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  • Writer's pictureJohn@LiteHouse

10 Most Common Issues Related to Plumbing. And what you should look for!

1. Pipe Leaks - This is the most common plumbing problem that Home Inspectors see regularly, regardless of whether they are supply pipes or drains. Many residential owners do not regularly check the plumbing, such as under the shower and kitchen sink, so leaky small water droplets can turn into a major problem, such as water damage, rotting or microbial growth (mold) if not noticed early. LiteHouse Services Group recommends regularly inspecting the condition under your sinks as a matter of regular maintenance.

Under sink drain

2. Poorly Sloped Drains - Drain pipes require gravity to properly flow to the sewage source. Common practice is for drainpipes to have a pitch of one quarter inch per foot, although one third inch per foot is acceptable if the drainpipe is 3 inches or more in diameter. Improper slope can lead to leaks and/or slow sink or tub draining.

3. Flexible Ridged Drains - corrugated drains are sold in many home supply shops, so house owners think this is a good fix. We often find this under the sink in the kitchen or bathroom installed by the house owner (or anyone but an licensed plumber). Plumbing codes prohibit them because they allow clogging and are difficult to clean. Drainpipes should have a smooth inner wall, not wrinkled drainpipes.

4. Temperature and Pressure Relief Valves for Water Heaters Without Proper Drain Pipes - All modern water heaters must have a temperature and pressure (TPRV) relief valve and an appropriate drain pipe connected to that valve. This valve opens when the pressure or temperature inside the water heater tank rises excessively. A water heater is a pressure device that can explode or rocket through your home if it malfunctions. A relief valve helps prevent this from happening. Without a proper drain pipe, the valve could open and burn anyone nearby. The valve must have an outlet pipe that meets certain criteria. (1.) Pipes must be rated for hot water. This means that virtually any type of piping is acceptable except PVC and ABS. (2.) The pipe should end approximately 6" above the floor next to the water heater; (3.) The bottom of this pipe should be thread-less (to prevent someone from covering this pipe with a cap); (4.) Valve and drain pipe diameter should be the same (usually 3/4 inch).

5. Water heater temperature is too high - hot water in the house should not exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Otherwise, there is a risk of burns. It only takes 4-6 seconds to cause 2-3 degree skin burns with 140 degree water. Modern gas and electric water heaters have temperature settings to control hot water production. Gas water heaters usually have a front panel and electric water heaters have settings on each heating element. Hot water above 120 degrees Fahrenheit can also waste energy because the water heater must try to maintain a set temperature. Boilers can also be used to heat drinking water in the home. The mixing valve can be installed on the boiler installed in this way. The mixing valve (also known as the "heat valve") adds small amounts of cold water to the hot drinking water supply line to prevent dangerous hot water from overheating. The image below shows a laser thermometer that measures hot water in the kitchen sink. As you can see, the measured temperature was 117.3 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a safe temperature for your home.

Inspector taking hot water temp

6. No Traps - All plumbing systems (except toilets) require a trap in the drain pipe. Toilets include a trap in their design. A trap helps prevent sewage gas (and "pests") from entering your home through a drain pipe. For example, I often see a washing machine drain installed by someone who hasn't installed a trap. Sometimes when you stand in the drain area, you will smell sewer gases, and it becomes very obvious. Also, only one trap may be installed in the drain pipes; with two traps installed in series, clogging can be possible.

7. Draining slow: This is a common problem since we first began installing plumbing in homes and in most cases is not difficult to fix. This is often caused by clogging of the sink, shower or toilet and can often be fixed with a slight movement of the plunger. Sewage cleaning chemicals are not recommended as they may spill and burn or blind you. In some cases, especially in older homes, slow drainage can be caused by a broken or partially clogged main sewer line in the yard. Old drainage pipes (clay or cast iron) can break over time or tree roots can grow. Resolving this problem often requires a licensed plumber to snake the line to find the buried problem.

Toilet Loose to the floor

8. Loose toilet bowl and/or leak – This is a problem that we face regularly. Over time, the toilet can become loose on the bathroom floor. When this happens, the seal between the floor and the drain pipe can become compromised, causing water to leak into the sub-floor. Sometimes this causes a small amount of water to collect under sub-flooring and sometimes it actually leaks into the ceiling below the toilet. Apply light pressure to move the toilet slightly to see if the toilet is loose. To find the moisture in the bathroom floor, home inspectors use a moisture meter around the toilet bowl. Even if the floor around the toilet is not discolored, the moisture meter can detect the moisture on the floor. To repair, simply repair the toilet with a new wax ring. If traces of moisture are found (moisture meters or visible stains), the potential for hidden damage should be further assessed before installing a new wax ring on the toilet.

9. Dishwasher Drains - Most dishwasher manufacturers specify in their installation procedures the need for drain pipes with high loops or air gaps. Whether the drain goes into the kitchen drain or waste disposal, it keeps dirty debris from the sink drain from getting into the dishwasher.

10. Drain plugs no longer work - I've noticed this problem in bathtubs of old and new homes. Older types of drain plugs use a chain system to stop water flow from the drain when a lever is pressed. Sometimes one or more parts of this chain system will fall apart over time, and sometimes the actual levers will get stuck and won't move into place. You should call a licensed plumber to make any necessary repairs. If the drain doesn't stop, use of the sink or tub may be restricted. Push-to-stop drain plugs are common in modern bathtubs. Over time, the springs on this type of cover can wear out or become damaged. Most hardware stores sell replacement tap-stops for faucets, and replacing them is a simple task.

You can find a full list of our inspection and testing services under the Inspection Packages tab on our website:

Call LiteHouse Services Group LLC today, for the most professional plumbing and home inspections.

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