How to Avoid Buying a House with Bad Plumbing
Before you buy a home, it’s a good idea to hire a professional to conduct a thorough inspection of everything, including the home’s plumbing system. They can identify potential problems and provide you with an estimate of any necessary repair costs, which you can use in your negotiations with the seller.
Save yourself time and grief before getting attached to a home by recognizing what plumbing issues to look out for on your own. Even if a home appears to be in good shape on the surface, it may have underlying problems. We’ll help you avoid buying a house with bad plumbing so that it doesn’t cost you a fortune in repairs down the road.
How to Check the Plumbing When Buying a House
When you walk through a new home, don’t be afraid to turn on the faucets and flush the toilets. You could save yourself from any number of plumbing issues after buying the house. Here are 12 common plumbing issues to look out for when buying a home:
1. Leaky Pipes
This is perhaps the most common plumbing issue you’ll encounter. Leaks can lead to water damage and mold growth, which can be costly to repair and dangerous to your health.
Look for water stains under sinks and on walls or ceilings, especially in bathrooms. This could indicate a drippy pipe or interior leak. While in the basement, look at the condition of exposed pipes. Check for corrosion, mismatched pipes or water on the floor.
2. Drippy Faucets or Fixtures
Slow drips may not seem like a big deal but the cost of wasted water can add up quickly. It may be as simple as replacing a washer but the homeowner should repair the problem before passing it on to you.
Look for pools of water in sinks and tubs. Turn fixtures on and off and watch for drips. Don’t forget to check the basement sink.
3. Slow or Clogged Drains
If the water in the sinks, tubs, or showers drains slowly, this could be an indicator of a clog or serious blockage in the pipes or sewer line. If left untreated, this could lead to more severe issues such as sewage backups.
Turn on faucets for a minute and observe how the water drains. If the water drains slowly or backs up, it could point to a bigger problem. Do this in several locations of the house.
4. Low Water Pressure
Low pressure may be a sign of a leak somewhere in your system, a faulty pressure regulator or it might indicate a problem with the local water supply. It could also be due to clogged pipes or fixtures where water can’t travel easily.
While you’re checking your drains, notice how fast the water stream from the faucet or fixture is. Make sure you turn on any showers to ensure the pressure is adequate where it counts.
5. Water Heater Issues
You can expect a water heater to last between 8-12 years. If the water heater is old, it may not work efficiently or it may break down soon after you move in. A new water heater will cost you a month’s mortgage or more and isn’t something new homeowners want to deal with.
Turn on the hot water tap to test how quickly the water warms, especially on the second floor. See if you can find out the water heater’s age and maintenance history. Water heaters often have service stickers with history right on them.
6. Corroded, Outdated and Unsafe Pipes
Over time, pipes can corrode, leading to leaks, blockages, and water quality issues. If the home you’re considering is older, it’s a good idea to have the plumbing inspected for signs of corrosion.
Notice the types of pipes that are in the house. Copper is the most reliable for longevity but even copper pipes will start to deteriorate after 50 years. Iron and galvanized steel have much shorter lifespans and will likely compromise your plumbing system sooner rather than later.
If the home has lead pipes or polybutylene pipes, you’ll want to have them replaced before you move in. Lead pipes can cause a magnitude of health problems. To identify lead pipes, scratch the surface. If it appears a shiny silver color, it’s likely to be lead. You can also test with a magnet which won’t stick.
7. Sewage System Problems
Problems with the sewage system can lead to messy and expensive repairs. Tree roots can damage sewer lines over time, so look out for trees growing near the line.
To be certain, have a licensed plumber perform a video inspection of your sewer line to evaluate the condition of your pipes and identify roots and clogs. Replacing a sewer line can be a costly project. Don’t take chances.
8. Water Quality
Issues with water quality, such as hard water or water with an unusual color, smell, or taste, could indicate plumbing or local water supply issues.
When you test the plumbing fixtures, notice the look and smell of the water. Check for rust stains, calcium deposits, or spots on faucets and sinks. These could indicate hard water or water that is tainted by older plumbing.
9. Inadequate Venting
Plumbing systems need to be vented to work correctly. If the venting is inadequate, it could lead to drainage problems and sewer gasses coming into the home.
Vents run vertically from your plumbing system to the roof of the home. They introduce air into the system to help water flow. Not having venting is like having your thumb over one end of a straw. The water can’t escape. Make sure a plumber verifies that your home has adequate venting before you buy.
10. Faulty Toilets
It may not be the most romantic part of house hunting but a functional toilet is among your most important plumbing fixtures.
Check around toilets for signs of leaks or water damage. Rust or discoloration could indicate a leak. Flush each toilet to make sure it drains and fills properly.
11. Slab Leak Problems
The concrete foundation a house was built on is often referred to as a “slab.” When the underground water pipes that travel beneath your home’s foundation start to leak, it’s referred to as a “slab leak.” These leaks can damage your yard, cause basement moisture and increase your water bill.
Pooling or water puddles in the yard near the foundation can be a sign of a leak. The best way to be sure is to have a professional plumber include a slab leak check in their home inspection.
12. Winterized Plumbing
As Dallas winters get colder, we’ve seen our share of frozen pipes. A frozen pipe can be a catastrophic hazard if it bursts and leaks water across your home.
Notice plumbing along exterior walls, especially in attics or crawl spaces. Are these pipes covered with insulation? Are there pipes beneath sinks or behind cabinets that are a risk if the temperature drops?
Check the Plumbing Before You Buy
Don’t make a poor investment because the house you fell in love with had plumbing issues. Identify and resolve plumbing problems before you sign that purchase agreement. And remember, if plumbing problems do arise once you’re moved in, your friendly punctual plumber is always ready to help. We love helping new homeowners navigate and manage their plumbing systems. Call today!