteriorating. We have samples of badly cracked and corroded pipes. Initially our approach was to replace common element cast iron pipes as leaks occurred. Then we started replacing pipe whenever we had an opportunity to get into a unit that was being remodeled, and whenever possible replace the entire stack from top to bottom. The purpose of the recent special assessment was to begin replacing interior plumbing before it started to fail. Emergency repairs are costly as well as disruptive to owners and guests alike. We knew that this single assessment would not cover the total cost of replacing all of the interior plumbing.
Just before our annual meeting I learned of a consultant and general contractor on Maui who is doing plumbing replacement work on condominiums on the Westside. I invited him to give a presentation at our annual meeting. Those owners in attendance would agree that what he shared was quite overwhelming. While his presentation was perhaps a bit “over the top,” he definitely made us realize how comprehensive the problem can be, and that eventually we will need to deal with it. We were told that the plumbing underground may be in worse condition that the interior plumbing.
So where are we now? We are currently in the “information gathering stage.” I have appointed Mark Wadlow, chair, Andy Tichner and Jeff Kern to an ad-hoc committee tasked with looking into the matter thoroughly. They are in the process of reviewing various options for replacing our plumbing, looking at the history of past repairs, and meeting with plumbing contractors who have worked on our property in the past. Andy, who is a building contractor on the mainland has been talking with a plumbing contractor and will get an estimate of what it might cost to replace our plumbing, knowing that it would be more expensive on Maui. Jose Placencia, our Treasurer, is looking into options for funding a renovation project. I have been communicating with DMI and other AOAO Presidents who are dealing with the same issue. One of the first things we are going to do is have the sewer lines in each building cabled and scoped to see what condition they are in. Once we have more information the board will make a decision on how to proceed.
When will the project begin? If the decision is to proceed with a full scale plumbing renovation project we will likely hire a consultant knowledgeable in this field who can guide us through the process. An architect and design engineer will need to be hired to help us prepare specifications for a Request for Proposal. The planning is complex and the permitting process on Maui can be very slow. It may take 2-3 years before the project could even begin. In the meantime, we will continue to make emergency repairs as needed. We will notify owners well in advance of the start of the project.
What will the cost be to the owners? It is too soon to know. We will likely need to take out a loan and the monthly payments would be added to our maintenance fees until paid off. This was how the mansard replacement project was handled. We will start with one building in order to get a better idea as to the cost and scope of the project as well a timeframe for completion.
Will the complex need to be shut down? We want to avoid disrupting your rental business or displacing owners for any longer than absolutely necessary. We will try to do the work during low season, but there are factors we may not be able to control such as how long a permit is good for and the availability of contractors. Buildings will need to be shut down while work is being done; there is no way to avoid it. We won’t know how long until we actually receive bids from contractors. It could take several weeks to months to complete a building, and it could take several years to complete all of the buildings.
Is it really necessary to replace the plumbing? There is enough evidence showing that plumbing that is 40-50 years old has reached the end of its useful life. We could ignore the warning signs and wait until we have a catastrophic plumbing failure, or we can deal with it proactively and begin replacing it now. On a positive note, once the plumbing has all been replaced our condos will be more valuable.
I just remodeled my kitchen/bathroom? If you replaced the plumbing in your walls when you remodeled it may not need replacing. However, it will probably need to be inspected by the county at some point which means opening a wall. If you have a ground floor unit, the floor will need to be opened up to replace the underground sewer line and access the point where the stack attaches to the underground sewer line.
I was planning to remodel my kitchen; should I do it now? We are advising owners to hold off on any remodels for a while until we have more information. Of course, that decision is entirely up to you as an owner, and if it can’t wait you must do what you need to in order to continue renting your unit. Second and third floor units will be affected differently than those on the first floor. Before doing any major remodel work, be sure to talk to our manager, John Longmire, first.
What does all this mean for me as an owner? For now just recognize that this is a problem, and rest assured that the Board is taking the necessary steps to remedy it. That being said, for the most part it is not a crisis that needs immediate attention; however we do need to keep moving forward, as there is much preliminary work to do At this point in time we (the Board) have many questions that we are seeking answers to. As we learn more will keep you informed by posting updates on the KKN AOAO website.