So you might be in the market for a new home - what an exciting time! As swept away as we can get by the novelty of this type of change in our lives (buying new furniture, planning the landscaping - all the fun parts of settling into a new place) it’s important to exercise some due diligence when buying a new dwelling. Being a responsible homeowner means properly inspecting and taking care of your home. Did you know that residential plumbing falls into the category of things a prudent new homeowner should inspect? The residential plumbing of your home includes the typical stuff like toilets, drains - basically any fixtures that lead to water or sewage. But the plumbing in your home also includes your sump pump, your water heater and the various water lines connected to your home. All these things must work in perfect harmony to keep the flow of water coming in and out of your residence. The trouble is that when one thing in this harmony is disrupted, it can snowball into a list of further issues that can cost you thousands of dollars down the road! Inspecting your home in advance is the best way to avoid hidden costs and headaches.
What’s Included in a Home Inspection
Generally, a home inspector will assess the health of the home you’re purchasing in terms of its structure - are the walls holding up the home properly? How safe is the roof? Is the home adequately insulated through its windows, doors and flooring? The inspector will also check the heating and cooling systems to ensure that they are safe and don’t pose any fire hazards. The list of requirements in a home inspection is actually quite comprehensive and really does cover much of what’s necessary to determine the health of your home.
According to the National Standards of Practice of the Canadian Association of Home and Property Inspectors, the following is a summarized checklist of what your home inspector is required to look at in your new home:
Structural systems (foundation, framing etc.)
Exterior systems (garage, front doors, porches, decks etc.)
Fireplaces and solid fuel burning appliances
Air conditioning systems
Interior systems (walls, ceilings, floors, railings etc.)
Insulation and vapour barriers
Mechanical and natural ventilation systems
Is Anything NOT Included in a Home Inspection?
As listed above, a general overview inspection of the plumbing system is included in a regular home inspection. This is where things get tricky - most home inspectors will not do a detailed plumbing inspection when assessing risk in your new home. This means that while the inspector may catch a toilet that’s leaking into your floorboards, they may miss that the sewer is failing or that the water wasn’t installed correctly. Then, when you purchase the home and discover plumbing issues, you’ll have a much bigger and costlier problem on your hands with little or no recourse. Furthermore, home inspectors usually don’t go digging into your sewer lines. We cannot stress enough what a big deal this is. When the sewer lines from your home get backed up it’s really hard to say how much the cost of repairs might be. It really depends on whether the backup can be snaked out or whether your whole front lawn needs to be excavated to access the pipes. Regardless, the costs of a sewer line inspection are practically insignificant in comparison to the money (and time!) you’ll have to spend to fix them. All these things can only be discovered through the eyes of a qualified plumber with the proper tools.
This is not to say that home inspectors aren’t qualified and knowledgeable in determining the health of your home, but just like you’d prefer a cardiologist performing your open heart procedure rather than your general practitioner, you want a specialist inspecting the complex nature of the plumbing in your home.
Important Things to Remember About Your Home’s Plumbing
The plumbing in your home is more than just the faucets and toilets. There’s plenty that’s hidden in the walls, in your basement and underground. All of it matters because each element plays a role in the smooth water flow of your home.
Did you know that a plumber can do a camera inspection on your sewer? Think of it as a type of gastroscopy for your home. The plumber feeds the camera on a rod through to your sewer, inspecting the pipes from the inside along the way. It’s not uncommon for homes to be sold because of sewer issues which is why it is so important to inspect your new home’s sewer before you remove your sale conditions. A sewer inspection could turn up a small issue that the seller can quickly rectify before the sale goes through, or it might show that the sewer is in great shape with no issues at all. Either way, the piece of mind it brings is very valuable.
Sewer issues are very important for you to be aware of because a blocked sewer line can cause something called backflow - yup, that’s sewage (sometimes public!) draining back into your home, usually onto your basement floor.
If a major sewer issue is discovered in a home you would like to buy it isn’t necessarily game over. You may be able to negotiate a deal with the seller that will work for both parties. Common resolutions are either a discounted sale price or the price would stay the same but the seller would replace or repair the sewer at their expense.
Broken Water Lines
Broken water lines aren’t always immediately detectable. These are the small pipes that deliver water to your home and sometimes they can crack or get tiny leaks. The damage that can be done by leaking water is surprising. Water will soak into the wood structure of you home, the drywall, floors, and can then cause mould and mildew growth. A plumber has the skills and experience to see issues that the untrained eye may miss and will be able to assess the condition of your water lines for you.
There are a few different types of water lines that can be found in homes depending on the age of the home. Some materials are better than others and some are simply not acceptable at all. If you are looking at a home with galvanized water lines you should be planning on replacing them immediately. If the home has Poly-B (grey or black plastic) water lines you should start budgeting for a replacement in the near future.
Your water heater needs regular inspection. Did you know that you should drain your water heater every 6 to 12 months to reduce build-up of sediment on the inside? If you’re moving into a home with a water heater that was poorly maintained, you may find yourself taking cold showers until you’ve repaired or replaced it. If you catch this before moving in, you may have some room for negotiation in the purchase of your home. Watch for any signs of water leaks around the water heater, they are a sure sign that a water heater is on its last days.
The most important device that prevents flooding in your home is the sump pump. A floating device in the sump pump tells it when to turn on and pump water away from your home. If your sump pump isn’t working and the problem goes undetected, it only takes one rainfall or thaw to potentially flood your basement. Make sure to always keep an eye on this pump, especially during the thawing months of spring or during heavy rain! If you don’t know what to watch for be sure to ask during your home plumbing inspection!
Shut off and isolation valves are very important to have in your home. Isolation valves should ideally be at the end of every accessible water line before it connects to a fixture. This includes every toilet and the hot and cold lines to every faucet. If these valves are in place you can turn off the water at that valve without affecting the rest of the water in your home. Also, every home has a main water shut off valve on the water line as it comes into the home. This valve is extremely important to have in working order in your home. If a water line bursts or your water heater springs a leak you may not be able to stop the flow on your own if your main water valve isn’t working. This valve should be tested and cycled often to ensure it works and doesn’t leak.
Drain lines within the home are another thing to have a close look at. Drain pipes are easy to dismiss as they hide within the walls and floors of a home without much thought until they aren’t doing their job. A good idea is to test every drain to see how it flows. For example, fill both kitchen sinks with water and then pull the plugs. Do they drain quickly with a whirlpool or do they slowly glug and chug as the water works it way through? If they do drain slow the drain may simply need to be cleaned, or there may be other things happening under the basement floor requiring extensive work to repair.
It would be horrible to buy a home and find out after moving in that you’ll need to have some concrete in the basement broken up to fix a drain pipe under the floor! While this may sound far fetched it is really common in homes with cast iron drain pipes so be sure to cover your bases do your due diligence before you buy.
Why Use a Plumbing Service
Plumbing horror stories could surprise you. We’ve heard of strange things being caught in peoples’ pipes. From children’s toys to dentures! The reality is that you have no knowledge of what the previous home owner thought wise to dump into the kitchen sink or toilet. It’s a scary thought that you might purchase a home clogged with odd things, but much more common than you’d think. Smaller animals have gotten stuck in the plumbing vents on the roofs of homes and unfortunately, didn’t make it back out. This resulted in serious blockages and overtime, very unpleasant smells. We’ve even seen homes rotting from within due to leakages - with no visible warning signs to the naked eye. The truth is that there are so many working parts in ensuring that the plumbing of your home is safe and problem-free that you cannot identify alone. As a responsible homeowner, you should regularly inspect your home but this is especially critical when purchasing a home that you’re unfamiliar with. So why entrust your home to a certified plumber?
Licensed Plumbers will get the job done right. Especially when buying a new home, it is critical to inspect the health of its plumbing system. If you can afford to do so, include this in the conditions of your contract. You’ll be grateful you did. This way, you’ll have the peace of mind in knowing that this huge (most likely largest) investment of your life, your home, is entering your hands problem-free. The only feeling worse than purchasing a car that’s a lemon is buying a home with thousands of dollars in hidden repairs! Don’t wait for your basement to flood in order to find out about underlying plumbing issues.
With a plumbing inspection you’ll have peace of mind about the condition of a home’s plumbing before you buy. Qualified plumbers know plumbing. They know it so well in fact, that they’re willing to guarantee their work for your peace of mind. You want to enter this new stage of your life knowing that the only thing you need to worry about is unpacking! A plumbing inspection takes one less stress away. You can trust a licensed plumber to ensure that you won’t have any expensive plumbing surprises.
Most plumbing companies have years of experience. At Mr. Rooter, our knowledgeable plumbers have seen it all. They’re able to sniff out red flags within minutes of entering your home as a result of the extensive training and experience under their belts. Someone who is not as well versed in plumbing issues may take days or months to get to the root of the problem - that’s if they ever do.
To put it simply - don’t risk it. Your home is too important an investment to gamble with. Including a plumbing inspection by a licensed plumber is the only way you’ll be certain your home inspection is absolutely complete.
All Property Types Benefit from a Plumbing Inspection
The property you’re interested may be a home for you and your family or it may be the location from which you’d like to conduct your business. It’s important to keep in mind that plumbing of commercial properties needs just as much TLC as your home does! Regardless of the type of property you are transferring to, there are plenty of benefits to investing in a plumbing inspection before moving your family or your business into a new place.
Fill in the gaps that your home inspector misses - uninspected sewer lines could cost you thousands in repairs! Protect yourself with an inspection
Ensure that your home is safe for you and your family.
Don’t worry about coming home from a vacation to a flooded home.
Catching issues before they cause water damage can save you thousands and can keep mould and mildew from growing in your home.
Protect your valuable assets from unexpected plumbing surprises.
Save your business money in the long run
Don’t fall victim to repairs that could have been avoided with a simple, routine, plumbing inspection.
Avoid downtime for your business. Repairs can be not only costly but may take weeks depending on the extent of damage. Escape the surprise cost and loss of revenue caused by the surfacing of a hidden plumbing issue.
It’s entirely possible that you may have already purchased your home or commercial property and have foregone the extensive plumbing inspection. Should you encounter any plumbing emergencies as a result, do not risk furthering the damage by trying to repair it on your own or hiring a “jack-of-all-trades”. Although this may be sufficient sometimes, a licensed plumber is the only way to ensure that the underlying cause for your plumbing emergency has been taken care of and eliminated. A licensed plumber will help negate future occurrences of the issue and will ensure you know how to maintain your plumbing appropriately. Always remember it is never too late for a plumbing inspection! If you already own a home, prevent future plumbing emergencies by getting your plumbing inspected today.
What we often forget is that plumbing is actually a modern day miracle. To access water in your home, all you have to do is twist the handle of a faucet and voilà - an endless stream. But in order for our homes to have properly functioning pipes and plumbing systems, many elements need to piece together smoothly. If one part is out of sorts, the whole entire system could be in jeopardy. As a new homeowner (especially a first-time buyer), you can’t take the burden onto your shoulders alone. You’re already busy enough as it is and your home will come with plenty of other responsibilities. The health of your home’s plumbing should be placed in the hands of experts. By getting a plumbing inspection, you are not only taking care of your home but of yourself too. A responsible homeowner knows that a plumbing inspection is critical for peace of mind.