Plumbing: What to Look for When Buying an Old Home

Plumbing: What to Look for When Buying an Old Home

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Old Home Inspection Checklist, a Homeowner’s Guide

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When you first stepped across the threshold of your prospective older home, you fell in love. You could practically picture it all decorated, a fire roaring in the fireplace, and your family laughing and enjoying time together in your gorgeous home. But before you get too far down that fantasy path, you should be aware that there will be hidden costs before that perfect dream comes true…

One of Those Costs Could Be Plumbing

Kelley Moore, Lifestyle Expert and a home restoration junkie, sat down to talk with Brian Donovan,  Donovan & Sons Plumbing, Newport, Rhode Island   Most plumbers, like Brian, do not exclusively specialize in old home plumbing, but if the house is located in an older town, they will surely come across some of these issues and know how to address them.

As a prospective homeowner, the best way you’ll be able to is check out the materials and general condition of the pipes is visually. If you see any of the following red flags, you’ll want to get a plumber do a more in-depth inspection before buying the home.

Supply Line Piping: The pipes that bring the water into the house.

Open up the cabinets under the sinks in the bathrooms.  If you have a more recently used pex tubing, pvc or the older materials such as copper, brass or galvanized pipes, note the condition and if poor, ask when they were last updated.

Waste Piping: The pipes that remove the water and waste water from the house to the sewer line.

These pipes will either be cast iron, galvanized or lead. Ask if they homeowners knows when they were last updated. If there is lead piping, get rid of it here or anywhere else in the house.  Red flags would be pit marks, cracks or separated joints. In the case of cast iron, is there is rust on the outside, note that cast iron begins rusting from the inside out, so that would indicate that the pipes need replacing. 

The Sewer Line: The pipe that connects the house with the septic system or sewers.

You can see where the sewer line leaves the basement, but the material can differ once it connects with the towns pipes.   This is important because the homeowner is responsible for the pipes leaving the house to the town sewer lines. If the homeowner doesn’t know, ask the town if they have any historic records of what materials the pipes are made of and when they were last updated. If the pipes are made of orangeburg or clay they are old, and could have very possibly collapsed or cracked, leaving the possibility for roots to grow into the joints or dirt to filter in and potentially clog the pipe.  If you have any concerns, have your plumber use a c-snake, which is a camera that can be put it into the line, to assess the condition of the pipes. as well as trace it outside so you know where it is so if you ever have to do anything in the yard you’ll know how to avoid it.

The Water Main.  Carries the water from the public water system to the house.  If it was put in longer than 50 or 60 years, ago, chances are it could be  galvanized or lead piping and will have to be replaced. For the last 50 years, copper tubing has been used and in the last 20 to 30 years, plastic tubing has been used. You’l be in good shape with the latter.  Again, you’re responsible from the house to the street.

The Fixtures: Sinks, tubs, faucets, toilets.

If they are old and need to be renovated, try to identify the brands to see if you can source replacement parts which can be pricey and hard to find.  



Lead pipes have to be replaced no matter where they are.

All piping is your responsibility to fix until it leaves your property line.

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