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Plumbing issues to look for when buying a new house are outlined below.  When you’re shopping for a new house, it is easy to get caught up in your aesthetic priorities and overlook things that are fundamental to your use of the house, such as plumbing.  If you are too busy looking at design features, like granite countertops, hardwood floors, and bay windows, you risk overlooking hidden problems that can cost you a fortune in the long run.  Save yourself the frustration of discovering your new home’s plumbing problems after you’ve closed on the house by identifying hidden issues ahead of time.  Pre-owned homes have been lived-in and likely have signs of aging and damage- problems potentially invisible to the naked eye.  Buying a home is a significant purchase, and consequently, you can inspect every corner of the property in detail, searching for problems.

Common plumbing issues to look for before purchasing a home include leaky toilets, brown ceiling stains, old leaking water heaters, slow drainage, and septic system issues.

Leaky Toilets

Plumbing issues to look for when buying a new house include flushing every toilet to find out if it is in good condition or if it is leaking from the bottom of the tank.Plumbing issues to look for when buying a new house

·        Listen to it: If it sounds like water is continuously running, it could indicate the chain or flapper needs to be replaced.

·        Feel the floor surrounding the toilet: If it feels soft, it could indicate that the toilet is leaking from the bottom, causing water damage to the floor.

·        Feel the bowl: If it wiggles when moved, it could indicate that rotting our loose seals are present due to leaking.

·        Look for damage in the area surrounding the toilet: If discoloration is present, it could indicate leaking and a rotting floor.

Water is a universal solvent, so it eventually wears down seals and gaskets.  A leaking toilet can rot through your floor.  To avoid this, periodically professionally replace seals and gaskets, and if the damage is already done, request the seller repair the issue and any damage caused, credit you money off the selling price to fix the problem yourself, or pass on the purchase of the house.

Brown Ceiling Stains

Examine the ceiling in every room.  Brown spots on the ceiling and walls are likely water stands that could indicate a leaky pipe or that the roof has leaked.

Old Water Heater

Plumbing issues to look for when buying a new house depend on the age of the house’s water heater.  Both the current homeowner and the real estate agent should know this.  If they don’t, a professional, experienced plumber can tell you how old it is based on the model and serial number.  If you’d rather find out yourself, you can learn how to decipher the code here[1].  The average lifespan of most water heaters is ten years.  If you purchase a home with a water heater that old, you will be the one spending $1,200 to $5,000 to replace it.  Ignoring the exact age of the water heater, corrosion, dampness, and a lack of hot water are all signs that a water heater is approaching the end of its life.  If left too long, the bottom of a water heater can give out and cause flooding.  This can be especially damaging if the water heater is in an area with carpeting, hardwood floor, or furniture that can be damaged by moisture.

Slow Drainage

Plumbing issues to look for when buying a new house include touring the house, turn on all faucets and showers, and flush the toilets.  The speed in which they drain is a good indicator of whether the drains are clogged with buildup or if there’s some other type of blockage somewhere within the plumbing.

Also, inspect your main sewer line for clogs.  Tree roots and other debris can clog this area and cause back-ups that can affect the plumbing system of the entire house.

Septic System

If the house has a septic system and a well-water system, it is best to hire a septic company to inspect these areas because they are intricate and require specialized knowledge.  When touring a house, find the septic tank location and note water, seepage, and unpleasant smells.

If you are uncomfortable assessing the plumbing of a house, call an experienced, licensed plumber.  Many will come out and inspect the house for free if it is under contract as a method of obtaining future business.  It is a good idea to also hire a home inspector to inspect your entire property for potential issues.  Spending a few hundred dollars now can save you a lot of money in the future.

The current homeowner is not obligated to fix these issues, but if any of these are present, they are fundamental and serious problems with the house, and the homeowner should either fix the issues or credit you a reduction in the purchase price of the house because you will need to fix them eventually.

Kelson Carter

Article reviewed by:

Kelson Carter, aka, The Prince of Plumbing

Kelson is a 3rd generation Plumbing Contractor. His family business is located in Greenwood, Indiana, and provides Residential Plumbing Service to the Indianapolis Metro market.

Kelson grew up watching his grandfather and father do plumbing. After graduating high school, Kelson went to Trade School and became a Licensed Master Plumber and Licensed Plumbing Contractor. He is also Certified in Backflow Prevention. He currently owns and operates Carter's My Plumber with his parents.


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