Before signing a contract, potential homebuyers should know about every aspect of the house in question—from the foundation to the roof. Being informed and knowing what to look for can mean the difference between a great real estate investment and a home disaster. For smart homebuyers, this includes having some basic knowledge of general plumbing.
There are a few key pointers that signal whether or not a plumbing system is up to date or on its way out. The following list should guide every prospective homebuyer in the basics of general plumbing. Knowing what to look for in a plumbing system and having a basic knowledge of how it works is a substantial chunk of the home-purchase battle.
1. Location of Shutoff Valves
Before the purchase of a home, it’s the buyer’s responsibility to know not only where the main water shutoff valve is located, but also the location of each individual shutoff valve. Ideally, it’s essential that you test each shutoff valve to make sure it works properly and turns smoothly.
A home’s main shutoff valve is usually located next to the water meter. Water meters are typically found in front of the house, near the curb. A tee-handle tool will be necessary to work the valve. Secondary valves for kitchen and bathroom sink faucets can be found at the base of each sink, usually under the cabinet. These can normally be opened and closed by hand.
Knowing the location of these valves and making sure they function properly will prepare the homebuyer for any future plumbing emergencies.
2. Pipes and Waste System
In terms of general plumbing knowledge, a homeowner should be able to tell what kind of piping is used in the house and what type of waste system it contains. Lead pipes pose a health danger and are also more likely to corrode and rust.
Checking indicators such as rust in the water or whether it has a metallic taste are great ways to assess whether the pipes are made of lead or not. If you’re not able to tell for sure, ask the seller.
As for the home’s waste system, there are two main types: city sewage and septic systems. If the house is on a city sewer system, this is pretty much a non-issue for you. But if the house uses a septic tank, extra care and maintenance is inevitably going to be required of the homeowner.
Always verify a home’s waste system type before purchase. Septic repairs can be extremely costly.
3. Signs of Leaking Pipes
It does not even take general plumbing knowledge to perceive a water stain on the wall. But it sure is a great way to tell if the home in question may have leaky pipes. Water stains on the ceiling and walls or warped drywall and trim may mean there are slow leaks inside the walls.
It’s important to keep in mind that if you’re looking at a single-story home, water stains on the ceiling could mean something else entirely.
4. When to Hire a Plumbing Inspector
When it comes to general plumbing knowledge, one of the smartest moves is knowing when it’s time to hire somebody with expertise. Plumbing inspectors know exactly what to look for, they are not biased, and they can save the homebuyer a lot of money. A qualified plumbing inspector can usually do the job in a few hours or less, and although an inspection can be costly, it’s worth it in the long run.
So before buying that new house, every prospective homeowner should keep the general plumbing tips above in mind. Replacing a plumbing system, even partially, can be a costly hassle. And if anything having to do plumbing comes into question, hire a plumbing inspector: They’re worth every penny.