10 Plumbing Issues Agents Should Know About (And Their Solutions)

Archaeologists have discovered plumbing systems in India’s Indus River dating back to 4,000-3,000 BC. Ancient Rome was famous for its aqueducts and elaborate indoor baths, all of which predate today’s modern indoor plumbing.

Residential plumbing became common in the United States in most urban areas in the 1840s. It wasn’t until the 1930s, just after electricity was made available to homes, that rural areas had access to indoor plumbing.

Plumbing problems with leaks, low water pressure, insufficient hot water and blockages can cause problems for sellers and buyers, causing headaches and trauma for real estate agents.

Two factors determine the potential plumbing problems: the age of the house and the location. Homes and apartment buildings that are less than 50 years old will, for the most part, have fewer plumbing problems than older homes. Homes older than 50 are more prone to repairs and renovations by plumbers and handymen of varying skill levels.

Pipes deteriorate with age, and even the shifting and subsidence of soil around a building can cause them to bend or kink. Location is a factor as cities and towns will use public utilities and treatment facilities for water and waste, while less densely populated locations will rely on septic systems for waste.

A public water and waste system represents a monthly expense for the homeowner, but absolutely no maintenance on their part. Septic systems are less expensive to maintain, but the homeowner should be vigilant about having the system pumped annually. A licensed plumber can examine a septic tank through a septic camera, which will report the condition underground.

Older homes have older landscaping and tree roots that can infiltrate underground pipes, crush them and cause blockages. When exploring the exterior of older homes, look for evidence of stumps, which still have underground roots that can cause damage or still actively penetrate pipes.

Real estate agents should be aware of the three main plumbing issues:

  • Faulty sewage system, evidenced by a sewage odor.
  • Water heater problems, common with water heaters over 10 years old.
  • Problems with toilet and drainage.

Even a slow, small leak in a pipe or fixture can cause major damage to a structure while attracting an infestation of insects, which is sure to cause concern for the buyer and trauma for the real estate agent.

Most homes and apartment buildings have exposed plumbing in basements and basements if you look closely. The older the construction, the more repairs and the more different pipes are used.

In the 1900s, all pipes were made of galvanized iron or steel. Brass, cast iron and galvanized pipes can last up to 100 years. Copper pipes last more than 50 years and copper can be recycled and reused. More expensive than other types of pipes, copper can be difficult to install in tight spaces.

PVC or polyvinyl chloride pipes and PEX or polyethylene cross-link pipes are the white pipes seen in new construction. These tubes are lightweight, versatile and resistant to clogging. PVC and PEX pipes can release toxins into the water, warp from hot water and are limited in size.

If you are a real estate professional, check out the most common plumbing problems and their solutions will help put your buyers’ minds at ease. A licensed plumber is always the best solution to any plumbing problem, but with the right tools and guidance, maintenance and repairs can be carried out.

1. Leaky tap

The cause is a ring that is torn, worn, loosened, or stuck. Turning off the water source under the sink, dismantling the faucet and replacing the washing machine should make the drop disappear.

2. Slow draining sink

Food residues and fat congeal causing blockages in the sinks. Any clogged drain can give way to baking soda and vinegar poured into the opening. With some energetic wrist action, you can use a plunger to unclog a drain or use chemical clogging agents.

Be careful with chemicals as they can damage pipes – and always wear rubber gloves and safety glasses.

3. Clogged shower or bath drain

Hair and soap scum can build up over time and slow down the effectiveness of a drain. Again, using baking soda and vinegar, a plunger and/or a plumber or “hose” will open the drain. After unblocking, a drain monitor prevents future problems.

4. Clogged toilets

Paper and solid waste can clog toilets, in addition to flushing other items like wipes down the drain. The combined use of a plunger and a plumber’s drill or hose, available at any hardware store, can open the drain.

It is wise to remember that toilets are made of fired ceramic and can crack if you use too much force.

5. Running toilet

Water running continuously into a toilet tank can waste 200 gallons a day. A faulty valve is usually the culprit, and a kit is usually available at a plumbing supply store or hardware store that can fix this annoying problem.

6. Hot water boiler

If the hot water stops abruptly, the pilot under the water heater may need to be re-ignited or the thermostat may need to be adjusted. If there is a pool of water under your hot water heater, it is leaking and will need to be replaced.

Hot water heaters have a date of manufacture on their label, or a serial number will indicate age if you check with the manufacturer.

7. Loss of water pressure

This could be as simple as the hot water heater valve not opening all the way or as complicated as a blockage in the pipes. Low water pressure is sometimes caused by sediment in a shower head. Soaking the shower head in vinegar or replacing the shower head will make the water flow more strongly.

8. Clogged garbage collection service

The reset button under the sink is the easiest and most effective way to troubleshoot waste disposal issues. If the reset key is not available, an Allen key can help you make adjustments.

9. Leaks at Pipe Connections

Tape, joints or filler can provide temporary relief, but it is more likely that the pipe will need to be replaced.

10. Sewer Backups

The crucial question is the location of the blockage. A professional plumber can determine within the homeowner’s responsibility whether the problem is from the main sewer or plumbing. These repairs can be costly and complicated, so it’s wise to act quickly.

Real estate agents can benefit from some simple tips and insight into plumbing problems and how to solve them. A home inspection and repairs by a licensed plumber can reassure a buyer in most cases.

Gerard Splendore is a certified associate broker at Warburg Realty in New York. Contact him LinkedIn.

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