Where do Home Inspectors find the most deficiencies?
From my experience as a certified home inspector, the three areas of a home that have the greatest number of defects are plumbing systems, electrical systems and water intrusion. In this article I will cover the plumbing system. In future articles we will discuss defects in the electrical system, and water intrusion.
Many plumbing leaks are not easily found because they are small and not readily noticeable until a lot of damage is done. For example, 2 out of every 10 inspections we have done have some type of water leak under the kitchen sink. Usually, we store items in the sink cabinet, and they are seldom used. A small leak can go undetected for months before it’s discovered. Most homeowners tell us that they were unaware of the leak. We have found leaks under bathroom sinks as well, however it seems to be more prevalent under kitchen sinks.
The leak or leaks can come from many different areas under the sink; the P-trap, the drain assembly, faucets and the water supply pipe and valves. In some cases we have found that the leak is coming from the dishwasher discharge hose, therefore you can only find where the leak is coming from when the dishwasher is running.
Since there is water supply and drain lines running throughout your home there are many places that leaks can develop. What causes plumbing leaks? Pipe corrosion; which can be caused by a number of things including old plumbing, poor water quality and pipes installed incorrectly. Clogged pipes; as pipes get older, it’s common for things like hair, dirt, and soap scum to accumulate on the inside walls of the pipe. As time goes on the accumulation increases and will reduce water flow ultimately leading to a blockage and an overflow situation. Too much water pressure; that can lead to broken seals, pipe splitting and broken pipe joints.
The most common places to look for water leaks are under sinks, around toilets, poorly sealed and caulked tubs and showers, shower splash out, shut off valves and connections, under water heaters, exterior hose bibs walls and ceilings.
Other defects we find include slow draining sinks, tubs and showers because of accumulations of hair and soap scum. This occurs relatively frequently in homes, however a regular maintenance plan of using a quality drain cleaner can keep this situation under control.
Toilets that continue to run after flushing are more common than I previously thought resulting in higher water bills. It also puts the plumbing system under excessive stress due to a constant flow of water. At least 1 out of 10 inspections have toilets with this defect. Usually, it is caused by some dirt under the flapper valve which is easily corrected.
Toilet tank leaks are another defect we usually find in older homes and condo units. The rubber gaskets between the tank and bowl wear out over time causing leaks from the bottom of the tank. Older toilets have seals that break down because of harsh chemicals used to clean toilets causing the seal to prematurely fail.
Dripping faucets is another item often found during a Home Inspection. This issue also results in higher water bills and is usually an easy fix.
Undetected leaks in walls and ceiling are very hard to find and they can cause a lot of damage before they become apparent. A home inspector investigates this issue using a moisture detector or infrared camera.
In Summary plumbing issues are one of the most commonly reported defects in our home inspector’s final report. These issues are often hard to spot with an untrained eye and can rack up thousands in repair bills if they are not promptly repaired.
Most of the time, these issues are easy to fix as long as you catch them early enough, and the damage isn’t already done. If you are a homeowner, make sure you check for any signs of hidden leaks behind the walls or underneath the floorboards. If repairing the leak is beyond your ability, save time and money and call a qualified plumber.
If leaks are left go for too long, it can cost thousands of dollars to repair and can waste hundreds of gallons of water each week and seriously affect your house’s structural integrity. It is better to keep on top of the problems while you occupy the house to avoid the big bills that occur when the problems go unchecked and you are ready to sell your home.
We recommend an annual inspection by a Certified Home Inspector which could save you money on repairs.
By: John Schuler, Certified Home Inspector
J & H Home Inspections