Category Archives: Plumbing

DOES IT MAKE SENSE TO DIY?

Should you DIY plumbing vents to the exterior of your home?  I recommend leaving this up to a qualified plumbing contractor, as venting is important and getting it wrong can lead to unpleasant sensory experiences and/or improper drainage function. 

DOWN THE DRAIN: NEW TECH HELPS SAVE MONEY, TIME

Today’s home improvement technology is pretty impressive. 

Consider the toolbox in your garage. More than likely, at least some of the tools it holds are light years ahead (technologically speaking) of the devices in your grandparents’ or great grandparents’ garages.

This reality is doubly true for contractors. If properly deployed, technology isn’t just “cool,” it’s also a potentially huge time and money saver. 

One example of this is videoscoping sewer lines to gauge pipe conditions. For readers who may not be familiar, videoscoping is the use of a snake-like camera to inspect places you can’t usually see, like the inside of pipes. 

I typically encourage the practice when I encounter older iron sewer lines (as I did during a recent inspection in Bellingham). Iron sewer lines have an expected life of 55-65 years and rust from the inside-out, so deterioration can be difficult to detect.

When paired with home improvement strategies, new technology such as videoscoping can make a significant difference, as the video showcased in this post shows.

If you have questions or comments about plumbing or home inspections in general, tweet me (@AIHomeInspect).

IT’S A CUTE LITTLE WATERFALL!

What does it mean when your dishwasher air gap dispenses a little stream of water, not unlike a teeny tiny waterfall? Although somewhat sensorily pleasing, this could be caused by blockage in the dishwasher drain line.  

This is most commonly caused by food and grease backed up over time, or possible areas of slack in the drain line where waste can accumulate.  If you’re comfortable disconnecting the hose between the disposal and air gap, you can give that a shot and see if it flushes out.  If that doesn’t work, I would recommend having a qualified plumbing contractor or handyman come in and take a look at other possible causes/fixes. 

PROBLEM PLUMBING NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED

During a recent inspection on Lopez Island, I came across “handyworker” water supply plumbing practices throughout the home.

While I didn’t notice any leaking where the plumbing infrastructure was installed, I did suggest that the amateur work should be further evaluated by a qualified plumbing contractor to make repairs as deemed necessary. 

If you have questions or comments about plumbing or home inspections in general, tweet me (@AIHomeInspect).

WHAT’S SO ‘HARD’ ABOUT THIS? CALCIFICATION & PLUMBING FIXTURES

Hard water can wreak havoc on plumbing fixtures. Luckily, many of us living in the Pacific Northwest can count ourselves and our water systems lucky because most of us have access to soft water

Occasionally, however, I come across a home where hard water is what’s available. During a recent inspection in Mount Vernon, I noted a white build-up on plumbing fixtures known as calcification—calcite residue from hard water. 

I advised the homeowners to speak with a water system contractor about options (such as the installation of a water softener) to reduce the likelihood of calcification. Unchecked, calcification can reduce appliance life expectancy, affect the taste of water, and is, well, just plain ugly.

If you have questions or comments about plumbing issues or home inspections in general, tweet me (@AIHomeInspect).

FAILING FITTINGS: WHEN PIPING CONNECTIONS GO BAD

It’s no secret that galvanized piping can be problematic. Before more contemporary piping options, such as PEX or copper, galvanized piping was commonly used. If you are living in an older, historic house, chances are good your plumbing system may be operating with galvanized piping. 

Galvanized piping has a relatively short shelf life—approximately 40-50 years—so it certainly doesn’t last forever. Usually, failure occurs from the inside-out with rust and corrosion. I often see homeowners attempt to replace sections of failed galvanized piping with newer, more durable alternatives. I ran into this scenario during a recent inspection at a house in Bellingham. When connecting sections of pipe, fittings are required. However, sometimes, these components can become compromised.

During this inspection, I noted corrosion at copper-galvanized water supply fittings and CPVC-galvanized water supply fittings within the basement. I recommended the issues be further evaluated and repaired by a qualified plumbing contractor.

For more information on how to properly install pipe fittings, I invite you to watch the video below. 

If you have questions or comments about plumbing or home inspections in general, tweet me (@AIHomeInspect).

RUNAWAY WATER HEATERS!

Why is it important that you double strap your water heater?  Not because it’s going to run away…but because of earthquakes!  Did you know that earthquakes are semi-common in Northwestern Washington?  

It’s recommended that you strap the bottom and top 1/3’s of your water heater appliance, which is customary in seismic zones.   This may seem like a step that’s done in an abundance of caution, but you wouldn’t want it to be your water heater that topples over in an earthquake and takes a fuel line out with it!  Also, FYI, most lenders require water heaters to be double-strapped as a condition of financing.   

Check out this link for more information on double strapping your water heater: Earthquake Country Alliance: Welcome to Earthquake Country!

UNCONVENTIONAL VENTING: PLUMBING ISSUES NEED FURTHER EVALUATION

Recently, I inspected a house in Ferndale where I noted handyman drain-waste-vent plumbing practices at the exterior. 

The property owner had installed an exposed ABS drain line, and the laundry room utility sink was unconventionally vented adjacent to an exterior wall. A qualified contractor should always evaluate these types of unorthodox issues, which I cited in the report.

If you have questions or comments about plumbing issues or home inspections in general, tweet me (@AIHomeInspect).

ARE YOU PROPERLY MAINTAINING YOUR WATER HEATER?

It’s easy to take hot water for granted, but did you know it’s important to maintain your water heater annually? Whether you have a tankless or conventional water heater—electric, propane or gas—annual maintenance is essential for safety reasons, efficient/reliable operation, and to extend the serviceable life of the appliance. Here’s a great DIY resource giving tips and advice about maintaining water heaters. 

And, here’s a tip: If you have an electric water heater, consider purchasing replacement elements and thermostats (they’re inexpensive) and storing them next to the water heater. In this way, you’re prepared to quickly and easily replace elements/thermostats to restore hot water without making a long trip to the hardware store (fingers crossed that they have what you need). You’ll be a hero restoring hot water quickly, trust me! Finally, if you ever notice that your water heater tank is leaking or corroding, that’s your tell sign that the water heater is at end-of-life and requires replacement ASAP.   

If you have questions or comments about home inspections in general, tweet me (@AIHomeInspect).

VIDEO: DON’T GET ‘TRAPPED’ WITH THIS PLUMBING PROBLEM

Today, I’m going to write about a plumbing issue that is as easy to diagnose as counting “1-2-3,” or—more aptly—“A-B-C.”

I’m talking about “S-traps” and “P-traps.”  If you don’t know what these are, this video gives a nice overview. After watching this, you’ll better understand why you may want to consider making the switch from “S” to “P” in your home’s sinks.

I recently came across this very issue during an inspection on Fidalgo Island, where I found an “S-Trap” installed under the kitchen sink. As a result, I recommended the homeowner install a “P-Trap” in my report.

If you have questions or comments about plumbing issues, tweet me (@AIHomeInspect).