You got the keys to your new house, and you’re excited to pack up all of your stuff into cardboard boxes and move in this second. Before you call up your friends to convince them to take half of their weekend to help you haul boxes out of a truck, you should do a quick home inspection to see if you need to run maintenance or plan some important renovations in the near future.
The first thing that you should investigate is your plumbing. Put the following steps on your DIY inspection checklist:
Find the Supply Valves
Finding the main water shutoff valve should be the top priority of your home investigation. It’s usually in the basement or a crawlspace beside the utilities. It will be on the wall facing the street since it’s connected to the city’s supply. Check for a simple gate valve or ball valve near the water heater. The previous owners may have labeled it.
Every homeowner should know exactly where the valve is located. It could save you from costly water damage during a plumbing emergency. So, if you notice that you have a burst pipe in the basement or a blown-out water hose in the laundry room, you can jog to the supply valve and turn it off.
Fixtures around the house will also have supply valves. Check the wall behind the toilet and open cabinets underneath your sinks. This knowledge will come in handy during small-scale plumbing emergencies. Say that your toilet is overflowing, and you want the water to stop spilling out of the bowl and onto the floor. Before you get the mop, turn off the valve.
The moment that you buy a house, you should look up the contact information for local maintenance services. If something goes wrong, you don’t want to be sifting through customer reviews online and asking for general quotes. You want to dial a number and get the professionals to your house as soon as possible.
So, save the number for emergency plumbing services into your phone so that you can be prepared for situations like frozen pipes or flooding basements right away. Write the same contact information down on a piece of paper and stick it to the fridge, in case a housemate or guest needs to make the call.
Test Out Your Faucets and Fixtures
Next up on the list is to test out all of the faucets, showerheads, toilets and appliances (washing machine, dishwasher) to see if they work properly. It’s a quick way to gauge the water pressure and temperature and to find out whether you need to make some upgrades.
If you notice anything fishy, you can react to it right away — not after you’ve moved in and started unpacking boxes. At that point, you can call up an expert to investigate plumbing trouble with a drain camera inspection and get to the source of the problem.
Do you see a chalky ring around the outside of your faucet or your showerhead? That is build-up from calcium deposits in the hard water. When you can see it sitting on the outside of the fixture, there is a good chance that there is a lot of build-up sitting inside of it. That could be blocking the water’s exit, making the pressure much lighter than it should be.
The problem could be resolved with a little bit of cleaning. Soak the affected faucet or shower in white vinegar for a few hours and then rinse out the calcium deposits with warm water. If you can’t remove showerhead or faucet, you can put the vinegar in a plastic sandwich bag, submerge the head and then secure the bag with an elastic or twist tie. After the rinse, test the water again and see if the flow is heavier.
Look for Insulation
You should do more than take a look at your faucets and fixtures. Check out your exposed pipes, as well. You want them to have a protective layer of insulation.
The reason for this is that exposed pipes are vulnerable to extreme cold during the winter. When the temperature dips below zero, the pipes can freeze. At best, this situation will stop you from using certain faucets, fixtures and appliances until you call a plumber for frozen pipe repair and safely thaw them out. At worst, the pressure in the frozen pipe builds and forces the pipe to burst, spilling water everywhere.
You can insulate your pipes in an afternoon without spending a lot of money or exerting much effort. Go to the nearest hardware store to get the insulation material. A popular choice is foam tubing with slits that you can quickly slip onto the pipe and seal. You could also use fiberglass wrap or foil wrap. These will protect the pipes when the weather is frigid.
Before you do this insulation project, you should turn up your thermostat and leave it on, especially when you’re not around. You don’t want a pipe to freeze and burst when the house is empty. Open your interior doors and sink cabinets to let the warm air circulate. Saving some money on energy bills will not be worth the plumbing problem.
Look for Leaks and Breaks
You will want to keep your eye out for any leaks, drips or other signs of pipe breaks that you might have missed on your first viewings of the house. Look for water stains around fixtures and on ceilings. Check the ground for mysterious puddles. Listen for strange sounds like running water in your toilet long after you’ve flushed or gurgling coming from the drain.
A small leak can cost you a lot of money if it goes unfixed. This woman was sent a bill for $4700 because the toilet in her roommate’s bathroom was leaking without her knowledge.
An easy way to find a toilet leak is to remove the lid, put a few drops of food colouring into the tank water. Then, leave the toilet alone for half an hour. When you come back, look into the bowl. If you see any food colouring in the bowl water, you have a leak and need to get it fixed.
Check If Your Sump Pump Works
One of the last things that you should do on your home checklist is to find your sump pump and test it. Your sump pump is a protective measure that removes pooling water from the sump basin, sending it far from the foundation. If you’re worried about basement flooding, this installation will give you some peace of mind.
Test it out by pouring a bucket of water into the sump basin. After a certain point, the pump should turn on. If you notice that nothing is happening, you should contact a plumber to see if the machine needs maintenance or a replacement.
Sump pumps are a great back-up plan, but what happens when that plan fails? Sump pumps sometimes fail during heavy storms because they require a constant power source. When there’s a power outage, they stop working and let the water inside. As a complete failsafe, you should think about installing an emergency battery.
The house received a professional home inspection before you signed the dotted line, but you still shouldn’t take their word that the plumbing is completely fine until you’ve investigated further. It’s better to find out on your first day with the keys, then long after you’ve settled in.