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When Buying or Selling a Home, What Plumbing Issues Should You Pay Attention To?

You have made an offer on a home and an inspection has been done and all is well.  Sometimes plumbers are called in to do a more thorough follow-up inspection.  Unfortunately, this often happens after the home has been purchased. So here are a few things to ask.

  1. Main Sewer Line. Drains clog for a reason which is not always obvious.  It is strongly recommended that a professional plumber performs a camera inspection on the sewer line.  If you’re purchasing a home, this is doubly important.  You can’t be certain whether the home has had drainage problems and if the previous homeowner knew the reason for a clog.  Inspecting the line can find if the line is deteriorating and just being held together by the ground around them or if it could collapse during a major repair or replacement.  A simple camera inspection could make you aware of a hidden and very costly problem prior to the purchase.
  2. Water Heaters. The average water heater lasts about 10 years. Water heaters that heat your home, in addition to providing hot water for each of your faucets, tend to have shorter lives. Nearly all manufacturers can determine the age of a water heater from the model and serial number.  A licensed plumber can determine whether it’s up to current code and safely working. If there is any corrosion or calcium build up, evaluate and document the size of the heater and whether it meets the needs of the home.
  3. Often neglected is to have a leak fixed at the base of a toilet.  These leaks often appear small or insignificant, but in time will rot the subfloor and even eat between the subfloor and the finished floor.  Someone unaware of the damage this kind of problem can create may try to seal this themselves, sometimes making it worse. Look for: discoloration and/or warping around the base of the toilet.  Check if the floor moves or feels soft around the base by applying the weight of your foot.  The toilet bowl should not have any movement.  If movement is noted it either has a bad seal, the flange is not secured or the toilet is not secured to the flange.
  4. Locate the water meter and make a determination if the shut-off valve to the home’s water supply is in working order. If the home is equipped with well water, the shut-off valve could be located inside the home (usually under the kitchen sink).
  5. Homes built prior to 1986 often have lead or galvanized plumbing. Lead pipes may be important for you to know.
  6. What are the size of the pipes in and around the home? For water pressure to be adequate, the lines should be ¾ to one inch directly from the main water source. The pipes themselves should be at least ½ inch in diameter to provide adequate flow.
  7. Determine the type of sewage system the home has, whether waste goes to a municipal sewer system, or if there is a septic tank installed. If a septic tank, find out where it is installed on the property, how much the tank holds, and where the lines to the tank are located.  Ideally, you want a map with the paperwork that comes with your home that shows where the tank and all lines are located.  Also, ask when it was last emptied or serviced.  Look for signs of seepage around the area where the tank is located, or for standing water or noticeable odors – all signs of a problem.  Septic tanks can be very expensive to replace or repair.
  8. Inside check all the faucets for leaks or drips. Check underneath sinks to check for leaking pipes.  Flush the toilet in each bathroom.  They should empty and then refill correctly.  Turn on the shower in the room farthest from the home’s water source.  In the shower check the temperature of the water and the water pressure.

Buying a home is a big investment.  Knowing if you have galvanized water pipes, copper drain pipes, lead closet bends or an inferior piping system can be handy when negotiating the sale of a home.  There are so many types of piping systems and conditions, it’s a good idea to get a whole house plumbing inspection in addition to a water heater and sewer camera inspection.

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