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Inspecting your plumbing

By: New Jersey Home Inspector Michael Del Greco
Inspecting Your Plumbing

Submitted by: Michael Del Greco, New Jersey Home Inspector Lic. GI 0121

Accurate Inspections, Inc., A New Jersey Home Inspection Company

A professional home inspector determines the condition of a home by looking for \"signs\" that tell a story. These signs may indicate that a problem exists. Thanks to a thorough understanding of the signs, inspecting homes is fast becoming an exacting profession.

There are hundreds of signs professional home inspectors use that can help you uncover the basic condition of a home. Once these conditions are understood and problems that exist are uncovered, you can plan a strategy for repairs or replacement.

Here are the signs to look for when inspecting a plumbing system.

Water Supply Piping

1) Copper water piping is a dependable material however, wells with acidic water can cause the copper piping to fail. Look for pinholes in the piping. They will be marked by small greenish rings.

2) Steel water piping has a life expectancy of 40 to 70 years, depending on usage and the local water. Oxidation or rust develops from the inside of the pipe. Initial failure is evidenced by rust spots which appear to be rust growths on the outside of the pipe.

3) Plastic water piping is not used in most areas of the country and has had problems at the joints, especially on the hot water lines. Newer chemical bonding causes the plastic pipe and fittings to fuse together and appears to have corrected the joint problems.

Drain Piping

1) Cast iron piping is dependable for 50 to 90 years. Generally, the first failure appears as a crack on the top of the pipe approximately 8\' to 20\' below or past a vertical stack.

2) Steel drain piping is dependable for 50 to 100 years. Rust develops from the inside and spots or growths appear on the exterior and indicate failure.

3) Copper drain piping is very dependable. Failures are usually workmanship related.

4) Lead drain piping is usually dependable for 60 to 100 years. This piping is relatively soft and hot water may cause it to sag and develop problems if not properly supported.

Vents, Fixtures, and Pressure

1) Gurgling or air sounds indicate venting problems. Vents are required close to fixtures.

2) Gently rock toilets and sinks to determine if they are secure.

3) Sink traps or piping which have been taped or caulked indicate that leaking has occurred. Tape and caulk are considered temporary repairs at best.

4) Evaluate water pressure by operating the three fixtures in the highest bathroom. Open the tub spout because it does not have a screen or flow restrictor, flush the toilet, and open the sink faucets. If the pressure in the sink is acceptable, the house pressure is acceptable. Check the shower head separately because it has a flow restrictor.

Gas-Fired Water Heater

1) Water stains below the tank or in the burner compartment indicate a possible failure.

2) Burned paint on the cabinet indicates a problem in the burner compartment. The burner is not positioned correctly or the flame shield has failed. This is a fire hazard.

3) Excessive rust in the burner compartment and at the gas bonnet (top of the unit) indicates there is a possible drafting problem.

Information provided by Michael Del Greco, New Jersey Home Inspector Lic. GI 0121, American Society of Home Inspectors Member 102273, Pesident of Accurate Inspections, Inc. A West Paterson New Jersey Home Inspection firm.

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