More Blogs about Plumbing:

  1. So the water heater is older...what’s the big deal?

  2. Why is my water heater making strange (rumbling, gurgling, knocking or banging) noises?

  3. What can I do to make my water heater last longer?

  4. How much does it cost to replace the water heater?

  5. What are the pipes on my roof?

  6. Should I upgrade to a tankless water heater?

  7. How much does it cost to replace the plumbing in a house?

  8. How old is that water heater?

  9. Why is spray foam used for attic insulation?

  10. How do I get rid of the sewer gas smell in my house?

  11. What causes low water pressure in a house?

  12. What’s the powdery crust on the pipe connections at the water heater?

  13. Do you check the plumbing under the floor slab?

  14. What is a “cross connection” in a home’s plumbing system?

  15. What’s the flip-up handle on the water heater for?

  16. What is the difference between water service pipe and water supply pipe?

  17. My well water test came back positive for bacteria. What should I do?

  18. Do you test the well water?

  19. How can I tell what type of plumbing pipe I have?

  20. What is the difference between a regular water heater and a power vent water heater?

  21. How can I determine the age of a water heater if the serial number is missing or decoding it is impossible?

  22. What is a saddle valve?

  23. How do you test a shower pan for leaks?

  24. What is a grinder pump?

  25. What is that little tank on top of the water heater for?

  26. What are the most common installation problems with water heater replacement?

  27. What is that pipe sticking out of the ground in the yard?

  28. What are the minimum clearances around a toilet?

  29. What is the average lifespan of a water heater?

  30. What are the most common plumbing problems with older houses?

  31. What is a dielectric union?

  32. What is a heat pump water heater?

  33. What are the common problems to look for when the plumbing has been replaced in a house?

  34. What is the average life expectancy of copper pipe?

  35. Why can’t PVC pipe be used for water pipe inside a house?

  36. What is the average life expectancy of PVC pipe?

  37. What is an auto vent, air admittance valve, or check vent?

  38. Why is a European-style bottle trap not approved by the plumbing codes in the U.S.?

  39. What is the average life expectancy of CPVC pipe?

  40. What is an FVIR water heater?

  41. Why is sunlight exposure bad for PVC pipe?

  42. What is the loose wire sticking out of the ground under the gas meter for?

  43. Is the hot water faucet handle required to be on the left?

  44. How can I locate my septic tank?

  45. What do the ABS, PVC, CPVC, PB, and PEX plumbing pipe names mean?

  46. What are the right words for talking about a house plumbing system?

  47. How do you find a broken water pipe leak under the floor slab?

  48. Why is there water in my water heater drain pan?

  49. What is a sediment trap or dirt leg?

  50. What is the minimum and maximum slope of the trap arm of a plumbing drain?

How to Look

at a House


A blog with answers
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HOME INSPECTION
and HOME MAINTENANCE

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Welcome to our blog!
We want you to be an informed homebuyer, and each blog post is a question that we have answered for our friends and customers over the years. Hope they help you make a good choice for your next home.

Polybutylene, called “PB” in the trades, was installed in homes from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, when it was banned after numerous early failures of the piping. It was especially popular with mobile home manufacturers, and is usually gray, with copper-color crimp fittings at pipe connections. Class action lawsuits awarded money for replacement to homeowners with PB, but the period for initiating a claim has ended. Most of the early failures were due to sloppy crimping of the pipe connections.
    “If it hasn’t started leaking by now, it’s probably fine” is our plumber friend James Freeman’s opinion. “I think it is an inferior pipe material, but would not replace it at this point unless it started leaking.” Unfortunately, many insurance companies do not agree, and will not issue a new homeowner’s policy on a house with PB piping. So replacement may be necessary for securing insurance.

   Most water supply piping is simply abandoned in place when replaced. There are three different installation strategies that a plumber can use for replacement of your water supply piping, depending on the construction type of your home:

Through the attic is preferable for a slab-on-grade home with adequate attic height for the plumber to maneuver around. The pipe is run down the interior walls from the attic to each fixture’s shut-off valve location. The exposed pipe in the attic must be insulated (to protect against pipe fractures due to freezing) and adequately secured.

  1. Under the floor is best for older homes with a wood floor over a crawl space, and is also the easiest and least expensive pipe replacement method. Again, like in an attic installation, the exposed pipe in the crawl space must be insulated and secured.

  2. In the ground, running around the outside walls is the only choice for slab-on-grade homes with a flat or low-slope roof with not enough attic space. The pipes will come up out of the ground at each exterior wall location near a bathroom, kitchen, or laundry plumbing fixture, then penetrate the wall to run to the fixtures. Concealing the piping inside the walls requires more work, wall damage, and drywall patching for this method, and exterior exposed pipe must be insulated. Also, dogs love to chew off the pipe insulation where it is exposed at the outside walls.

   The two standard choices for replacement pipe material are CPVC (cream-colored hard plastic) and PEX (flexible plastic, white or color-coded, red or blue, for hot and cold lines). Most plumbers consider CPVC to be the better choice, since it is a time-tested material and PEX is newer. However, PEX has the advantage of being able to bend around corners and uses barb-type crimp fittings that are easier to install.

   Every plumber will have their own take on what is the best way to repipe your home, and you should talk to at least two that have been recommended by a friend or neighbor before deciding on who to use. It’s important to get a clear understanding of how much of the new piping will be concealed in the walls and what areas will have piping running across the wall surface when interviewing a prospective plumbing contractor. Surface-mounted pipe inside a bathroom or kitchen cabinet is acceptable to most people, but you may not like the idea of pipes running along the walls of rooms or closets where it is clearly visible. It is cheaper to surface-mount piping, so you may choose to live with it in the laundry, for example. Also, make sure you know how much repair the plumber will do for the openings made for the new piping and how it will be done—a patch piece of plywood over the wall opening versus a seamless drywall repair that is repainted, for example. Also, will the old pipes just be cut off at the wall, with pipe ends exposed, or will all evidence of the old piping in the wall be removed.

   At the completion of the work, ask the plumber to give you a copy of the building permit for the repiping, with the final inspection approval noted on it. Homebuyers nowadays want to see closed-out permits for all work done to the home, and having a copy on hand will save you aggravation later when it’s time to sell your home.

   For more information on galvanized steel water piping, visit our blog “This home has galvanized pipe. Is that a problem?” To see what polybutylene piping looks like and read more about it, check out the blog “Do I have polybutylene pipe? Why is it a problem?” And for tips on finding a good plumber, read our blog “How do I find a good contractor in Gainesville?”

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  To read about issues related to homes of an specific era or type of house, visit one of these blog posts:

What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1950s house?

  1. What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1960s home?

  2. What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1970s home?

  3. What are the common problems to look for when buying a 1980s house?

  4. What problems should I look for when buying a country house or rural property?

  5. What problems should I look when when buying a house that has been moved?

  6. What problems should I look for when buying a house that has been vacant or abandoned?

  7. What are the most common problems with older mobile homes?

  8. What should I look for when buying a “flipper” house?

  9. What should I look for when buying a former rental house?


While we hope you find this series of articles about home inspection helpful, they should not be considered an alternative to an actual home inspection by a local inspector. Also, construction standards vary in different parts of the country and it is possible that important issues related to your area may not be covered here.
©2015 - McGarry and Madsen Inspection.

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