Plumbing may be out of sight – but it’s not out of mind when it comes to home inspections. If you’re looking to buy a home, you should be aware of potential plumbing problems, because after the sale, all repairs will be your responsibility. And if you’re the seller, it’s good to identify and address problems before they hurt the sale.

The biggest problems detected during home inspections are moisture and drainage issues, which lead to dry rot, structural damage and mold. Inadequate water pressure, slow drains and signs of leak stains can indicate problems with the plumbing. Inspection for moisture may include air quality testing to see if there are mold spores in the air.

Pipe problems

In older homes, things like tree root growth can stop up pipes. Other common defects include outdated or problematic systems.

Illegal pipes

Polyethylene (PE) pipes are allowed only for home use with regards to water pressure tanks and main water turn-off valves, and are illegal for any other usage. The polybutylene (PB) pipes have been completely banned in the U.S. since 2010.

Polybutylene pipes

Polybutylene is a type of plastic resin used to manufacture water pipes from 1978 to 1995 as an inexpensive alternative to copper. Now it’s believed that oxidants like chlorine in public water supplies cause this material to become brittle, resulting in micro-fractures that may cause system failure and damage to building structure and personal property.

Galvanized pipes

Prior to the 1960s, many homes had galvanized pipes installed. These were lead pipes covered with a layer of zinc. However, the zinc erodes over time and there’s a risk of lead leeching into your water supply.

Broken pipes

Pipes can become broken by accidentally crushing a drain line with your car, or cracking a pipe during a do-it-yourself project.

Rusty pipes

Rust build-up in or around pipes can cause blockage or reduced household water pressure and flow.

Sewer line clogs

A backup, gurgling sounds, and/or slow draining issues, usually indicates a clogged sewer line. A clog in your main sewer line makes it hard for waste to exit your home and can cause water to back up through the piping, resulting in leaks. The most common cause for these clogs is tree root growth, and that will only get worse with time if it’s not addressed.

Leaks inside the walls

Plumbing pipes run behind walls where they are not obvious. A slow leak not only increases your water bill, but over time, can destroy drywall and flooring and cause the growth of mold/mildew. It’s important to have a professional inspect the interior properly.

Water heater issues

Water heaters are expensive to replace, and you can be dealing with early damage if you have the following issues:

  • Wrong size unit
  • High water pressure
  • Improperly functioning thermostats
  • Sediment build-up
  • Internal rust

Call in the professionals

Some of these plumbing issues are obvious, and some less so, but all are relatively common, and plumbing professionals are trained to find them. It’s best to have the information you need when buying or selling your home, because something missed could later cost you dearly.