There are hundreds of factors that people consider when buying a new house, but it’s easy to overlook something as basic – and as expensive to fix – as the plumbing.
Here are a few steps you can to take to spot potential plumbing problems before you sign a contract:
Bathrooms are where most plumbing problems crop up.
Check the toilet for leaks. Put a few drops of dark food coloring in the tank of the toilet. Leave the toilet undisturbed for 20 minutes or so, and if none of the color has made it to the bowl by that time, the tank is probably not leaking.
Don’t forget to flush! Wad up a couple handfuls of toilet paper and flush them away – a weak-flushing toilet can be a real disappointment.
Inspect the locations on walls and floors behind the toilet and under the sink. You should look for any repair work or warping apparent on the surfaces and signs of dripping under the sink. Run your hand along the water lines and drains – they may be cool to the touch if they’re metal, but they shouldn’t be wet at all.
The kitchen is another big water user in the house with some of the more heavily used plumbing fixtures.
Carefully inspect the incoming and outgoing water lines under the sink. Fill up the sink completely and then let it drain while you watch the p-trap drain underneath. If there’s a garbage disposal, run it while you do this. The area under the sink should still be completely dry.
If there’s a dishwasher in the kitchen, it probably drains into the sink drain, so if possible, run the dishwasher long enough for it to rinse and drain to be sure that nothing is leaking.
If water is leaking between the walls of the house, chances are there will be evidence in the basement.
If the basement is unfinished, you should be able to see where the water lines run through the walls above. Pay special attention to joints and splits looking for signs of leakage or repair.
If the basement is finished, look for water stains on the ceiling or evidence of repairs.
Check around the baseboards of the basement for evidence of water damage. A basement that has a history of flooding could be a red flag for any of a number of drainage problems from a defective or underpowered sump pump to poor exterior drainage.
Look for well-maintained gutters and downspouts with a clear path at the bottom of the downspouts for water to be led away from the house.
Take note of the slope of the yard and surrounding properties. A flat property surrounded by hills could be subject to seasonal flooding if the yard doesn’t drain properly.
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Angelo DiGangi is a Chicago-area sales associate at Home Depot. Angelo contributes often to Home Depot’s website, and writes on home improvement topics ranging from plumbing fixtures to bathroom sinks.