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How to Look

at a House

A blog with answers
to your questions about

More Blog Posts on Plumbing:

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

  2. When is a water heater drain pan required?

  3. What is the purpose of a thermostatic mixing valve above a water heater?

  4. Why do water heaters have a sacrificial anode?

  5. Does a tankless water heater require a pressure relief valve?

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

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

  8. Should I upgrade to a tankless water heater?

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

  10. How old is that water heater?

  11. Should I wrap the water heater with an insulation blanket?

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

  13. Are there water lines in my attic or under the floor slab?

  14. What is well pump “short cycling”?

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

  16. How often should I pump out the septic tank?

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

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

  19. Do you test the well water?

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

  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 minimum clearances around a toilet?

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

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

  29. Why are rubber washing machine hoses a safety risk?

  30. What is a dielectric union?

  31. What is a heat pump water heater?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  39. What is an FVIR water heater?

  40. What is difference between a single element and dual element electric water heater?

  41. What is an escutcheon plate?

  42. Why is sunlight exposure bad for PVC pipe?

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

  44. How can I locate my septic tank?

  45. Why is a backflow preventer required on lawn sprinkler systems?

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

  47. Should I seal the washing machine drain hose to the standpipe?

  48. How can I tell if a house is connected to a septic tank or sewer?

  49. What is a sediment trap or dirt leg?

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.


  1. Costs at least 50% more than a regular water heater.

Requires more “make up” air (the air added to the exhaust flow).

• The sound of the exhaust fan may be noticeable if near or in a living area.

120-volt power (regular wall outlet) must be nearby for fan.

  1. Needs more maintenance because it has a motor and moving parts.

   A power vent water heater is recognizable by the rounded blower fan housing at the top of the tank connected to PVC pipe, like in the photo at right, and below is the vent termination at a side wall. This particular water heater has more pipes connected to it than usual because it is part of a hydronic heating system—the hot water it produces is also used to heat the home. To learn more about hydronic heating, go to our blog “How does a hydronic heating system work?” 

   There are also direct vent water heaters available, which utilize a sealed system that draws air for combustion from the exterior of a home. Learn more at our blog “What is the difference between a regular water heater and a direct vent water heater?”

For the statistics on why insurance companies get hot about water heater replacement, read our blog “Why is an older water heater an insurance problem?”

If you are not sure how old your water heater is, find out at our blog “How do I decode the water heater serial number to figure out the age?”

Also, to learn about common installation defects, see our blog “What are the most common problems with water heater replacement?”

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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