For most people in the San Francisco Bay Area, buying a house is the largest investment they will make in their lifetime. It’s not only a financial commitment but also an investment in family security and wellbeing. No one wants to buy a “money pit” that demands considerable extra expense that impacts the household budget. We all want to have a reasonable expectation that there are no costly surprises down the road. On the other hand, this may be your dream house – exactly what you’ve been looking for! But evaluating a house takes a cool head and professional experience.
This is why it’s an excellent idea to have Ben Franklin Plumbing San Francisco on your side when you get down to the details on a house you are considering buying.
We lead the industry, not only on plumbing designs and trends but also in plumbing know-how, particularly when it comes to evaluating the health and durability of the entire plumbing system. Issues with plumbing tend to be the hardest to fix, more so than electrical and heating, so it really pays to hire a professional. Besides, the cost of a plumbing inspection is often negotiated into the price of the house.
1. Checking the Waste Line
If the house you are considering buying is an older home in a settled community with mature trees and other vegetation, the sewer lines may have been compromised by tree roots seeking water. Clay pipes, common in older homes, are very susceptible to having been breached by roots, but PVC pipes can also be affected. It is difficult to know if the line has tree root infestation until the system is already backed up. The surest way to know if you have a problem is to use a specially designed video camera that is routed through the line for visual confirmation.
It may seem like complex, but this procedure is actually simple and quick. The inspection can also discover any broken, cracked or disconnected portions of the line that may lead to major landscape damage over time.
If your home was more recently built, the foundation backfill may have been hastily performed and the ground settled too low, putting a kink on the point where the sewer line connects to the foundation and creating a potential for a serious waste back up in the house. A video inspection can save significant cost later on.
2. Always Check the Water Meter and Valves
This is relatively easy to do:
- Close all water faucets in the house. Check if the water meter is still turning. If it is, there is a leak somewhere and usually this is a problem that needs to be fixed ASAP.
- Shut off the main shut off valve and ensure that no faucet in the house has water.
- Do this for each shut off valve for each faucet or appliance in the house.
- Also check the general water pressure. Low pressure indicates issues that may become serious.
3. Check the Hot Water Heater
- Check the age of the hot water heater. Most have a lifetime of ten years with normal use.
- Check for corrosion. If present, this can lead to significant damage.
- Check for evidence of leaks or obvious damage. Most water heaters are in basements or utility rooms where a storage item could have been banged against it.
- Is the capacity of this water heater enough for your family? A four-person family normally uses about 400 gallons a day.
- Ben Franklin Plumbers can inspect the hot water heater for more technical points such as the quality of the installation and the integrity of the pipe joints, etc.
4. Check All Plumbing Fixtures
Sinks, showers, tubs and toilets should all be inspected for leaks and workability. Faucets should be easy to operate and when fully open, the water should go right down the pipe without filling the basin. Do this with toilets too. Flush each toilet and ensure the water completely drains and the bowl refills to the proper level.
Notice the age of each fixture. Are they modern? Do they integrate well with the style of the room? Do they look like they may need to be replaced soon or do you feel you’d need to replace them to fit your design plans if you were the owner?
5. Check the Water Supply Pipes
Water supply pipes have evolved over the years from galvanized steel to copper and plastic. If this house has steel pipes, they are old and will eventually have to be replaced because they corrode. If the pipes are a hodgepodge of different materials, this is an indication that repairs have been minimal and possibly DIY issues abound.
Any and all pipes that are cast iron, polybutylene or lead need to be replaced. PVC pipes are not approved for inside home use and will also need to be replaced.