Home Inspections & Your Plumbing

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Plumbing can be defined as practice, materials, and fixtures used in the installation, maintenance, and alteration of all piping, fixtures, appliances, and appurtenances in connection with sanitary or storm drainage facilities, the venting system, and the public or private water supply systems in residential homes. A home inspection of your Plumbing system does not include the trade of drilling water wells, installing water softening equipment. A plumbing system typically consists of three separate parts: an adequate potable water supply system, a safe, adequate drainage system and ample fixtures and equipment.

The home inspector not only looks for defects such as seepage, leaks, and drips in the system. It helps to be able to inform the customer how the entire system is affected, what repairs are needed, and when actions should be taken.

The home inspector will provide a visual inspection of the setting of fixtures (bathtub, water closet, lavatory, kitchen sink, etc.). The inspector looks for proper fixture setting and alignment, proper caulking around fixtures, and acceptable shower valves, etc.

The plumbing is more than just the pipes. The water has to be turned on and off, the flow rate needs to be controlled, and the water temperature needs to be adjusted.

Finding and fixing leaks will save money on water and energy bills. Furthermore, water damage to floors and the foundation is all too common and must be dealt with to prevent further problems.

Plumbing fixtures, valves and controls are responsible to supply, contain and disopose of water. Some fixtures have a one handle control. Other fixtures have a separate control for hot and cold water. Some bathtub fixtures have additional controls to set whether the water comes out of the tub spout or shower head. Checking a plumbing fixture may seem relatively easy, but it is more than just seeing if the fixture either leaks or does not leak.

Plumbing Defect Pictures

Polybutylene (PB) is a plastic manufactured between 1978 and 1994 for use as piping in home plumbing systems. It offered plenty of advantages over other materials such as flexibility, ease of installation, resistance to freezing, and it was inexpensive. Pipes made from polybutylene were installed in 6 to 10 million homes in the Unites States during that period. Despite its strengths, production was ceased in 1994 after scores of allegations surfaced claiming that polybutylene pipes were rupturing and causing property damage. In the homes that still contain this material, homeowners must either pay to have the pipes replaced or risk a potentially expensive plumbing failure.

Leaking Pipes

Copper water supply line is leaking where dissimilar clamp was used to secure line. Dissimilar metals and alloys have differentelectrode potentials; and when two or more come into contact in an electrolyte a galvanic couple is set up, one metal acting as anode and the other as cathode. When there are mixed metals in piping (for example, copper and cast iron), galvanic corrosion will contribute to accelerated corrosion of the system.

Pex Supply Lines

Pex style plumbing pipe is a cross-linked polyethylene pipe. After going through several processes, the material becomes durable for extreme temperatures (hot or cold), creep deformation which happens from long-term exposure to stress, and chemical attack from acids, alkalies and the like. All of this makes PEX an excellent piping substance for hot and cold water systems, especially since PEX is flexible and well adapted for temperatures below freezing all the way up to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Pex plumbing does not conduct heat as does copper so is more energy efficent, less fittings are used, so is also less expensive to install. Most important PEX resists the scale build-up common with copper pipe, and does not pit or corrode when exposed to acidic water. Copper tends to oxidize and collect minerals on the interior of pipe and after years the build up will reduce water flow in pipes.

Hot Water Tank Vent

In Ontario, beginning on August 2007, the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) has adopted new national code requirements regarding the installation of plastic venting systems for gas burning appliances such as water heaters, boilers and furnaces. PVC, CPVC or ABS piping has been used for many years but there have been reported cases of failure due to cracking, melting etc. causing potential unsafe conditions as a result of carbon monoxide leaking into the home. To address this situation the national installation code for natural gas and propane appliances has been revised. The new code stipulates that only plastic piping certified as gas vent (standard ULC S636) can be used for all installations of new and replacement natural gas and propane appliances. Existing applications will not be affected unless there is a safety issue or the existing vent has deteriorated. Prior to having repair work done or your tank replaced it would be wise to ask for quotes on replacement of vent piping as costs can vary considerably between companies.

Preventive Maintenance for Plumbing

Drain problems are never good. They disrupt the daily use of plumbing in your home and require immediate attention. One of the worst, however, is when a total blockage of the drain pipes occurs. This is what has happened when you find backed up water in your sinks, bathtubs and toilets. With drainage, the more serious the problem, the more costly it will get for the homeowner. The best way to avoid this is preventive care.

Although it is possible to clear up a simple hairball or grease clog in your local drain yourself, when there is a stubborn blockage do-it-yourself techniques just won't do the trick. Commercial acid-based clog removers (e.g. Draino or Liquid Plumber) can be harmful to yourself, your pipes and the environment, and they rarely solve the problem for very long. If you have PVC pipes, acid products can actually destroy the cement which bonds pipes together, causing much larger problems. Snaking the drain yourself may work, but if the blockage is closer to the city sewer system, a typical local drain snake will not be able to get to the problem.

In every case, depending on the severity of the clog, fixing it can become expensive and time consuming, so the best way to save yourself time and money is through good drain preventive maintenance.

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Air Chambers
Pressure absorbing devices that eliminate water hammer. They should be installed as close as possible to the valves or faucet and at the end of long runs of pipe.

Air Gap (Drainage System)
The unobstructed vertical distance through the free atmosphere between the outlet of a water pipe and the flood level rim of the receptacle into which it is discharging.

Air Gap (Water Distribution System)
The unobstructed vertical distance through the free atmosphere between the lowest opening from any pipe or faucet supplying water to a tank, plumbing fixture, or other device and the flood level rim of the receptacle.

Air Lock
An air lock is a bubble of air which restricts the flow of water in a pipe.

The flow of water or other liquids, mixtures, or substances into the distributing pipes of a potable water supply from any source or sources other than the intended source. Back siphonage is one type of backflow.

Back Siphonage
The flowing back of used, contaminated, or polluted water from a plumbing fixture or vessel into a potable water supply due to a negative pressure in the pipe.

Any part of the piping system other than the main, riser, or stack.

Branch Vent
A vent connecting one or more individual vents with a vent stack.

Building Drain
The part of the lowest piping of a drainage system that receives the discharge from soil, waste, or other drainage pipes inside the walls of the building (house) and conveys it to the building sewer beginning 3 feet outside the building wall.
Cross Connection
Any physical connection or arrangement between two otherwise separate piping systems, one of which contains potable water and the other either water of unknown or questionable safety or steam, gas, or chemical whereby there may be a flow from one system to the other, the direction of flow depending on the pressure differential between the two systems. (See Backflow and Back siphonage.)

Disposal Field
An area containing a series of one or more trenches lined with coarse aggregate and conveying the effluent from the septic tank through vitrified clay Pine or perforated, non-metallic pipe, laid in such a manner that the flow will be distributed with reasonable uniformity into natural soil.
Any pipe that carries waste water or water-borne waste in a building (house) drainage system.
Flood Level Rim
The top edge of a receptacle from which water overflows.
Flushometer Valve
A device that discharges a predetermined quantity of water to fixtures for flushing purposes and is closed by direct water pressures.
Flush Valve
A device located at the bottom of the tank for flushing water closets and similar fixtures.
Grease Trap
See Interceptor.
Hot Water
Potable water that is heated to at least 120�F and used for cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, and bathing.
Contrary to sanitary principles injurious to health.
A device designed and installed so as to separate and retain deleterious, hazardous, or undesirable matter from normal wastes and permit normal sewage or liquid wastes to discharge into the drainage system by gravity.
An exterior drainage pipe for conveying storm water from roof or gutter drains to the building storm drain, combined building sewer, or other means of disposal.
Main Vent
The principal artery of the venting system, to which vent branches may be connected.
Main Sewer
See Public Sewer.
The word pertains to devices making use of compressed air as in pressure tanks boosted by pumps.
Potable Water
Water having no impurities present in amounts sufficient to cause disease or harmful physiological effects and conforming in its bacteriological and chemical quality to the requirements of the Public Health Service drinking water standards or meeting the regulations of the public health authority having jurisdiction.
P & T (Pressure and Temperature) Relief Valve
A safety valve installed on a hot water storage tank to limit temperature and pressure of the water.
P Trap
A trap with a vertical inlet and a horizontal outlet.
Public Sewer
A common sewer directly controlled by public authority.
Relief Vent
An auxiliary vent that permits additional circulation of air in or between drainage and vent systems.
Septic Tank
A watertight receptacle that receives the discharge of a building's sanitary drain system or part thereof and is designed and constructed so as to separate solid from the liquid, digest organic matter through a period of detention, and allow the liquids to discharge into the soil outside of the tank through a system of open-joint or perforated piping, or through a seepage pit.
Sewerage System
A sewerage system comprises all piping, appurtenances, and treatment facilities used for the collection and disposal of sewage, except plumbing inside and in connection with buildings served and the building drain.
Soil Pipe
The pipe that directs the sewage of a house to the receiving sewer, building drain, or building sewer.
Soil Stack
The vertical piping that terminates in a roof vent and carries off the vapors of a plumbing system.
Stack Vent
An extension of a solid or waste stack above the highest horizontal drain connected to the stack. Sometimes called a waste vent or a soil vent.
Storm Sewer
A sewer used for conveying rain water, surface water, condensate. cooling water, or similar liquid waste.
A trap is a fitting or device that provides a liquid seal to prevent the emission of sewer gases without materially affecting the flow of sewage or waste water through it.
Vacuum Breaker
A device to prevent backflow (back siphonage) by means of an opening through which air may be drawn to relieve negative pressure (vacuum).
Vent Stack
The vertical vent pipe installed to provide air circulation to and from the drainage system and that extends through one or more stories.
Water Hammer
The loud thump of water in a pipe when a valve or faucet is suddenly closed.
Water Service Pipe
The pipe from the water main or other sources of potable water supply to the water-distributing system of the building served.
Water Supply System
The water supply system consists of the water service pipe, the water-distributing pipes, the necessary connecting pipes, fittings, control valves, and all appurtenances in or adjacent to the building or premises.
Wet Vent
A vent that receives the discharge of waste other than from water closets.
Yoke Vent
A pipe connecting upward from a soil or waste stack to a vent stack for the purpose of preventing pressure changes in the stacks.