A Homebuyer's Plumbing Checklist

A Homebuyer’s Plumbing Checklist

Buying a home is usually the biggest purchase that most people make throughout their lifetime.  While you may not be a jack of all trades, here are few things to arm yourself with knowledge against unexpected plumbing mishaps that could potentially break the bank when purchasing a home.

What questions should you ask?

There are a lot of things that you won’t be able to see or know unless you ask the current owner.  Asking a list of basic questions should give you as the prospective buyer a good idea of what, if any, current plumbing issues there are as well as possible problems.  This also will give you a good idea of what the upcoming maintenance schedule will look like as well as how regularly things have been serviced before you buy the home.

  • What is the age of the current plumbing system?  Purchasing an older home may mean that the plumbing is old too.  If it has never been replaced, the age of the plumbing will help predict when it is due to be updated.
  • When was the last time the sewer was inspected?  Sewer lines can cause serious and expensive trouble when they are in need of repair.  Knowing when the last sewer inspection was completed will give you either a sense of comfort knowing that all is well, or could be an indication that this is something you may want to look at having done to ensure that everything is in working order.
  • What kind of water heater does the home have and when was it last replaced, serviced, or inspected?  Water heaters should be serviced every six months to keep them in proper working order.  There are also many different kinds of water heaters, and the new ones being more energy efficient, will give you a good idea of what kind of costs to expect here as well.  It might also be something worth looking into if it needs to be updated.


  • Is there a sump pump, and not, does one need to be installed?  Certain homes are located in areas that require a pump to be installed under the home or in the basement to pump excess water away from the home in case of flooding.  It is very important to inquire about the sump pump, it’s age and condition.
  • Have any pipes broken or burst in the past?  Knowing if there have been any major plumbing emergencies is important as this can be a strong indicator of the kinds of repairs that may be needed in the near future to prevent another plumbing emergency from happening.  Often if one of the pipes broke, it’s a good indicator that the others are at risk for the same thing happening to them.

What things should you look for?

Often times plumbing issues can be identified even by the untrained eye if you know what to look for.  Most people will walk through the home that they plan on buying multiple times before they actually purchase it.  Here are a few things that you can do and look for as you inspect a home that could indicate potential plumbing problems so as to have them repaired prior to purchase or to plan for repairs that you’ll need to make.

  • Flush the toilets: Make sure that as you inspect each restroom that you take the time to flush all of the toilets.  As you flush them open the lid to the bowl and see how the water drains and refills to ensure that everything appears to be in proper working condition.  Then remove the backing of the toilet to ensure that the inner workings appear to also be in good condition.  Finally, stay in the bathroom until the toilet has completely finished flushing to ensure that it doesn’t run.


  • Check the water heater: Make sure to inspect the water heater.  You’ll want to notice the age of the water heater, whether or not it appears to be well insulated, look for any sort of corrosion on the connections, and also check for mineral build-up which is a good indicator of the water heater not being regularly serviced.
  • Run the showers: Nothing is more annoying than when you step into a shower only to find that there is very little water pressure.  As troublesome as this can be, it is also a good indicator of a larger issue that could be resulting from a leak or a clog that is not in a place that is easily seen.  Take the time to turn on the showers and check the water pressure to ensure that everything is in proper working condition.
  • Look in the crawl space under the home: While this may sound like a dirty job, it is worth taking a look under the home to see if there are any signs of leaks or water damage that may not have been visible throughout the inspection.  Often times, this is where the plumber will be making any repairs and things if they are required.  Even taking a couple of minutes to shine a flash light if you prefer not to get under the home, could reveal a leak or signs of water damage that you wouldn’t catch otherwise, and could warrant further inspection.
  • Size does matter: Taking the time to check the size of the plumbing that is currently in use could save a lot of money in costly future repairs in the long run.  If pipes aren’t large enough to hold the capacity of water that you’re using, it will result in less water pressure as well as the increased potential for damage in the future.  Ideally, homeowners want pipes to be at least ¾” from the source of water to the home, and ½” or bigger from sinks and faucets.

While it is always recommended to get an expert opinion to be sure about plumbing issues and potential problems, these are a few questions to ask and things to look for to give you some direction on whether or not further inspection might be warranted.