Have you ever purchased something second hand and been really excited because it’s something you’ve always wanted and you’ve managed to get it at a reasonable price, and a few months down the track it’s failed or broken or there are some sort of major issues where you are going to have to fork out the unexpected big $$ to fix it. You kind of feel ripped off right, but I suppose that’s the risk we take when buying secondhand or used items.

Now the previous paragraph has set up the vibe of the article I can begin talking about what I’m really interested in sharing with you all.
Purchasing a home or rental or whatever type of living structure you’re after and tips for locating or preparing for possible plumbing problems down the track.

You see with plumbing the majority of the plumbing system is concealed either in walls, the roof or under the ground. Now in the roof it’s not too bad as its accessible but in the walls and under the ground, we don’t know what we’re getting ourselves into.

It’s always advisable to get a building inspector to inspect the property you are looking at, they should do a thorough job of the structural integrity, pest control, and functionality and legality of wiring, lighting, taps and fixtures those sorts of things. But they may not check a large portion of potential plumbing issues. The last thing we want is for your excitement of being a homeowner turn to stress within a few short months due to large costs to fix unforeseen plumbing problems.

Here’s some things to look for when inspecting your potential dream home.


Check the taps in the house to see if they turn on and off easily, with both hot and cold water. –

If they are hard to turn on and off this is relatively inexpensive they could just require new washers and lubrication of the tap spindles.

Is there any leaks visible or is there evidence of water leaks? –

Make sure you check in vanity cabinets slow leaks over a period of time can cause just as much damage as large leaks. Evidence of a slow leak may be damp shelving or swelling of wooden cabinets. If the house has wooden floors this leaking can also transfer onto the flooring causing rotting or weakening of floor boards. Also leaking around toilet bowl seals can be another problem and can be visible through the presence of water around the seal. If the toilet is over wooden flooring then this can compromise the flooring integrity.

Check the flexible hoses underneath basin and sink and on toilets. –

Flexible hoses hooking water from threaded fittings coming out of the wall to your taps are often hidden from view but now that you’re doing a thorough check of your future property now would be a good time to check the condition of these hoses to prevent future catastrophys. If hoses have rust present on the braided surface, frayed threads or are kinked over from being connected at a too tighter bend, then it’s a good idea to make a note and replace these before they cause water damage unexpectedly.

Burst flexible water hose.

Is water hammer present? –

Turn your taps on and off and listen for the hammering of water through your piping. This is caused when water stops or changes direction suddenly in your pipes and causes a shock wave of pressure resulting in noise and vibration of piping. If you do hear noises a bit of investigative work from a plumber as to the source of the vibration will be required.

Hot water delivery time. –

Depending on how far away the particular fixture is from the hot water unit will determine the time it takes for hot water to be supplied out of the tap. As a general rule fixtures with hot water supply shouldn’t be more than 20 meters from the hot water unit for efficient supply of hot water. If your hot water takes forever to come through your taps this can be costing you money on your water bill as you wait for water to turn hot. If this is a problem then a redesign of the hot water delivery system may an option but will come at a cost.


Slow draining fixtures –

Run your sinks, basins, baths, showers and flush your toilets. If these are slow draining its possible your drains may be clogged. If when flushing the toilets the bowl fills up then slowly drains, this is also an indication of a blockage. Any gurgling or noises from the drains when draining indicates a blockage somewhere. Depending on the blockage this could also become an unwanted future expense.

Galvanized discharge drains –

1950’s to 70’s houses may have galvanized discharge drains for fixture pipes. A quick check outside the kitchen or laundry usually can clear this up, as they will be clipped along the outside walls or run under ground into disconnector gullies. These old galvanized pipes are prone to rusting over time and the internals of the pipe eventually close up on itself through corrosion. The pipes become blocked and require maintenance or replacement when this happens.

Corroded galvanized pipe.


Old earthenware pipe. –

One problem that you can encounter particularly with older houses, is earthenware sewer pipes. This is terracotta looking pipe. This piping system is prone to tree root intrusion, and once they have entered the pipe it doesn’t matter how many times you get the drain unblocked, tree roots will continue to grow back. Resulting in a costly fix. Eg replacement with PVC. To find out if you have earthenware drains a quick check of the sewer shaft if its easy to locate or the overflow relief gully outside the kitchen or laundry usually, you should be able to see the top of the earthenware piping.

Earthenware overflow relief gully.

Old problems. –

Sometimes there can be some evidence of previous drainage problems. These can be identified in the form of cuts and patches in concrete or other substrate material pathways around the house.


Galvanized gas pipe. –

Having a house with old galvanized gas pipe clipped to the outside walls can present a problem further down the track. If you are looking to renovate in the future and need gas pipes moved or new connections cut in then you can almost guarantee to factor in the replacement and installation of a whole new gas piping system. These old galvanized gas pipes tend to leak and when a gas fitter tests his or hers new installation replacement of leaking galvanized sections is almost always required.

Old Galvanized gas pipe.


One of the first things to do when checking the hot water system is to look at the compliance plate or sticker for the units age, as most hot water units have a life span of 10 years when unmaintained or up to 15 years when regularly serviced, which is rarely done. If, when we done the previous test where we turned on the taps for hot water, any of the water was to look brown or discoloured this may indicate a rusting of the water storage tank and will need replacing. Also check the tank for any visible corrosion.

Date of manufacture visible on compliance plate.

Pull the PTR valve on the side of the tank to make sure that it works correctly and discharges water out the relief pipe, this is done with the pressure temp. relief valve and cold water relief valve. Also check the isolation valve to the water heater is operating correctly. To replace a hot water unit can range anywhere from $1500 to $3500 depending on the type.

So there’s my list of items you can look for when inspecting a potential home. I hope this helps in some way and saves you a few dollars and heart ache along the way.

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