Purchasing a Home? Check the Plumbing!

New Home Key Showing Moving Into House

It is always advisable to hire a licensed home inspector to check out every aspect of a home you wish to purchase.  Increasingly, consumers are additionally protecting themselves by requesting home warranties, which will cover expenses not billable under homeowner’s insurance for a certain amount of time after purchase.  These are excellent steps to take, as plumbing problems can be completely out of sight one minute and disastrous the next.  It is estimated that 44 percent of consumers have to call a plumber within the first year of home ownership.  In the hopes that this will not happen to you, there are some things you can check for signs of plumbing difficulties ahead during the inspection phase.

  • Check the yard of the home for any areas that appear excessively wet or which have odd plant growth. This can be a sign of standing water coming from a leaking pipe.
  • You may wish to hire a licensed plumber to perform a video inspection of the underground sewer pipes to check for any current or potential future problems.
  • In the kitchen, make sure the garbage disposal and dishwasher connections are tight. Check the flow of water in the faucet, as well as the areas under the sink for any signs of water damage.
  • Inspect the water heater for rust. Additionally, check the age of the tank, as any heater over 15 years old will need to be replaced.
  • Locate the main line cleanout and be sure it is easily accessible.
  • Check any exposed piping in the basement for signs of leaks or repairs.
  • In the bathroom, check the flow of water in the bathtub and sink. Flush the toilet, then look around it for any signs of water damage. Place your feet on either side of the toilet; if the ground there feels soft, the floorboards are weakened or rotting due to a water leak.

Water Conservation Tips

Image courtesy of Dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In today’s environmentally conscious world, water conservation has become a global conversation.  No one is immune from water concerns.  For example, the Environmental Protection Agency reports that “even though Georgia’s high average rainfall is usually enough to recharge its aquifers, the combination of recent droughts and increased demand have strained the state’s groundwater resources,” causing decreased water pressure and concerns about saltwater entering fresh drinking water.

When it comes to water conservation, small steps can make a big difference.  Consider implementing the following tips in your daily life.

  • If you must water your lawn in the summer, do so at night when the air is coolest, thus decreasing the chances of the water evaporating before it hits the ground. Additionally, you can purchase an inexpensive timer that will automatically shut off your outside faucet after a set period of time in case you forget to do so.
  • Read your water meter at a time when no water is being used in your home, then return about 8 hours later and check it again. If the meter has moved, it is possible you have an undetected water leak in your home that needs to be fixed.
  • Check the temperature of your water heater. It should not be above 120 degrees Fahrenheit or medium temperature.  If it is, contact a licensed plumber to have it adjusted.
  • Immediately fix any leaky faucets you have in your home. Did you know that just one drip per second can add up to more than 8 gallons of water waste in a single day?
  • Replace your older shower heads with new lower flow models to save over 7 gallons of water per minute of usage.
  • Contact your water provider to find out the level of water pressure in your home. If it is above 60 pounds per square inch, call a licensed plumber to install a pressure reducing valve.

Homeowner Plumbing Tips

Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Apartment living definitely has some perks, the biggest of which is the ability to simply call maintenance when something in your unit breaks.  However, once you buy a home, anything that breaks is yours to fix.  With some advanced planning, you can have everything you need to resolve minor plumbing problems at the ready when they happen to you.

Your first order of business is definitely to assemble a plumbing kit for your home.  It should contain a plunger to unclog drains, duct tape for fast triage on stubborn leaks, a screwdriver, and heavy duty paper rolls which can be sued to absorb leaks off of the floor.  Another thing you should have handy is a set of hex keys, also known as Allen keys.  These are essential for tightening small nuts and bolts in confined spaces.  You should also purchase and use strainers on your drains to keep soap, hair, and other items from entering and clogging your pipes.

Next, you should familiarize yourself with where the main shut off valves for gas and water are in your home.  Should you experience a leak of water or gas, it’s extremely important to be able to locate those valves and shut them off quickly.

Finally, here are a few tricks to have up your sleeve for later.

  • If your toilet won’t flush, you can fill a bucket halfway with water and dump it into the toilet bowl. This should serve to clear the toilet until you can have the issue fixed.
  • A plunger can be used to unclog a blocked drain or a sink. If the plunger does not work on the sink, you can remove the u-shaped pipe in the bottom to clear out the blockage.
  • Always have the information for a local licensed plumber at the ready in case you need help.

Summer Plumbing Problems

Image courtesy of pupunkkop at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of pupunkkop at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

With the news media reminding us each of every year, it is fairly well known that significant problems, such as frozen and bursting pipes, can be brought on by winter weather.  However, what you may not know is that there are several plumbing problems that happen more commonly in the summer months than any other time of year.

The first plumbing issue that arises more often in the summer is a clogged garbage disposal.  First, the disposal tends to get a tougher workout in the summer months, when you are more likely to be entertaining at home.  Second, summer fruit and vegetable remains such as watermelon rinds and corn husks can wreak havoc on the blades of the disposal.  Finally, you may be making the mistake of dumping dirty grease down the sink after grilling out, which will coat the blades and cause buildup on them.  Be sure to run cold water before and after using the disposal to help clear out the food.  Grinding some ice cubes can help to remove any buildup on the blades.

Another thing you may find breaks down more frequently in the summer is your washing machine.  Between the kids being home from school, trips to the beach and the pool, and summer vacations, you may find yourself doing twice as much laundry as usual.  It’s advisable to only run the washing machine when you are home, so you can stop the cycle immediately if you notice any problems.

Finally, a third plumbing issue that often arises in the summer is sewer line backups.  If you live in an area with excessive rainfall, it can cause damage to the pipes in two ways.  First, any shifting soil around the pipes can cause them to crack.  Next, once the cracks occur, excess rainwater can seep in through them, thereby causing the sewer line to back up.  If you discover water backing up into any drain in your home, you should call a licensed plumber immediately.

Plumbing Tips for Homeowners

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For the majority of home plumbing issues, it is best to contact a licensed plumber for investigation and repair.  However, there are some cases where you can safely attempt to repair a plumbing issue on your own before calling in the professionals.  Some examples are below.

If your shower head seems to be clogged, it could be because mineral deposits from hard water are blocking the holes the spray comes from.  Try removing the shower head and placing it in a bowl of warm vinegar for one hour.  You should find that most of the mineral deposits are dissolved, and anything remaining can be removed with an old toothbrush.

If your kitchen sink is backed up, the most likely culprit is the garbage disposal, as it can get clogged when grease or fibrous vegetables cling to the blades.  Before you attempt to unclog it, you need to turn off the power to the disposal via your circuit box.  Even with the power shut off, you should NEVER stick your hand into the disposal.  Instead, use a pair of tongs to pull out the debris, then flush the disposal thoroughly with warm water.  If your kitchen sink is clogged and you do not have a garbage disposal, you can try to loosen the material clogging the drain with a small plunger.

If your kitchen sink sprayer is getting stuck, it is a very simple fix.  The sprayer’s lengthy hose is likely getting wrapped around pipes and valves under the sink. Placing some half-inch foam pipe insulation around the pipes and valves should correct this problem.

If you discover a leaking pipe, it requires your immediate attention and triage.  You should first shut off the water supply to that pipe.  Then, wrap a sheet of rubber around the leaking area and clamp it down with either a sleeve clamp or an adjustable hose clamp.  Once you have the leak under control, call a licensed plumber for a full repair.