Buying an Older Home? Ask About the Plumbing!

Q: Some friends of mine bought a house about 6 months ago and they’ve already had lots of plumbing problems. It seems strange to me because they had a home inspection done. Wouldn’t those problems show up in the inspection?

A: Sorry to hear about your friends’ plumbing problems. It’s frustrating to move into a house only to have things breaking down right away.

If the home in question is a new build, check with the builder and contractor about covering the cost of the repairs. Builders that want a good reputation will address these issues.

If the home is older, know that all kinds of issues can exist behind the drywall and under the ground. Always, always ask about what plumbing issues the home has had in the past. And while you’re at it, ask about the heater and air conditioners, too. The age of the equipment is a major factor as to whether problems may show themselves.

My wife did a remodel on a home built in the 1930’s. That house was full of surprises, including the plumbing. For starters, homes that are over 25 to 30 years old will likely have clay or concrete sewer lines. Chances are good that these materials have deteriorated over time, unlike newer PVC pipes. Tree roots can more easily infiltrate clay or concrete. Which brings us to another thing you should consider when buying a (new) older home.

Consider paying a professional plumbing company to do a sewer line inspection. Most standard home inspections don’t include this. Repairs to sewer lines can cost a lot of money. If you have any doubt at all about potential blockages or root infiltration in the sewer lines, it’s worth paying for a camera inspection. They will snake a line with a camera attached to show you where, if any, you have problems.

While there are fewer basement homes in West Texas than in the Midwest, if the home you’re considering has a basement, ask if it’s ever had leaks or if it has flooded. If those “once in a hundred years” experiences never ever happened to anyone then we wouldn’t have stories about flooded basements. When you’re doing your own visual, look for cracks and water stains. If the basement is finished, water stains are an indicator there could be mold behind the drywall.

Though you won’t use them much in West Texas, if you’re buying a home that has a basement with a sink or bathroom, it’s advisable to make sure it’s equipped with a sump pump. Everything’s bigger in Texas, including those rare rains that dump 5 inches in two days. Like the one we had in Lubbock earlier this year. That much rain, that fast, will find the cracks and you’ll own the neighborhood’s only indoor water park.

One more thing…if your home has a basement with a sink or bathroom in it, make sure the plumbing has a backflow preventer on the sewer line. Without one, should there ever be a back up of the line, you’ll have the biggest mess you never wanted to experience.

Asking the right plumbing questions before you make the purchase of a home can make the difference between “home sweet home” and “money pit”. The professionals at Sinclair will be happy to answer any questions you have. Give them a call at 806-749-COOL (2665)

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