by on June 24, 2016

New Home? Time to Get a Plumbing Inspection

Buying a new home is incredibly exciting, but it can also be a stressful time. A home is likely one of the largest investments you'll ever make, and it's essential that you know exactly what you're buying before signing on the dotted line. Even the most attractive and seemingly well-built homes can sometimes conceal issues that aren't apparent until after you've bought the home, at which point they may turn into expensive and lengthy repairs.

While everyone understands that it's a good idea to inspect the roof, basement and other common problem areas, you may not realize the importance of a proper plumbing inspection. Below are some of the most common plumbing issues you should check before buying a home.

Check the Hot Water Heater

Depending on the frequency of use, the quality of the water and other factors, a typical water heater will last for about a decade before problems begin to develop. Unfortunately, many homes have water heaters that are much older, which is why any plumbing inspection should include the hot water heater. As a home buyer, there are also several things you can check for yourself.

First, look for any visible signs of corrosion. Corrosion increases the odds that the water heater will begin to leak or otherwise fail to work properly, potentially causing significant water damage and necessitating costly repairs. A corroded hot water heater should be replaced by the current owner before any sale is finalized. Additionally, find out the age of the water heater. If the owner does not know, contact the manufacturer of the water heater and supply the model and serial number.

Finally, consider whether the hot water heater is big enough to meet your needs. As a very general rule, a standard 40-gallon tank is typically adequate for a family of four. A tank that is too small may result in hot water running out too quickly, while an unnecessarily large tank may not operate as efficiently and may cost more money. If the water heater is tankless, ensure that it can handle the amount of water flow that you expect to use.

Inspect the Plumbing Fixtures

Few things should be more concerning to a potential home buyer than leaking bathroom or kitchen fixtures. Even a small water leak can eventually cause significant problems if left unchecked, leading to water damage, mold and mildew growth and other serious issues. Inadequate or inconsistent water pressure may also be indicative of larger systemic problems. Though it's best to seek a professional inspection, there are several things that you can check for yourself.

Begin by inspecting all bathroom faucets, kitchen faucets, showers and tubs to ensure that they're receiving adequate water pressure and that the water temperature is appropriate. Turn each fixture to maximum flow to be sure that the water drains quickly and smoothly.

Flush each toilet, watching to make sure that it drains and refills correctly. Find the water shut-off valve and verify that it works correctly, checking several faucets to make sure that the water supply is completely stopped.

Additionally, check closely for any signs of water leaks. Leaks around the base of a toilet can be particularly insidious, seeping into the subfloor and causing it to weaken and rot over time.

Such a leak may not be readily visible, but it may leave the floor around the toilet feeling soft or spongy. If the toilet can be moved or rocked by hand, this may indicate that it isn't properly sealed or secured to the flange, which can also cause water leaks over time. Other common leaks include loose fittings, cracked or damaged water supply lines and leaking water heaters.

Test the Water Quality

Of course, having a functional plumbing system isn't of much use if there's a problem with the water itself. You'll be using the water for drinking, bathing, cooking, cleaning and more, and it needs to meet certain quality standards for your safety. While many homes today receive their water from a municipal source that is regulated by the local government and by Environmental Protection Agency standards, well water is still common in most rural areas.

Well, water is not inherently dangerous, but it is more susceptible to contamination if the system is not designed and installed properly. Regardless of the water source, simple water tests can also reveal problems hidden within the home's plumbing system.

Begin by filling a glass with water and carefully inspecting it. Hold it up to a light source, looking closely for any discoloration, cloudiness or suspended particles. Smell the water to check for the scent of bleach, chlorine, rotten eggs or musty earth.

Finally, take a sip of water and swish it around to determine its taste. Repeat this process with both hot and cold water, ideally trying faucets throughout the house. Many common issues, such as rusty pipes, over-chlorinated water, excess calcium carbonate or magnesium carbonate buildup or contaminants in the water can be identified immediately through these observations.

For a more comprehensive test, consider using a simple home water quality test. These kits provide a number of testing strips that are designed to assess the quality of the water, which includes factors such as:

  • Bacteria
  • Pesticides
  • Lead and other metals
  • Nitrates
  • Chlorine
  • Water hardness
  • pH levels

By testing the water from various sources throughout the house, you can be confident that the water is safe, and the plumbing system is free of harmful contaminants. If the tests come back positive or if the water appears to be of questionable quality, it's best to consult a professional or request that the seller rectifies any problems before buying.

Before you close the deal, call and let the Houston, TX professionals at Plumbing, Inc put your mind at ease with a full plumbing inspection!

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