There are so many things to consider when we’re in the market for a new home. House size, floorplans, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, location, just to name a few. One thing that may slip our minds during the home-searching process is plumbing. So we thought it would be a good idea to go over some plumbing questions when buying a home.
1. How old is the plumbing?
Old pipes aren’t necessarily bad pipes, but the older they are, the closer they are to the end of their operational lifespan. Make sure you have a home inspector or a plumber check for rusty and/or corroded pipes, especially with galvanized pipes. Regardless of age, rust and corrosion are signs of imminent water and plumbing disasters.
Older homes are likely to have older water pipes, which can affect water pressure. Ask your real estate agent about the age of the plumbing when buying a new home.
As we’ll say repeatedly: It’s always a good idea to have a plumbing home inspection to check for property damage, tree roots that may interfere with pipes, and other issues.
Related question: How new are the plumbing fixtures?
2. What types of materials are used in the plumbing?
Knowing what your pipes are made of will give you an idea of what they’re made of! In other words, how long they’ll last, how much maintenance they will require, etc.
But perhaps more importantly, if the home you’re thinking of purchasing was built before the mid-1980s or so, there’s a chance that the plumbing consists of lead pipes. As we’ve learned, lead can cause health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children.
Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act prohibit the “use of any pipe, any pipe or plumbing fitting or fixture, any solder, or any flux, after June 1986, in the installation or repair of (i) any public water system; or (ii) any plumbing in a residential or non-residential facility providing water for human consumption, that is not lead-free.”
Make sure to ask what the pipes are made of and what other materials are used in the home’s plumbing system.
3. Are there any leaks or drips or areas of concern? Leaky toilets and/or faucets?
No leak is a good leak. And drips are a big deal, too. Leaks can lead to big problems, including mold and water damage on and behind your walls. Drips can cause an inflated water bill. Make sure you’ve had a complete inspection of your faucets and toilets to ensure that everything is running smoothly — and not running unnecessarily.
Follow-up Question: May I check the water meter? This can help determine if the home has a leak. How? By checking to see if the meter has changed during a time when you’re certain that no water fixtures are running in the home. If the meter is turning when there’s no water running, then your potential new home may have a leak somewhere.
Related Questions: Are there eco-friendly, water-saving appliances and faucets installed? Have the toilets been fitted with low-flow options? Is there any mold or water damage? Do the pipes freeze in the winter? Have they been winterized?
4. Any backflow or cross-connection issues?
Backflow is what happens when we leave a hose or other water source in the pool, laundry, or sink water. This can cause dirty water to back-up into your clean water supply.
The related cross-connection “is a link or structural arrangement where potable water in a distribution system can be exposed to unwanted contaminants. It is the point at which it is possible for a non-potable substance to come in contact with the drinking water system. Cross connections are generally unintentional and can happen anywhere pipes supply water.”
Home buyers can learn more about both from the National Drinking Water Clearinghouse.
5. Has the main water line been inspected?
Once again, a professional plumbing inspection can determine how stable and sturdy the main water line to the home is. A deteriorating main water or sewer line can lead to clogs, backups, and expensive fixes.
Follow-Up Question: Is their local sewage service or is it a septic system? If it’s a septic system, how is it functioning?
6. How old is the water heater?
The average water heater lasts between 10 and 15 years. How old is the water heater in the home you’re thinking about buying? A plumber can tell how old the water heater is by looking at the model and serial number.
Related Question: What’s the water heater capacity? If you have a big family — or plan on having a big family — you’ll want to make sure you have enough hot water for everybody.
7. Do the shut-off valves work?
Check the shut-off valves on the property. These need to be fully functional in case of a serious plumbing issue. If the valves don’t work, they’ll have to be replaced.