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Plumbing Problems to Avoid When Buying a House

Plumbing Problems to Avoid When Buying a House

When buying a house, one of the things that can spring a nasty surprise down the road is the plumbing. If you discover the problems upfront, you can either back out of the deal or have the seller agree to pay for the repairs before you commit. With this in mind, we have come up with a few tips to ensure surprises, if any, are kept to a minimum.

Pay Attention to the Pipes

See if the main water supply lines are sufficient in size to supply water at appropriate pressures within the house, even when more than one faucet is open. Main supply pipes should at least be inch nominal bore. The best way to check is to actually open a few faucets and look for changes in pressure.

Also check for the presence of lead covered (galvanized) pipes. Galvanized pipes may be durable but the lead coating is toxic; something to remember especially in a home with young children, as the cost of having them replaced with PVC or copper piping can be prohibitive.

Look for dampness that indicates pipe leaks especially on joints. Look for discoloration in walls where water pipes run. The cost of repairing walls maybe tacked on to required plumbing repairs.

Check the Toilet and Bath

Toilets should flush cleanly and should not affect other drains. If you hear a sound on nearby drains and sinks after flushing the toilet, there may be some problems with vents. Make sure the water tank fills with water after the flush and stops when the tank is filled to the correct level. The flush mechanism may be a small issue but still something you can insist to be part of a punch list the seller has to correct before the sale goes through.

There should be no smell of sewage as you enter the toilet, otherwise you can have issues with the toilet bowl to floor connection wax seal, or worse with the sewage piping. Similarly, bad smells emanating from sink and floor drains can mean trouble for the state of the sewage pipes.

The bathtub should seal and drain properly. The sink and floor drains should drain water well. Standing water at a section of the bathroom floor may indicate improper sloping of the floor.

Take a Look at the Kitchen

Kitchen sinks should drain fast without gurgling sounds.

Water heaters should be checked for leaks and proper operation; dampness, mineral deposits and corrosion may indicate the need to have the heater replaced.

Inspect under the sinks to make sure the drain pipes are of conventional design that would lend itself easily to repairs down the road. The P-traps should be easy to open in case of blockage.

Examine Valves and Faucets

See that all valves operate properly, paying more attention to valves that are more expensive to replace. The valves that control showers are usually embedded on concrete walls and deserve more attention. The main shut-off valve, though normally installed in the open, will normally require the services of a plumber to replace, so look at them more closely as well.

Check the Sewage System

One of the most costly plumbing repairs you can end up paying for involves the sewage system. It would be wise to ask if the house is connected to sewage mains or to a septic tank. If connected to a septic tank, you should ask for the required frequency of service and when it was last serviced. In checking the sewage system, your nose should help as much as your eyes; the smell of sewage usually indicates the need for costly repairs.

When in Doubt

There is only so much amateur plumbers can do. When in doubt, the best course of action is to call in a professional plumber to do a complete inspection. It may be a bit expensive, but not nearly as expensive as getting burdened with a huge plumbing repair bill after you sign on the dotted line.

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