Don't Buy an Older Home Without Asking These Plumbing Questions

Theron Young
Written by Theron Young
Updated May 28, 2015
Supply lines and shut off valves in older homes need to be checked by a professional, since even the highest quality versions last only 10 to 15 years. (Photo by Summer Galyan)

If you're considering the purchase of an older home, have a professional check the plumbing before you sign on the dotted line.

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Buying an older home can be a smart economic choice for some individuals. However, before any real estate transaction is concluded, make sure inspections are done by a plumbing professional. They’ll check for potential issues with water pressure and water heaters, along with drain lines, supply lines and shut off valves. 

Any remodeling additions should also be carefully scrutinized, since any and all of these are subject to either wear and tear or corrosion. Meanwhile, making sure everything is in working order can keep money going back into your pocket instead of down the drain. 

Below are a few important questions every potential buyer of an old home should ask regarding the home’s plumbing.

When was the last time the sewer line was checked by a licensed plumber?

Before the purchase of any home, make sure that the drain system and sewer line are thoroughly checked with both a video inspection and a sewer static test. The video should be able to provide a good idea of whether the line is broken and offset or has a low spot in it.

It can also check to see if there's a crack in the sewer line. If there is, it can serve as a magnet for tree roots to make their way inside. When that happens, the roots get the water they need, which means they continue to grow. As they continue to grow, it can result in clogging issues, but may also cause damage to the sewer line itself. In the latter case, that makes for a much higher repair bill.

The sewer static test will serve as a backup to anything that was not found on video, and generally deal with leaks. The cost to have these tests conducted is prohibitively less than realizing that you've just purchased damaged goods that will cost perhaps tens of thousands of dollars to fix.

Make sure you ask if any remodeling of the home has taken place and whether that work was done by a licensed contractor. Also, any permits and inspections that were properly completed by official authorities should be available.

RELATED: Does Insurance Cover Sewer Line Replacement?

What is the age of the water heater?

The most important questions in this category are to ask where and how old the current water heater is, and was it inspected by the governing entity. That information can be confirmed by a licensed plumber, who will also be able to spot if the circulation system was installed in the proper manner. He knows that water heaters in North Texas don't last more than 12 years, and those that are in attics need to be replaced after a decade. He can also point out any code violations.

What is the water pressure of the home?

A licensed professional will be able to quickly see if it's within the standard 60-80 pound range. Anything below 60 will make using multiple faucets harder, while the wear and tear from pressure above 80 will shorten the water heater’s lifespan or cause it to fail.

Knowing this in advance, and getting an accurate opinion on what repair costs might lie ahead can be important, since such a bill could end up costing you hundreds of dollars. Inadequate or excessive pressure can typically be corrected by installing or replacing a pressure reducing valve. 

RELATED: What Causes Low Water Pressure in My House?

How old are the shut off valves and supply lines?

The supply lines and shut off valves need to be checked by a professional, since even the highest quality versions last only 10 to 15 years, with the low budget varieties lasting half as long as that. Ignoring this area is not an option, since that could result in huge repair bills that stem from severe water damage from a busted valve or line. 

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As of May 28, 2015, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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