Willamette Towers

About Our Plumbing

As Willamette Towers contemplates new plumbing lines throughout the building, questions arise:

  • where are the existing plumbing courses and pipes
  • how do the tradespeople get to them
  • what will each line cost to install


All the Lines

The Vertical Lines

Each plumbing line has two sets of pipes, hot and cold. There is a horizontal manifold line along the ground floor, where vertical lines rise to serve floors 2 through 12. The cold water pipes continue to the 13th floor.

In the 12th floor ceiling is a horizontal recirculation line with a small pump that pulls hot water continually and returns to the boiler tanks. This maintains a flow to keep hot water readily available for any given unit. The hot water lines to the 13th floor come off of this recirculation line, the only place in the main vertical lines where the hot and cold piping is not side-by-side.

Access to the Vertical Lines

Of the 13 vertical lines, four are accessible through the hallway walls. The janitor closet line is accessed from within each floor’s closet and the other 8 lines are accessible through the walls of the residential units. Here “accessible” means that the courses where the current pipes exist and where the new pipes will be added are reachable when the walls are opened up.

The Ground Floor Lines

There are 3 ground floor lines, one serving the laundry room and two separate lines serving the commercial spaces. These lines are accessible across the ground floor ceiling and then into the walls.


The Plumbing Plan

The plan is to install new plumbing using the standard plastic piping used today. The old pipes will not actually be replaced; rather, new pipes will be installed in the courses side-by-side with the old pipes and the old pipes will be abandoned in place.

Not determined is if the hot water lines serving the 13th floor, the pipes that come off of the 12th floor recirculation line, will be newly plumbed. Also, it has not been decided if the janitor closet pipe stack will be newly plumbed, if the service with existing piping will be retained, or if it will be put out of service.

First Steps

Other than discussion and some planning, the only work done to date is the opening of the 2nd floor hallway wall to have a look at a section of pipe that serves the 06 units. Several plumbing companies viewed this and have been asked for bids.

From this and other sections of pipe that have been viewed when the opportunities presented themselves during unit remodeling, it appears that there was not widespread use of asbestos in the original installation. Staff reports that there is some small use of asbestos at some joints, and it may be that this will not require separate mitigation by an asbestos removal company.

As this is being written, we anticipate bids from the companies for the cost to newly plumb this one line which will be accessible from the floors’ hallways.

By completing one line, one that is most easily accessible and requiring no deconstruction within any residential unit, we expect to learn what problems arise in installing a new line and to attach a realistic cost to the project.

Three More Hallway Lines

With one line complete, the next lines to be addressed are the other three lines that are accessible from the hallways. This will build on the knowledge of what is physically and financially entailed in plumbing vertical lines.

Tackling the Residential Unit Lines

Toward the end of this article is a walk around any given floor, describing the various lines and how each unit is served.

There are 8 lines that are accessible through the walls of the residential units. Plumbing these will entail deconstruction sufficient to install the new pipes. In some cases a line is shared by two side-by-side units, and in these cases it must be decided which unit will have its walls opened up.

To newly plumb a given line, it is expected that one unit per floor will be affected. For example, the 07 units have a line serving their bathrooms. It is expected that each 07 unit, all 12 of them, will need to have their walls opened up for the new plumbing and connection to spigots and shower heads. The 13th floor unit on the same line will be similarly affected.

Reconstruction of Opened-Up Areas

When the hallway walls are opened up, Willamette Towers will rebuild those areas along the guidelines in the by-laws regarding common areas.

It has not been determined what will happen when residential unit walls will be opened up. Some questions to be addressed:

  • If the line is shared by two units, whose walls will be deconstructed?
  • What is the source of the funds needed to re-construct to the previous appearance?
  • Will this not be an opportunity for those owners interested in remodeling?
  • What is the range of costs for reconstructing owners’ units?
  • What is the average cost per unit?


Estimating and Funding and Timing

Current Estimates

Until we receive bids and work through that first plumbing line, estimating the cost is difficult. Working with Bennett Management Company (BMC) staff, our current guess is $120,000 per line. Recall that each line includes both the hot and cold water piping. This is the figure used in the current reserves study.

For the purpose of that study, the janitor closet line is included in the new plumbing lines and no special amount is separated out for plumbing of the 13th floor hot water lines—this is simply included in the guess-timate of $120,000 for the vertical lines.

For the three ground floor lines, the estimated cost currently used is $22,500.


The “test case” of plumbing one line is being funded from available reserves. There is talk of obtaining a line of credit for the project, which will then be paid over a course of time from dues paid. Another method typical in projects such as these is special assessment(s). Another option is to do the project in steps as reserves funding becomes available step-by-step.


The first line will be done in 2021. The timing of additional work will be dependent on the funding that can be arranged.


A Walk Around a Typical Floor

As mentioned, four lines are accessible from the hallways, and one line is the janitor closet. That leaves 8 lines that are accessible only through residential units. Some of these lines are shared, and so only one or the other unit will need deconstruction to make the pipe replacement. This walk around informs how you might be affected. Let’s start with the typical 01 unit and proceed numerically from there.

  1. The 01 kitchen line is accessible from the hallways
  2. The 01 and 02 bathrooms are a shared line, accessible from one unit or the other
  3. The 02 kitchen line is accessible from the hallways
  4. The 03 kitchen/bath #1 line is accessible from the hallways
  5. The 03 bath #2 line is shared with 04 and is accessible from one unit or the other
  6. The 05 line is accessible from within the hallways
  7. The 05 and 06 baths are a shared line acessible from one unit or the other
  8. The janitor closet has its own line accessible from within
  9. The 07 kitchen line is accessible from within the unit
  10. The 07 bath line is accessible from within the unit
  11. The 08 kitchen line is accessible from within the unit
  12. The 08 bath line is accessible from within the unit


Have a look at the plumbing blueprints.