If you’re in the process of traipsing from listing to listing in search of the perfect new home, the team at A-Pro Home Inspection Pittsburgh encourages you to put quality plumbing high on your list of essential items. We also urge you to hire a home inspection provider experienced in identifying current defects and alerting you to problems that may occur down the road. For more than 26 years, A-Pro certified inspectors have seen the gamut of plumbing issues that, if not addressed, can cause messy, odorous, and destructive issues once you’ve settled into your new home.
The cost to fix the plumbing in a home ranges from the inexpensive swapping out of a leaky pipe joint to replace the entire system. The cost to re-plumb a two-bedroom home, for example, runs anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000. Got your attention? We thought so.
We’ve addressed plumbing before in our blog, but in the coming weeks, we’ll be taking a closer look at what your inspector evaluates when checking a home’s fixtures: sinks, showers, toilets, and tubs. Here is a brief checklist of common problems found when inspecting toilets:
Lifting the Lid on Toilet Trouble
Each of a home’s toilets will be operated and visually inspected during a complete home inspection. After flushing, the inspector will note if the fixture is slow to drain (an indication of possible system blockage) or if the bowl takes too long to fill, most commonly associated with a damaged fill tube or valve. While generally not evidence of a serious problem, a continuously running toilet (often due to old or defective inner components, such as float ball, flapper, flush valve chain, refill tube, or gasket) will be mentioned in the report, as it can add serious money to a home’s water bill if not addressed. Dampness or deterioration of flooring around the base of the toilet may be an indication of a leaky flange gasket. Further, the connection between toilet and floor will be assessed to see if the fixture is sturdy when sat upon and lightly rocked. Additionally, some inspectors perform a “dye” test, using a colored pill, to check for toilet leaks.
What Does a Gurgling Toilet Mean?
If your toilet speaks to you in this manner when not in use, your first thought might be that it’s haunted. Not likely. The probable cause is one of several issues, including a clogged toilet drain, blocked vent stack, or restricted main sewer line. Bubbling water in the toilet is another sign that there might be trouble of a non-ghostly nature.
If blocked by tree debris, ice, or a deceased animal, the vent stack (which exhausts odors out the roof as well as equalizes pipe pressure) may cause the toilet to emit gurgling sounds. Clogs close to the bowl may be dislodged with a plunger, while toilet drains—clogged by items that are not meant to be flushed away, such as paper towels—may require snaking out.
Of greatest concern is the main sewer line, which transports waste to your sewer system. This line can become tangled with tree roots that penetrate the pipe, restricting flow and causing severe damage. Digging up and repairing or replacing the main sewer line is an expensive proposition, costing several thousands of dollars, so it’s worth getting a firsthand look to see what’s going on inside before making any assumptions. Separate from a traditional 500-point roof-to-foundation home inspection, A-Pro
performs Sewer Scope Inspections. This entails inserting a small video camera through the sewer cleanout, up to the city main life if possible. These inspections take the guesswork out of pinpointing the source of drainage trouble. The videotape may provide visual evidence of a number of concerns: tree root blockage, pipe separation, pooling water, sagging, cracks, holes, corrosion deposits, or a collapsed pipe that requires immediate replacement.
Gallons Per Flush (GPF)
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, toilets account for nearly 30 percent of a home’s average water usage. Older toilets use as much as a whopping 6 gallons per flush compared to modern fixtures which boast GPFs as low as 1.28—even lower than the required 1.6 GPF mandated by 1994 federal law. Toilets manufactured after 1994 must meet the 1.6 GPF minimum guideline. Your inspector will look for the GPF rating on the home’s toilets (these can be found printed or stamped in one of several locations on the fixture).
Inspectors will also check the special concerns of other kinds of toilets, including vacuum- and pressure-assisted, composting, and dual-flush.