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.

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.

Signs You Might Need a New Sewer Line

sewer cover PixabyWhen thinking about household plumbing, your sewer line is likely not on the top of your list, and that is because it is largely invisible to you.  Your sewer line, which is buried completely underground, is the part of your plumbing system that carries the waste water out of your home.

Because of the location and function of your sewer line, there are a number of ways that it can malfunction.  For example, tree roots in your yard can break through the pipes, and shifting soil can cause a sewer line to completely collapse.  Both of the aforementioned reasons can also cause leaking and cracking in the pipes, if not total destruction.  Finally, with all of the drains in your home feeding into one main sewer line, it is subject to becoming severely clogged.  If a complete clog occurs, the resulting building water pressure will cause the pipe to burst.

You may wonder how you can possibly know if your sewer line is having issues since you can’t see it with your own eyes.  However, there are three distinct above-ground indicators that you might need to replace your sewer line.  The first, and most obvious, is an odor of sewage coming from your drains or your yard.  The second is patches in your yard that are unexplainably raised and soggy, which could represent the location of a leak in the sewer line.  The third would be if you notice your sinks, bathtubs, and showers are all draining more slowly than usual, as that could indicate a clog in the sewer line.

If you suspect your sewer line may need to be replaced, you should call a licensed plumber right away to request a camera inspection of your pipes.  They will run a waterproof camera through your pipes to accurately pinpoint any issues in your underground lines and let you know what needs to be corrected.

Sewer Line Damage

photo courtesy of scotthomeinspection.com
photo courtesy of scotthomeinspection.com

A sewer line is the main pipe that carries sewage out of your house for transport to treatment or disposal.  If this line becomes clogged or damaged, it can result in raw sewage backing up out of the drains and into your home.  This is not only unsanitary, but can lead to significant damage to your property.

There are a variety of situations which can cause your sewer pipes to develop cracks.  While many are outside of your control, you should nonetheless be aware of them.  These include frequent ground freezes and thaws, tree root intrusion, your house and the ground around it settling over time, a backup from a city controlled sewer line, or the unavoidable aging of your house’s pipes.  One cause of sewer line cracks that is within your control is digging in the wrong place.  (To avoid this, call Georgia 811 before doing any digging in your yard.)  Another is lack of maintenance to the pipes on your part.  That includes letting food, grease, hair, and other items go down your drains and into your pipes. This causes buildup in the pipes that makes it more difficult for water to pass through, and the increased pressure will eventually lead to cracks. [Read more…]

Why You Should Call a Plumber for a Smelly Garbage Disposal

photo courtesy of homemd.com
photo courtesy of homemd.com

If you have a smell coming from your garbage disposal that no amount of baking soda can diminish, it is highly recommended that you call a licensed plumber.  Unfortunately, a stinky garbage disposal can be a sign of a serious sewer gas leak in your home. A plumbing professional will have the necessary equipment to see if the source of the stench is your sewer.  If it is not, he or she can move on to finding the origin of the smell and correcting the problem.

Once your garbage disposal has returned to an odorless state, there are many steps you can take to ensure it stays that way. [Read more…]