Purchasing a home in Portland is an exciting event. You and your family deserve to enjoy it. While a certified home inspector will likely be assigned to review the condition of your future home, these professionals don’t look at plumbing in-depth. For a thorough inspection of pipes and sewer lines, you’ll need a Portland plumber. It’s important to know a home inside and out before you make a purchase.
Overlooked plumbing problems may manifest themselves later as flooding and leaks. They can potentially cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars in repairs. If a home needs plumbing repairs, you’ll need to account for that in your budget. Or, you may want to cross that property off your list. On the other hand, if the house is in perfect condition, you’ll have the confidence to proceed with a purchase.
We also recommend you look over each detail of your prospective residence yourself. While you may not have the expertise of a professional, you can learn a lot with a careful examination of the plumbing fixtures inside and outside the home. Don’t be shy. Sellers expect buyers to be inquisitive, and you need to know the condition of a property before you make an offer.
Plumbing Inspection Tips for Portland Home Buyers
Use the following plumbing inspection tips to determine for yourself the state of your future plumbing:
1. Do the pipes contain lead?
Lead is an environmental hazard. Portland has recently had problems with lead-in-water levels in some of its schools. In Portland and other nearby Oregon towns, lead in water is caused by old pipes and fixtures. Adding to the risk is the PH balance of the city’s water. Portland has soft water which is more likely to cause leaching from pipes.
You can read more about how to test for lead in water. Also, learn about plumbing updates that reduce the risk of lead in water. Older homes may have lead or galvanized plumbing, so keep this in mind when considering home prospects. Solder and copper fixtures may contain lead.
2. Where is the water meter?
Locate the water meter and determine whether the shutoff valve to the home’s water supply is in working condition. In an emergency, it’s vital to know where the shutoff valves are. You can learn more about locating shutoff valves in our earlier blog post. If the home uses well water, turn off the valve located inside the home, often under the kitchen sink. Shutting off the valve should result in no water coming out when you turn the taps on in the kitchen and bathrooms, etc.
3. Is the water heater in good shape?
This piece of equipment will provide hot water for your whole family, so size is a priority. A family of four should have at least a 40-gallon tank. Check the water heater’s location. Water heaters are often in a closet or garage. Ideally, these units should be easy to reach. A water heater hidden in a crawl space is hard to inspect and maintain. Take a look at the location and try to imagine the potential damage if the heater leaks. For example, is the heater next to a living area with wood floors or carpets. Some water heaters sit on a platform or pan. These offer some protection but can only go so far in preventing damage if the heater is near a living space.
A water heater should last for about ten years. Many last much longer with regular maintenance. If the water heater appears old, the chances are good that it will fail soon. You can request that the owners install a new heater as part of the purchase agreement. If that isn’t possible, start shopping for a new unit. Rebates are available for energy-efficient models. Ask us for more information about rebates and installation.
4. Does the home connect to a municipal sewer or a septic system?
Get to know your potential new sewage system and find out whether the waste goes to Portland’s municipal sewer or to a septic tank. If your home is equipped with a septic tank, find out where it’s located and when it was last emptied and serviced. Leakage or odor surrounding the septic tank is evidence of a septic problem and should be addressed and resolved before signing any contracts.
5. Are the pipes insulated?
Freezing pipes can cause many issues for Portland-area homeowners, including pipe breakage, leaks and stopped water. To prevent this, look for a home in which the vents throughout the residence can be closed off during times of intense cold. Having pipes wrapped will also keep them from freezing. Make sure that you require this service prior to purchase.
6. Have leaks caused water damage?
Make sure that your kitchen and bathroom faucets, as well as toilet and shower, are in working condition. Look at the floors around fixtures and cabinets under the sinks. Check for new or old water damage. Old water marks are a sign of earlier problems. Even if the leak was fixed, you’ll want to look for signs of rotting floor boards. Check the floor around the toilet. Is it soft or warped? Does the toilet move if you attempt to rock it? The bowl should feel solid and steady, with no movement.
Identifying and addressing plumbing problems before your home purchase essential to avoid expensive repairs later. By requesting necessary repairs prior to closing the deal, you ensure that you and your family move into a home that is safe, secure and ready for you.
Updated March 2, 2017. Originally published Dec. 7, 2012.