If you are house hunting throughout South Florida, particularly in the eastern communities, then chances are that you are looking at some older homes. If so, it is important to be knowledgeable about certain construction methods used during various time periods. Perhaps there is no better example of this than plumbing. Since plumbing can be one of the biggest expenses in a home, it is important that you conduct your due diligence when inspecting a home. After all, the last thing you want is to be stuck with costly repairs shortly after closing on your new home.
What year was the home built?
One of the first things to consider when considering a home purchase is the year in which it was built. In general, prior to 1975, all homes were built with cast iron piping for the sewer lines underneath the home. On average, most home inspectors cite this type of plumbing to have a life expectancy of about 50 years. Of course, this life expectancy will vary based on the location of the home. For example, homes located on saltwater may see quicker deterioration of the plumbing than homes not as exposed to the salty environments. It wasn’t until around the years between 1975 and 1980 that cast iron plumbing was no longer used during home construction. Instead, polyvinyl chloride plastic, better known as “PVC” was utilized and continues to be today. The benefit of PVC plumbing is that it can be made quickly, is stronger than other materials, and won’t rust out like cast iron.
The plumbing inspection
Assuming that the home you are purchasing has cast iron plumbing, it is critically important that you hire a plumber to send a camera down the sewer lines for further inspection. It should be noted that this inspection is in addition to the general home inspection that you will have for the entire property. The reason that you will want to hire a plumber separately for this inspection is because a general home inspector will not conduct such an extensive inspection of the sewer lines. Instead, a general home inspector will flush toilets, run faucets and fixtures to ensure that they are operating correctly with no leaks, etc… Although hiring a plumber to camera the lines will come at an additional cost, it is well worth the investment.
During the plumbing inspection, the plumber will be able to better determine the integrity of the cast iron sewer pipes. In addition, if there are any issues with the pitch or slope of the line, the camera should be able to pick up on this. Oftentimes, plumbers will refer to “bellies in the line”. This means that the line is sagging in a certain area and therefore is more prone to stoppages. Unfortunately, cast iron pipes can become brittle over time and end up wearing out. Most commonly, this deterioration is seen between “5 o’ clock and 7 o’ clock” in the line. This description refers to the bottom of the line as if you were looking at a clock between the 5 and the 7. In addition, a leaky cast iron pipe will attract invasive root systems from surrounding trees that may be seeking water. This can further exacerbate the issue. Therefore, it is also important to inspect the property for trees with invasive root systems that may be located near the home.
Although hiring a plumber to conduct an additional inspection at the property will likely cost anywhere from $500 or more, it is money well spent. Alternatively, not discovering a failing sewer line until after moving into the property can not only result in significant expense, but it is also extremely disruptive to live through. In some cases, the home’s flooring will need to be removed in order to access the areas where the plumbing repairs or replacement are needed. Needless to say, this is not something that you will want to live through, deal with, or pay for.
A local and knowledgeable real estate agent should be able to guide you through this process and refer you to a licensed plumbing professional to conduct any necessary inspections. Are you in the South Florida market? If so, be sure to contact Natasha at Live South Florida Realty, Inc. for all your real estate needs. Also, don’t forget to download the free Florida Home Search App for your smartphone or tablet.