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September 11, 2008 3:44 AM   Subscribe

What can I do about the low water pressure in my apartment? What should I ask/tell my landlord, and what can I expect to happen?

I just moved into a new place and the water pressure sucks. It was sort of OK for a couple of days, but last night it slowed down to a really weak stream, and not much more than a trickle in the shower. We thought someone else in the (small) building was using laundry or washing dishes or something, but it's been just as bad all night (says my nocturnal roommate).

I'm going to call my landlady in a few hours and--complain? How exactly should I approach this? What kind of hope is there for something like this getting fixed? How do you fix water pressure? The building was gut-rehabbed 3, maybe 4 years ago, so they're probably not going to re-lay pipes or anything.

Stats on the apartment:
-in Chicago (Pilsen)
-house converted into four units w/2 attic lofts
-each of the four units has laundry and a dishwasher (we've found that if we use just one of the things, water pressure decreases significantly in the rest of the apartment--really only one thing can be used at a time--but in the last 24 or so hours, it's been that bad without us running anything)
-I don't know where the hot water heater or any of the other stuff that makes an apartment work is kept, so I can't go poking around myself to diagnose any problems
-landlady/owner owns only this building and has one handyman guy come and do repair work--but he's more a dude with a truck and a tool box than and actual repairman

So, yeah, what could possibly be wrong, and how realistic is it to solve?

posted by phunniemee to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Firstly, why not talk to the other tenants? Are they all seeing the same problem, or is it just your apartment; it could be that the water pressure for the entire building is inadequate, or it could be an localised issue with the plumbing. If all the tenants are experiencing the same issue, then you can get their backup if the landlady doesn't get on the case.

Make sure the landlady isn't just going to hand this problem off to the handyman. The chances are that this problem will require the attention of a 'real' plumber.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 4:14 AM on September 11, 2008

This could be a sign of a leak somewhere, or of pipes gone bad and blocked, any number of things. The supply into the house sounds like it's weak to begin with, I would definitely call, and hope she gets a real plumber also.
posted by pupdog at 4:31 AM on September 11, 2008

Here's a good explanation of the possible problems and a systematic approach to diagnosing them. It starts where the water meter is, so you're going to have to involve the landlord. Seconding that you survey the other tenants first, which can help isolated the problem. If you're all in the same boat, it's at the meter entry for the building, and may be as simple as the shutoff valve being partly closed.
posted by beagle at 6:20 AM on September 11, 2008

Best answer: Sorry, forgot the link. HERE.
posted by beagle at 6:21 AM on September 11, 2008

Best answer: I would also add that you need to be careful in describing the problem as a lack of water pressure. I was living in North Denver, and we called the city about a lack of pressure. They came out, put a gauge on a faucet which showed that there was plenty of pressure. What we lacked was flow. Turned out the main line, and the piping throughout the house had buildup so thick that there was barely a pencil diameter of open pipe. It is possible you might have a pressure problem, but highly unlikely if you're on city water. More likely it's a volume problem.
posted by Eekacat at 7:15 AM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you have galvanized pipe, it's probably corrosion.
posted by electroboy at 10:35 AM on September 11, 2008

Behind the curve as usual but I had this exact problem in my apartment a few months ago. I let the landlord know and she had a plumber come and inspect. turns out the pipes were VERY DIRTY and a few in the basement needed replacing. This didn't require the plumber to come into anyone's apartment after observing the problem and while possibly expensive was quickly fixed. YMMV because my landlord pretty much rocks.
posted by Soulbee at 12:08 PM on September 12, 2008

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