Plumbing Systems

plumbing defects

I evaluate all plumbing systems and their components in accordance with State or industry standards, which include testing for adequate pressure and functional flow. All plumbing systems have common components but they are never uniform. In addition to fixtures, components typically consist of gas pipes, potable water pipes, waste and vent pipes, shut-off valves, pressure regulators, and pressure relief valves that I do not test or dismantle during your home inspection.


I highly recommend a thorough safety check of all gas-using appliances by public utility before close of escrow. Gas companies typically (but not always), conduct this service free of charge. A visual inspection of the gas service systems and components did not reveal any major defects or leaks at the time of the inspection unless I noted it in the Plumbing section (Page 15, #9) of your home inspection report.


The best and most dependable water supply pipes are copper, because they are not subject to the build-up of excessive minerals that bond to the inside of old galvanized pipes that can gradually reduce the inner diameter of the pipe and restrict the volume of water. A water softener will remove most of these minerals, but not once they are bonded within the pipes, for which there would be no remedy other than to re-pipe the problematic area. The water pressure within the pipes is commonly confused with water volume, but whereas high water volume is good, high water pressure is not. In fact, whenever the street pressure exceeds eighty pounds per square inch, a regulator is recommended at the water main shut-off area, which typically comes factory preset between fifty-five and sixty five pounds per inch. However, regardless of the pressure, leaks will occur in any system and particularly in one with older galvanized pipes and commonly when the regulator fails and high pressure begins to stress the washers and diaphragms within the various components.


I attempt to evaluate all waste pipes by flushing every drain that has an active fixture while observing its draw and watching for blockages or slow drains, and listening for gurgling. This is not a conclusive test and only a video-scan of the main waste line would confirm its actual present condition. However, you can be sure that blockages will occur, usually relative in severity to the age of the system, and will range from minor clogs in the branch lines, or at the traps beneath the sinks, tubs and showers to major blockages in the main waste line. The minor clogs are easily cleared by a licensed Massachusetts Plumber, either by chemical means, a snake tool or by removing and cleaning out the traps. However, if tree roots grow into the main waste pipe that connects the house to the public sewer, repairs could become very expensive and might include excavating and replacing the entire main line.

For these reasons, I recommend that you ask the Sellers if they have ever experienced any drainage problems, or you may wish to simply have the main waste line video-scanned before the close of escrow. Failing this, you should obtain an insurance policy that covers blockages and damage to the main waste line. However, most policies will only cover plumbing repairs within the house or the cost of a rooter service, which are usually relatively inexpensive. No attempt is made (on my behalf) to locate all drainage clean-out caps.


Corrosion build-up is often present on pipes and valves in sink cabinets, at toilets, and at the water heater. Although corrosion is common, it can indicate leaks, static electric charges on metal pipes, dissimilar material connections (typically between two different metals), and/or chemical storage nearby, particularly in sink cabinets; other causes also are possible. Such corrosion build-up in all visible areas might not be noted in your home inspection report because it is such a common occurrence. However, a significant build-up of corrosion could be concealing an active leak, although the leak in such cases usually is minor. Remember, though, that neglecting a minor leak can result in a major leak. At that point, it could lead to major water damage and significant Mold or Mildew buildup.

What might have been considered light corrosion on the day of the home inspection could have been the start of a problem and a more serious build-up of corrosion could be present by the time escrow closes. Any pipes that have corrosion should be properly cleaned and inspected by a licensed Plumber. Check the pipes and valves in the sink cabinets before storing items in those cabinets. Regular homeowner monitoring and maintenance is very easy to accomplish.


Shower Pans are visually checked for leakage, but leaks often do not show except when the shower is in actual use. Determining whether shower pans and tub/shower surrounds are water tight is beyond the scope of my home inspection. It is very important to maintain all grouting and silicone in all bath areas.



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Buying a home is arguably the most important, exciting and nerve-wracking purchase a person will ever make.  This is the reason you need a great home inspector, and Dave Valley is just that.  He is empathetic – he understands and appreciates the various emotions a potential home-buyer goes through.  Most importantly, Dave provides you with objective information so you can make the most informed decision possible. 


It was a pleasure working with Dave – he contains all the qualities that make a great home inspector – he is the consummate professional, prompt, courteous, meticulous in his detail and honest.  Dave was reasonably priced – in fact Dave charged me the same amount I spent 10 years earlier on a smaller house and provided a far better work product. 


I arrived at the house at the agreed upon time on a cold and nasty day, and found Dave outside inspecting the exterior of the home.  He was already a half hour into his inspection – I think this exemplifies and is symbolic of the fact that Dave is respectful of his client’s time. 


Dave was pleasant to deal with, personable and thoughtful not only to his client but also to the buyer’s real estate agent.  


Dave spent almost four hours in his investigation of a 2,000 square foot house.  He answered all my questions and reviewed every observation he had with me.  David provided a detailed report, and encouraged me to call and email him to discuss the report and to ask questions. 


The highest compliment I can give Dave is to say that I would use him again and will encourage and recommend him to others. 

Michael S. Giaimo


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Last updated on  Feb 28, 2013