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Plumbing Checklist for Homebuyers

Plumbing Checklist for Homebuyers

Plumbing Checklist For Homebuyers

The average family uses 400 gallons of water each day. Over 25 percent of that amount is used just by flushing the toilet. That's a lot of water, and moving it all in and out of a home takes plumbing that is up to code and in good working order.

Average Family Uses 400 Gallons of Water Each Day

When you're searching for a new home, it can be tempting to focus on how the house looks, what kinds of appliances are in the kitchen and the size of the yard. The problem is that when homebuyers focus on those things, they tend to forget about some of the more important issues surrounding a home — such as the plumbing. And, sadly, too many people move into a home only to be faced with serious issues that arise almost immediately, resulting in major expenses for the new homeowner.

While it may seem intrusive, it's important for anyone considering purchasing a new home to spend a lot of time looking through the house to get a better idea of what is going on behind the fresh paint and recently polished floors. Yes, most home sales include a professional home inspection, but going through the house on your own to look at areas that might have certain pitfalls can save you a lot of time, stress and money down the road.

Plumbing Checklist for a Home Inspection

Rather than simply wandering around a potential new home staring at sinks and bathtubs, there is a methodical way to go through the various areas of your home to check for potential problems.

Take a look at this plumbing checklist for homebuyers to ensure everything is as it should be with the pipes.

Check the Sink, Shower and Other Bathroom Fixtures

Home Buying Inspection for Bathrooms

Bathrooms get a lot of use, and the following can help make sure you catch potential issues before they become something bigger:

  1. Flush the Toilet
  2. As it flushes, notice how long it takes to cycle through the flush. Does it run for a long time? Does it seem to have a weak flush or struggle to clear the toilet paper? Do you notice any water at the base of the toilet? If you notice any of these issues occurring, it can be a sign that there is a leak or that the toilet is not functioning properly.

    While it might not seem like a big deal, it might actually be a major problem. If a toilet is leaking, the only place for the water to go is into your floor and, if given enough time, it can even soak down into your subfloor. If left undetected, you may end up having to pay to repair, or even replace, your bathroom floor because of a small toilet leak.

  3. Turn on All Sink and Tub Faucets
  4. What is the water pressure like — too weak, too strong or just right? Do you notice any water leaking from the faucets when they are turned on? When you turn them off, does any water continue to drip?

    Any of these occurrences might be a sign that there is something wrong with your fixtures. Perhaps the fixture needs to be cleaned or repaired. Or, maybe it is just old and will need to be replaced. While some people might not consider replacing a shower head or faucet a big deal, the costs can quickly add up, especially if you have several malfunctioning in the same house.

    That being said, if you notice weak water pressure when these fixtures are turned on, it could also be indicative of a whole-house issue with low water pressure.

  5. Check the Grout
  6. Most bathrooms have some kind of tile around the shower, floor and maybe even the sink. Carefully inspect the grout to see if there are any gaps or cracks that may allow water to leak under the tile. A significant grout failure can lead to mold and mildew and subsequent damage to the structure underneath the tiles in your bathroom.

    Depending on how long a problem like this has gone undetected, if you purchase a home with grout that is in questionable condition, you might be looking at serious dry out and renovation costs to repair the damage.

  7. Inspect the Floor and Ceiling
  8. Looking above and below gives you a chance to look for stains or other evidence of past water damage. Also make sure to look carefully around the edges of tubs, toilets and showers to determine if there are cracks or gaps that might allow water to seep into the walls or floors.

    While a stain isn't necessarily a deal-breaker when it comes to buying a home, if you find one, you should dig deeper to find out what caused it and if the cause of the stain has been properly corrected and cleaned up.

What Should I Do If I Find a Problem?

Problem With The Bathroom Plumbing?

While it may be tempting to skip over these items, failing to check them before you purchase a home can cost you later. So, even though it might feel awkward, don't hesitate to look underneath the bathroom sink or step into a shower to get a better look at what you're getting into.

If you do detect any of the potential issues listed above, the best thing you can do is have a professional plumber conduct a more thorough inspection. Most home sales will require that a professional home inspector review each room of the house, but these inspectors are not plumbing specialists, so they won't necessarily be able to understand and troubleshoot some plumbing-specific issues.

Checking Water Pressure During a Home Inspection

Checking Water Pressure During Home Inspection

As we mentioned before, sometimes low water pressure can just be an indication that a shower head or faucet needs to be cleaned or replaced. That is usually something you can do without the aid of a plumbing professional, but sometimes, it can also be indicative of a greater problem. The only way to determine how deep the source of the problem lies is to do a little bit of digging — and you may need to call a plumber. Before you do that, though, there are some steps you can take ahead of time to hone in on the problem:

  1. Chat With the Neighbors
  2. If you can, talk with a few of your potential neighbors. Is there a neighborhood-wide issue with water pressure? If so, you can likely fix the problem by installing a water pressure booster that will increase the pressure of the water as it travels from the main water line into your home fixtures.

  3. Dig Deeper Inside
  4. If the neighbors don't seem to be having issues with their water pressure, then it's possible that the seller of the home could have installed a water pressure reducing valve. If this is the case, a plumber can adjust the valve to better match your preferences for water pressure.

    If you've chatted with the neighbors and the seller hasn't installed anything that would inhibit the pressure of the water coming into the house, there is always a chance that the main shut-off valve isn't open all the way. There could also be a leak in the water main.

    To determine if there is a leak in the main, you'll want to check in the garage or basement of the house to see if you find evidence of a leak. Also head outside and check the ground around the area where your house's main line runs into the local water supply. If the ground around this area is wet, but the rest of the yard is dry, this could be a sign of a leak and the culprit behind the low water pressure.

What Should I Do If I Find a Problem?

Problem With Water Pressure?

If you suspect any of these issues may be contributing to low water pressure, don't hesitate to call a professional plumber to inspect the home prior to closing. It's true that some of these issues can be easily corrected once you are the legal owner, but you should never purchase a home without being sure of the full extent of a problem. It is better to spend time being thorough than to lose time and money encountering a problem you failed to identify and address with the previous owner.

Checking the Hot Water Heater During a Home Inspection

Check Hot Water Heater During Home Inspection

Hot water heaters are essential for your home, and it is important that you are confident they are in good working order before you purchase the house. As you take a closer look at a home you are interested in buying, there are a few key things you'll want to look at more closely:

  1. How Old Is It?
  2. While regular maintenance can certainly extend the life of a good water heater, most typically last anywhere from eight to 12 years. How old is the water heater in the house you are looking at? Is it approaching the age where it may begin to have more problems? Or, if it was recently replaced, is it still covered under a warranty?

  3. What Does It Look Like?
  4. Look closely at the appearance of the water heater. Check for corrosion or rust of any kind, as well as evidence of moisture that could indicate a leak.

  5. Is the Service History Available?
  6. If the water heater isn't new, you'll want to ask when the water heater was last serviced. On average, a water heater — both traditional and tankless — should be flushed once a year to maintain its performance and prevent issues down the road. A water heater flush gets rid of sediment and build up inside the tank. It also cleans up the inside of the tank, leaving a clean surface for heating the water.

    It is possible to do a water heater flush on your own. You can also have a professional complete this task, however. Costs for this system will vary, but homeowners with a tankless water heater should expect to pay a little bit more because a flush of their system will take longer.

Checking Water Lines and Pipes for a Home Inspection

Water Line and Pipe Home Inspection

While we covered some of this in previous sections, the topic of water lines and pipes is one that deserves a little more attention. When you're considering buying a home, it's important to spend some time investigating the makeup and quality of the plumbing in the home:

  1. Look at All Visible Pipes
  2. While much of the bathroom's plumbing system is concealed, you can typically see some pipes under the sink. Inspect the pipes that are visible to see if there is any evidence of leaks or corrosion. While it may seem obvious, it can actually save you the shock and surprise later. Look under countertops and behind toilets. Besides looking for moisture or evidence of leaks, check for signs that the material may be wasting away or even have holes in spots.

  3. Know What the Pipes Are Made Of
  4. Builders today typically install plumbing systems that are a mixture of PVC and copper. However, if you're purchasing an older home, these materials may not be present in your plumbing. Depending on the era your home was built in, you could be looking at galvanized pipes or even polybutylene pipes. Both can cause problems, but polybutylene pipes are a particular red flag.

    Plumbing Checklist When Buying A New Home

    Once considered the best and least expensive option for builders, they were banned from home construction in 1996 after it was determined that they had a habit of rupturing and causing significant damage to the homes that contained them. Since then, builders have shied away from them, but it is taking some time for homes that contained these pipes to be switched over to a stronger, safer option. There are still older homes that have these pipes. If you're considering purchasing a home that was built between 1978 and 1996, you need to ask some very pointed questions about what the pipes are made of.

    Not only is the material your pipes are made of important, but you should also verify that the pipes are up to today's building codes. Do the pipes and fixtures appear to be spaced appropriately, or are they crowded together too tightly? Are they placed correctly? Is there evidence that a joist or other structural component might have been compromised in the installation process?

Sewer Lines and Drains Home Inspection

Sewer Lines and Drains Home Inspection

While there is certainly a lot to inspect inside of the home, if you're considering a purchase, make sure you don't forget to spend some time checking out the exterior of the home:

  1. Are There Obvious Signs of Poor Drainage?
  2. Check out the gutters, downspouts and drain fields and look for evidence of ground settling. This may seem silly, but the truth is that having gutters that fail or water that doesn't drain away from the house like it should could result in a flooded crawlspace or basement. You'll also want to check for evidence of standing water, such as puddles or damp spots.

  3. Are the Outdoor Faucets in Working Order?
  4. Does the outdoor faucet (or faucets) turn on and off correctly? Is there evidence of a leak that might turn into higher costs on your water bill?

  5. Does the Home Have a Septic Tank?
  6. If so, you'll especially want to check for puddles or damp spots in the yard that could indicate an issue with the septic system.

  7. What Is the Condition of the Sewer Line?
  8. While an inspection of the sewer line isn't standard in a typical home inspection, it's one that you may want to consider requesting, especially if you have reason to think there might be an issue. Having a plumber do an inspection of the sewer line can reveal potential problems like root intrusions or breaks in the line. This can be especially important if you're considering buying an older home.

What Should I Do If I Find a Problem?

Sewer Lines & Drain Problems?

If you discover evidence of a problem in the sewer line or how water drains around the house, you'll need to consider the expenses of digging deeper. Some of these issues — like problems with a septic tank — can be costly, and you'll need to decide whether you want to tackle that as a new homeowner. Consulting with a professional can help you to understand more about the potential problems associated with a certain property and the risks you may be taking by purchasing that particular home.

Inspecting Gas Lines During a Home Inspection

Inspecting Gas Lines During Home Inspection

While gas lines don't carry water, they still fall into the category of plumbing because gas is carried into your home through pipes. Gas runs into the house through one main supply line and then branches out from there into individual appliances that are powered by it. In fact, many homes have hot water heaters that are powered by natural gas. While you're looking at a variety of plumbing systems around the home, you'll also want to make sure you look at the gas lines to detect potential problems:

  1. What Are the Pipes Made Of?
  2. The most common material for gas pipes is black steel, but you may also encounter pipes made from brass, galvanized steel or corrugated stainless steel tubing (CSST). Some localities ban the use of copper piping for gas lines, while others permit it. Because regulations vary between locations, you'll need to know what is acceptable in your locality.

  3. Where Are the Shutoff Valves Located?
  4. As a general rule, appliances utilizing gas should have a nearby shutoff valve that can be used in case of a suspected gas leak. Take note of where these are located and their proximity to the appliances they correspond to.

  5. Is There Visible Evidence of Potential Problems?
  6. Take a close look at any visible gas pipes. Do you see any evidence of inadequate support or rust? Are there any indications that the piping runs through a chimney or ductwork? Is there reason to suspect there may be a leak?

What Should I Do If I Find a Problem?

Gas Line Problems?

While it is possible for anyone to perform an overall inspection for appearance and setup of gas lines, this one can be a bit tricky because of some of the specific rules and regulations each locality has in regards to residential gas lines. If you have any reason to suspect an issue, it's important to bring in a professional who can provide a more thorough inspection of the home's gas lines.

Who Can I Call?

Home inspections are standard fare when you buy a house, and they can cover a lot of ground. Sometimes, though, you need a professional who can devote time and attention specifically to the home's plumbing system — and that's where Haynes Plumbing comes in.

Haynes Plumbing Services in Northern Utah

If you're looking for a trustworthy, experienced plumber in Northern Utah, we're ready to help. With more than 25 years of experience servicing areas in Weber and Davis Counties, we pride ourselves in providing quick, quality service for a variety of plumbing needs. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact us today.

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