Ask an Expert: How do I fix water pressure in a co-op?

I live on the 10th floor of a 12-floor prewar co-op. The water pressure is terrible above the fifth or sixth floor. I’ve heard water pumps might help. What’s involved exactly and how much does it cost?

Upper-floor apartment dwellers may get the best views, but subpar water pressure can be one of the trade-offs of living at the top. Before you install a water pump, remember that several problems could be the cause of your loss of water pressure, our experts say.

“It’s not a project undertaken without a fair degree of initial investigation and a bid out to multiple plumbers,” says property manager Thomas Usztoke of Douglas Elliman Property Management.

Since your co-op is on the older side, your pipes might be getting clogged with sediment or corrosion, meaning they’d need to be cleaned or replaced.

First, you may want to conduct “a plumbing system audit by the resident manager or superintendent to ensure all valves are in their correct positions, followed by a building survey to quantify and specify that the water pressure issue is either a universal upper-floor issue” or limited to one location, Usztoke says. If the problem is location-specific, you’ll need to keep investigating, either with a professional plumber or a property manager who knows something about plumbing, he adds.

If you do go the water pump route, costs will depend on what kind of system you want and how big your building is. Also, factor in the size of the pump, the potential number of pumps, and variables with the installation, such as retrofitting a pump system into existing feeder lines, says Usztoke. For a 12-story building, the price could run anywhere from a few thousand dollars to more than $20,000 for more complex plumbing systems, he says.

You may also be allowed to install a water pump for your individual unit. In that case, your co-op board will want you to get liability coverage as well: “They want you or your insurer to cover if the pump fails and water damages the apartments below you,” says apartment insurance broker Jeff Schneider of Gotham Brokerage.

Typically, you’d be covered under your apartment insurance, but you might want to double check your limits, he adds.

Leigh Kamping-Carder is a senior editor at BrickUnderground.com, the online survival guide to finding a NYC apartment and living happily ever after. To see more expert answers or to ask a real estate question, click here.