Just because a home is older does not mean it can't be perfectly safe and enjoyable to live in. But you do need to exercise a little more caution when buying an older home than when buying newer construction. The systems inside the home, and in particular the plumbing, become increasingly prone to trouble as they age. You do not want to accidentally buy a home that needs $10,000 in plumbing repairs that you were not aware of. So what plumbing issues should you check for when buying an older house? Take a look.
Prior to the 1960s, plumbers were big fans of putting galvanized pipes in homes. They were inexpensive, resistant to leaks, and easy to work with. The galvanization kept the pipes from rusting — or so they thought. Now, 60 years have passed, and all of those old galvanized pipes are beginning to rust because the zinc coating has worn off, exposing the steel directly to the water.
If a house has galvanized pipes, you don't necessarily have to turn it down. But know that you will need to have the home re-piped sooner or later. If there is already rust coming out of some of the faucets, this needs to be done ASAP. Have a plumber give you an estimate, and ask the homeowner to knock that cost off the price of the home.
Clogged Sewer Mains
The sewer main is the big sewer pipe that leads to the public sewer line. In older homes, it was often made from clay. Unfortunately, clay sewer mains can crack, allowing tree roots to infiltrate. The roots cause clogs, and nothing can get down the pipe until you replace it — which is costly.
If an older home still has its original clay sewer main, arrange to have a plumber send a camera down into the pipe and check for clogs. You can then walk away from the home or negotiate with the homeowner if tree roots are present in the line. On the other hand, if the homeowner can show you a receipt to prove the sewer main has been replaced in the last 20 or so years, you should not have to worry. Most newer sewer mains are made from PVC, so they are far less susceptible to tree root invasion.
These are the two primary plumbing issues to be concerned about when you're thinking of buying a new home. Contact a plumber if you have any lingering questions about either problem.