The Worst Things You Can Hear From A Plumbing Inspector (And How To Fix Them)

Posted on: 2 September 2015

Whether you're making a new home purchase or remodeling a home you've owned for a while, if it was built before 1980 chances are pretty good you're dreading the inspection a little bit. Prior to this time it was common for materials that present problems to be used in construction. When the plumbing inspector makes an appearance the inspection can go one of two ways. Either the home has been updated and everything is awesome or it has some plumbing problems. Here are some of the worst things you can hear from the plumber and how to go about getting them fixed.

Galvanized Pipe

A galvanized metal is one that has been treated with zinc after its smelting. This process was supposed to help keep the metal from corroding and rusting, and it worked to some extent. The problem is that it is not equal to the task of preventing corrosion while it is being subjected to the usual tribulations of residential plumbing, which involves a lot of opportunity for corrosion. Galvanized pipe is well known for its uncanny ability to fail at the worst possible moment and in the hardest to reach areas of your home. Pinholes, corroded and non-functioning joints, and cracking are all known problems in galvanized pipes. Fortunately, these problems are relatively easy to remedy.

Although it can be time consuming, replacing the galvanized pipe with PVC or PEX pipe is the way to go. You can do this proactively by taking out all the galvanized pipe at once, which will no doubt save you headaches later on, or you can replace the pipe sections as they fail, which will save you time and money in the short-term. This is not usually terribly difficult or expensive, just time consuming.

Collapsed Sewer

Today, homes are built with sewer pipes that are capable of withstanding normal use for decades, if not centuries. Some homes in the past were built with sewer pipes that are made of cast iron, clay or even a paper material called "Orange burg". Iron and clay pipes are both vulnerable to decay. Iron rusts, as you know, and becomes pitted and weak over time. Clay is vulnerable to crushing and is often invaded by roots, and Orangeburg pipes are an all-around terrible choice as they are vulnerable to decay, crushing, roots and myriad other problems. 

Sewer collapses can happen in small sections, or they can happen all at once with catastrophic results. You'll notice plumbing problems right away as a collapsed sewer line doesn't allow for the passage of waste water. Typically, the only remedy for a collapsed sewer pipe is the replacement of it, although if it is broken in small sections sometimes a repair can be made. This might seem like an enormous expense, but the replacement of an old sewer line is actually a boost to resale value of your home, and the peace of mind you will have knowing that your waste water probably will not be backing up into your bathtub any time soon will be more than worth the cost. 

Getting the news that your home needs plumbing work can be a devastating blow to your purchase or renovations. It doesn't have to mean progress stagnates. Know that even the worst news comes with a silver lining. Handling these problems isn't most people's idea of a good time, but plumbing problems are fixable and unlikely to cause long term discomfort as long as they are handled promptly by people who know what they're doing. So take a deep breath and roll up your sleeves because getting bad news in this case means you have work to do.


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