If you are buying a new home, the possibility of plumbing issues probably isn’t the first thing on your mind. You’re more likely worried about what school district the home is in, how much land it has, and whether the floor plan will fit your family’s needs. Unfortunately, far too many home buyers don’t consider getting a plumbing inspection before making an offer on a property. Here at Intelligent Design, we’ve seen some pretty undesirable situations. For instance, one of our customers discovered she needed thousands of dollars in major repair work done after she’d already purchased the house. Because plumbing issues are a possibility with any property, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. Have our licensed plumbers conduct a thorough inspection so you won’t receive an unpleasant surprise later on.
Major Plumbing Issue: Pipes Obstructed by Roots
Trees and shrubs can beautify a home and enhance its curb appeal. Unfortunately, they can also be highly destructive to its plumbing. The root systems of trees and shrubs can be very strong. Roots can sense moisture, and they will always grow toward a source of moisture whenever possible. Around a home, the most convenient source of moisture is often the water main line and sewage line. If you have roots growing into your sewage line, you’ll notice the following:
- Frequent toilet backups
- Frequent clogs in sinks, tubs, and toilets
- Water draining slowly
- Plumbing fixtures making gurgling sounds
When roots grow into water main lines, they can cause a drop in water pressure. You might also hear gurgling or banging noises in the plumbing. When a licensed plumber conducts a home inspection, he or she can use specialized video camera equipment. That equipment is fed down through the line, allowing the plumber to see whether there are any roots growing into the plumbing.
If there are roots growing into a line, it may be necessary to perform trenchless sewer repair. With this method, the plumber digs an access hole and either sends a new lining into the pipe, or extracts the existing pipe and replaces it.
Major Plumbing Issue: Polybutylene Piping
Another major plumbing issue homebuyers need to know about is the presence of polybutylene piping. Polybutylene is a type of plastic resin. It was used extensively to manufacture plumbing lines for residences from about 1978 until 1995. When polybutylene piping first became available, builders embraced it because it was inexpensive and seemed like a great option for houses. Unfortunately, polybutylene piping is problematic because it fails prematurely. This is likely because oxidants naturally present in water cause adverse reactions with the polybutylene pipes and their acetal fittings, resulting in the rapid acceleration of scale buildup. This causes the pipes to become quite brittle, resulting in micro-fractures and outright failure.
During the 1980s, many lawsuits were filed against the manufacturers, alleging that the pipes caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. Furthermore, it’s not unheard of for homebuyers to sue real estate brokers for failing to disclose the presence of polybutylene pipes. Clearly, these pipes represent major plumbing issues for homebuyers.
If you’re a homebuyer, you’ll need independent assurance from a licensed plumber that the property does not have any polybutylene piping. If a plumbing inspection does reveal that polybutylene pipes are present on the property, you may want to consider buying a different home. Or, you could have the seller repipe the entire house before making an offer.
Minor Plumbing Issue: Water Heater Scale Buildup
Water naturally contains minerals, including calcium. Over time, these minerals will cause the accumulation of scale and rust on the interior components of a water heater. Scale buildup inside a water heater typically falls into the category of minor plumbing issues. However, it can easily become a major problem if it causes the water heater to unexpectedly fail.
If scale buildup is left unaddressed, the water heater will have to work harder to maintain its set temperature. Because of the excess strain on the appliance, its lifespan will get cut short. It’s also possible for significant accumulation of rust and scale to result in a leak. This could cause significant water damage to the home and your possessions.
A thorough plumbing inspection will reveal whether the home you’re thinking of buying has a water heater that could be nearing the end of its lifespan. Moving forward, you can extend the longevity of the appliance and mitigate scale buildup by scheduling a water heater flush at least once per year.
If you’re thinking of buying or selling a home, you should always be aware of potential plumbing issues beforehand. Call Intelligent Design in Tucson at (520) 214-6178 to request a whole house plumbing inspection. We’ll send a licensed plumber out to the property to conduct a full evaluation. At the end, he or she will discuss the findings and any recommendations with you, and provide an estimate for the repairs if applicable.