Expert Plumbing and Heating Advice for Homebuyers

When it comes to houses, who is your gearhead?

Maybe you have a friend like this.  He knows a lot about cars.  You and everyone else, take him along when shopping for a used car because he KNOWS what to look for.  He checks under the hood, and under the car, and in all the secret places while we look at the paint colour and interior.

When we look for a house, who do we take?  Usually, no one.  First we look at houses until we fall in love with one and make an offer.  Then, when we are emotionally committed, we follow through with our subject to inspection and get a home inspector.  What you really need is expert advice for homebuyers about plumbing and heating.

It would be nice if we all had a home inspector friend who would tag along with us as we look at houses, but most don’t.  When it comes to plumbing and heating, there are some things you can learn to look for when looking at a house.  This will never take the place of the home inspector, it’s more about empowerment.  You can watch our video where this plumber’s wife explores the home of a friend from the point of view of a prospective buyer. 

Here are the highlights:

  • Look at the overall quality of the fixtures.  Are they quality brands like Kholer, Moen, and Grooee?  Or are they Price Fister, or other big box store selections?  See our blog on choosing the best faucet to see what you should be looking for.
  • Check the taps, does the water flow fully?  And when both taps are on full blast, does the drain flow well?
  • Look at the calking around the tub.  Is it neat or ragged?  It won’t show if it’s a new house, but if it is ragged it will grab dirt, peel and lift more easily.  While you are there, look at the tiles, do you see any evidence of water ingress?
  • Look under the sink cabinet.  Look for signs of water leaks.  Check for neatness of installation.  The workmanship you see under the sink is a good indicator of what can be found behind the walls.
  • Look at where the plumbing lines go through the wall.  Did they get the holes in the right spot?  Or do they come out in the wrong place and drag through the inside of the cabinet on an angle.
  • Look at how the house is heated.  Is it forced air, in-floor, electric, or gas fireplace?  Believe it or not, some houses are still heated with oil.  Electric heat is expensive.

In the mechanical room:

  • Look at the hot water heater.  What’s the age?  You can write down the serial number and R&B will check it for you.  Does it have white powder on top of the tank?  That can indicate it hasn’t been venting properly.
  • Check for signs of corrosion, rusty spots, obvious water leaks or streaking from pervious leaks on and around all equipment.
  • Check the age of the heating system.  Their realtor should know this information.  Here again, neatness and presentation count. R&B will be able to tell you from the model and serial numbers what the age and efficiency of the heating system is.
  • Ask if there are maintenance records.

As a general rule, test, pull, open, check and verify.  And remember, it only takes about an hour for a professional to go through a prospective home for purchase.  That’s an investment of around $140.  If you want a true picture of what you’re buying and how much it will cost to repair, Call R&B.