When buying a home, it is common sense to check the property for any problems it may have. Buyers typically check the titles, property boundaries, and the property itself. But there may be things that seem okay but are actually hiding a defect.
Take plumbing — considered as the guts of the house — for example. Poor plumbing is among the deal-breakers when it comes to real estate selling. After all, who would want to buy a home with plumbing problems? For this reason, some agents deliberately fail to disclose bad plumbing to potential buyers. There are many horror stories of new home buyers who’ve thought they bought a perfect home only to face major problems later on.
That is why, when buying a home, you must equip yourself with practical information and guidance from experienced inspectors. This way, you may be able to detect hidden problems and save yourself from the hassles and repair costs down the line. Here is a handy checklist you can use to survey for possible plumbing issues when buying a home.
Check the Water Quality and Flow
One of the easiest things you can do to check for plumbing quality is to turn on the tap. Let the water run on full for a few seconds and then turn it off. Carefully observe for any unusual colour, odour, and flow. These are immediate indicators of how sound the plumbing is.
Water should be clear and free from impurities. If it appears brownish or murky or has bits of sediment in it, it can only mean two things: either the municipal water supply has issues that cause the discolouration or there could be busted pipes. If it’s the latter, there is no other way to fix it than to replace the damaged pipe. Cracked pipes that bring fresh water into the house also bring in the dirt with it, hence the discolouration and silts.
Most water treatment plants in cities across the country use chlorine to disinfect the water. Chlorine is added in safe and controlled amounts to kill pathogens in the water and make it safe for drinking. It may slightly alter the smell of water coming out of the tap. A hint of chlorine or bleach is acceptable; however, water should not have any strong, offensive odour.
A foul odour resembling rotten eggs is definitely a red flag you must not ignore. The unpleasant stench may mean a damaged vent or a broken sewer pipe beneath the house. Not only does it translate to costly repairs, but it can also do significant damage to the foundation of the house.
Water flow should be steady and smooth unless there is a problem. Generally, though, it should flow out in a steady stream rather than trickling out of the tap. This can be common in older homes with equally older pipes that have not been maintained properly. Pipes can leak, break, wear out, and corrode over time and this can cause the water to flow out intermittently.
Take Note of Any Noise
When testing the tap and sink, you might also want to pay attention to any weird sounds. Pay extra attention to areas where water leaks are likely to happen. Listen carefully for gurgling, bubbling noises coming from the sink, toilet, or dishwasher.
Do you hear any whistling, dripping, and clanking sound coming from the pipes? Do you hear the sound of water whooshing or banging in the pipes even though you are not using any water? These could be signs of water plumbing system troubles. Pipes may already be broken or clogged at this point.
Check Around for Water Leaks
Another good way of checking a home’s plumbing system is by looking for any signs of water leaks. It is essential to inspect under the sink and around toilets and tubs. Dampness, wet spots, discoloured areas, and mould reveal leaks in the plumbing system.
Look under the sink and search for any presence of moisture, water stains, peeling material, and mould. If you empty the cabinet, you may find some water pooling at the bottom. These are all indications of water leak in the pipes.
Look Out for Wobbly Toilets
Sometimes, there could be things that point to plumbing problems that escape our radar because they are not visible to the naked eye. Take wobbly toilets, for example. When you sit on it and it seems shaky and unstable, something is definitely not quite right. When that happens, it could be a simple case of a loose seat which only requires retightening the bolts. But if it’s wobbling even with the toilet firmly fastened onto the bolts, then there is a bigger problem.
Wobbly toilets could point to a water leak that has eaten away the wax seal around the toilet and perhaps the sub-floor, as well. Feel the floor surrounding the toilet; does it feel rather soft than firm and solid? If so, there’s a good probability that the toilet is leaking from the bottom, causing the surrounding floor to get weak.
Inspect the Tiling Job
While you are feeling around the toilet for signs of water leak beneath the flooring, go the extra mile and examine the whole tiling job. Do you detect loose tiles, curling vinyl, or moisture seeping into the grout, especially when you gently push on the tiles? You may be looking at another sign of water leakage, which indicates a plumbing problem. Water can leak from the pipes and eat away at the layer beneath the tiles, causing it the tiles to feel loose and uneven.
Observe the Drainage
It’s quite reasonable to expect the place to be as clean in all areas as possible, and that includes the drains. They should be free from food particles, residue, hair, and other things that could clog them and cause the water to drain slowly. Turn on the taps, showers, and flush the toilets and see how the water goes down the drain.
The speed at which the water drains can tell you whether or not the plumbing is in good condition. If it drains fast and smooth without any gurgling sound, you can see that the drain is in tip-top shape. But if it drains slowly, and especially if the water gurgles, chances are that the plumbing is bad. It could be due to cracks in the pipe or a blockage, or build-up somewhere within the pipes. Worse, it could be due to something as major as a tree root growing into the sewer line and affecting all the drains throughout the home.
Check for Discoloured Pipes
As you investigate under the kitchen sink or explore the basement, take a long and careful look at the pipes. Take note of any discolouration that could indicate dampness due to a leak along the drain line. The leak may even originate in the supply line, and this could result in a costly disaster.
Be wary of corroded pipes, steel pipes with red patches, or copper pipes with white or green discolouration. These are signs that the pipe us damaged and will burst, and this is not a matter of ‘if’ but of ‘when’. The pipe must be replaced.
Check the Sewer Pipes
Issues with sewer lines may be the trickiest plumbing problem there is. A damaged sewer pipe can easily be the most difficult to repair, as it often requires digging down to the pipes. It is also among the most expensive due to the extensive labour involved to repair it. You want to steer clear of a house with a bad sewer system.
How do you detect sewer pipe problems? The most obvious manifestation would be sewer backups. However, it is difficult to see it only by testing the flush, for example. You experience sewer backups after some time when you are already using the showers, toilets, and sinks.
Still, there is another way you can pinpoint sewer pipe defects. If you step into the shower, for instance, to try to catch a whiff near the drain. If you smell something odd and unpleasant, like it’s coming from a sewer, it could be a sign. The smell will be emanating from the damaged sewer line that could either be blocked or backed up.
Look Around for Water Puddles
Inspect the outdoors too, as it can also bear tell-tale signs of plumbing troubles. Look around the yard or the lawn — are there puddles on the lawn or paving? Look for any possible source of puddling close by, such as a water sprinkler. If there is none, and if it didn’t rain on that day, it could mean trouble.
Water puddles and unexplained wet patches in the garden are a clear sign of leaking pipes. A pipe could have burst, causing the water to form a puddle right where there is pipe damage. Puddling can cause accidents, especially with children and pets, and it may even result in a sinkhole.
Request for a Copy of the Present Drainage Diagram
You might want to request a copy of the house’s drainage diagram. This will tell you where the pipes are located all over the house, both inside and outside. The drainage diagram must be updated each time the owner makes changes to the drainage system. If the owner, for instance, decides to move a sink or install a tub, the drainage diagram should be updated to reflect the additions.
It’s useful because you would want to know how the renovation affects the original plumbing system. For example, you would want to know if a new fixture is anchored on the old pipes, or if they updated the pipes as well. The renovation should match the drainage diagram; if not, plumbing will be an issue in the years to come.
Ask for Maintenance Records as Well
While you’re at it, you will also want to request for a copy of maintenance records. These should give you a clear expectation of the present plumbing state and you may see red flags of any issues you might be dealing with later on should you decide to buy the house.
There may be components in the plumbing system that are hitting their maximum lifespan soon. It could be a septic system, for example, that has not been pumped when it should have been. Such could result in a major plumbing system failure, and you may be the one left with this problem if you take ownership of the house.
Look Into the Roof
When inspecting house plumbing, don’t forget the roof! Plumbing problems on the roof can cause water to seep into the ceiling. Water can also sit in the gutters, and it may bring about drainage and structural damage.
Best to look out for signs of roof plumbing issues such as stagnant water and rust spots. Stagnant water can also encourage plant growth on the gutter, so you might want to check out any weeds that are growing out of the roof.
Check the Trees and Grass Patches
Trees and green grass – what’s not to love? You might, however, want to take a second look and make sure that there are no underlying pipe issues under it. Do you notice a patch of grass that is much greener than those around it?
It’s possible that a sewer issue on that section could be feeding the grass and trees and making them vibrant. It’s more likely for grass or trees situated between the house and the street where the sewer line typically runs.
What About the Hidden Signs?
Before selling a house, it is a standard practice for owners to spruce the place up and make it look attractive to potential buyers. This typically includes repairing any existing minor defects and other cosmetic retouching. The problem is that some sellers may try to hide defects with plaster and fresh coats of paint. This can make it hard for home buyers to properly inspect the plumbing and look out for possible problems. Some problems with the piping that may be concealed by sellers include:
- Ceiling stains that could be covered with paint
- Wall or wallpaper stains due to leaky pipe or roof that have been masked with a new wallpaper or paint
- Cracks brought about by water damage that have been filled with plaster or covered with wall patch.
You might see a cut in the concrete or footpath due to a drainage issue in the property that’s been investigated in the past. If you see one, be sure to ask the owner about it and see to it that the problem has been dealt with and not just forgotten.
Professional Plumbers Will Be Happy to Assist You
Falling in love with a beautiful home is quite normal, especially when you see yourself living in that house until your hair turns grey. Make your home buying venture smoother by having the house’s plumbing system checked thoroughly by a licensed plumbing contractor. That way, you’ll be sure that your soon-to-be home will bring no costly issues and you can live in peace for decades to come.
Contact your trusted Newcastle licensed plumber today for a quote on our plumbing inspection services. We also provide 24-hour plumbing services in Lake Macquarie, Central Coast, Maitland, and Belmont. Contact Green Planet Plumbing today for a wide range of plumbing and gas services.