Ask The Inspector
Q: Obviously my inspector will check the plumbing fixtures — sinks, toilets, showers, etc. — but what about the supply and drain pipes?
A. In addition to checking all the plumbing fixtures of a property for functionality, water pressure, drainage and flow, your inspector should visually inspect and describe the water supply pipes and drainage pipes.
Water supply pipe materials were made of lead and then converted to galvanized pipe from the early 1900s to early 1960s, so those may be present in older homes. Copper supply pipes were introduced in the late 1950s and may also still be used. Some modern-day plumbing supply systems have incorporated plastic-type piping — such as polybutylene, PEX and CPVC — made by various companies. During the inspection, your inspector should determine and describe the type of plumbing supply systems.
In some cases, drain pipes were made with clay for underground use from the house to the main line at the street. Inside the house – in the early days of the late 1800s to early 1960s — lead and cast iron were primarily used and then replaced by the more modern ABS, PVC and CPVC plastic drain pipe material.
In any case, your inspector is looking for signs of leakage and corrosion with either your water supply or drain pipe systems. A home inspection does not guarantee insurability of a home that contains certain building products and materials; some insurance companies may not cover certain water pipe supply systems.
For example, there was a class-action lawsuit that is no longer in effect for polybutylene piping systems. Polybutylene piping is typically a gray, sometimes black, flexible plastic piping system that was prone to leaking, especially in the first generation. These systems were reported as failing in the tubing, fittings and connections. The settlement of the class-action suit only repaired the leaks — it did not entitle full replacement unless warranted. The second generation of this piping was prone to leaking at the fittings. Thus, when discovered, polybutylene piping systems should be fully inspected by a qualified plumbing contractor.
Galvanized piping systems are now considered obsolete and are no longer used. Typically, galvanized piping systems have a tendency — depending on hard water content — to collect calcium deposits at elbow and T fittings, which reduces water flow, especially on the hot water side. Eventually the lines close up, and in some cases, they can develop leaks.
Plumbing system repairs and replacements can be one of the most expensive repairs to a home, so it is important to have plumbing systems inspected by a quality, trained home inspector.
Dealing With Air Impurity
Air impurity is caused by two general pollutants: particulates and gases. Smoke, dust mites, and pollen fall into the particulate category. Gaseous pollutants include gases released as a result of combustion, such as nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen dioxide.
There are several ways to clean your home’s air of its potential pollutants:
- Air filter solutions trap particles as air passes through the filters.
- Activated carbon air filters are used to eliminate gases and odors from the air.
- Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) systems use UV light to kill gaseous pollutants.
- Air ionizers remove particles from the air by releasing negative ions, which change the polarity of airborne particulates.
It’s not possible to control the air quality outdoors; controlling it indoors is another matter. An air purifier is available for nearly every indoor pollutant, and is a common sense decision for homeowners to help ensure a healthy air environment.
Snapshots From The Field
What’s Wrong With This Picture?
- You should not install polybutylene piping or any type of plastic piping system this close to a gas water heater vent pipe.
- This is a proper installation.
- Plastic piping like polybutylene is the best type of piping system to use for this application.
- PEX pipe would be a better choice for this application.
Correct Answer A. You should not install polybutylene piping or any type of plastic piping system this close to a gas water heater vent pipe. There should be a metal type of extension pipe installed for any of the supply lines in or out of a gas water heater. NPI’s inspection expert says that the installation in the photo is a disaster waiting to happen. Also note that the pipe may be leaking due to corrosion.
Whether for a window, door or skylight, cutting a hole in your home will create a place where water can enter. This can cause rot, mold or other problems. Flashings, made of aluminum, galvanized steel, copper and plastics such as PVC, are meant to cover and protect the seams. This prevents water problems from occurring.
Flashings may be visible, concealed or partially concealed, and are integral in ensuring that water stays outside on the lawn instead of inside on the floor. If traced to their source, many so-called roof leaks are actually flashing failures. Flashings divert water away from: chimneys, windows, doors, valleys, the intersection of various rooflines, skylights, pipes and stacks.
As part of a general home inspection, NPI professionals inspect the flashings to ensure they are functioning and properly installed. The inspector will observe both the inside and outside wall and roof openings where flashings are common to determine if there is any evidence of failure or leakage. Findings are recorded in a written report. For more information on flashings, roofs and property inspection, call us today.
Shopping Tips for New Windows
One of the best ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency is to install new windows. But once you start shopping, the variety of available technologies to choose from may seem overwhelming. For instance, glazing materials now come with a variety of coatings and feature options. You can also buy frames in aluminum, wood, vinyl, fiberglass or a combination of materials. And, each glazing or frame option has its own pros and cons.
To help you determine which window option to choose, we’ve collected the following tips:
- Look for the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) label to ensure that the window’s performance is certified.
- The lower the U-value, the better the window’s insulation. In colder climates, a U-value of .35 or lower is recommended because these windows have double glazing and a low-e coating.
- In warmer climates, where summertime heat coming through windows is the main concern, look for windows with double glazing and spectrally selective coatings to reduce heat gain.
- Select windows with air leakage ratings of 0.3 cubic feet per minute or less.
- To maximize the seasonal energy benefits in temperate climates, choose windows with both low U-values and low solar heat gain coefficiency (SHGC).
- Look for the ENERGY STAR® AND EnergyGuide labels on the windows.
- Vinyl windows are a low-cost durable option — virtually indestructible, impervious to moisture and insect and rot-proof.
- Fiberglass windows won’t warp, rot or crack, but they also cost about twice as much as vinyl windows.
- Although aluminum windows are extremely strong, aluminum has many downsides: It doesn’t insulate well against heat and cold; it expands and contracts rapidly relative to glass, putting stress on seals; and it is susceptible to the corrosive effects of salt air, so it’s not a great choice for coastal climates.
- Wood windows have a certain charm, but they aren’t as durable, are susceptible to rot and insect attack, require vigilant maintenance and cost more.
Did You Know?
The Life Expectancy of Home Components
Do you ever wonder how long a certain component in your home might last? The life expectancy of a typical component depends on the use it receives. The National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) “Study of Life Expectancy of Home Components” created a timeline for you, based on the results of the study, to use before planning your next big home improvement.
Appliances differ in their life expectancies. Gas ranges have the highest life expectancy of 15 years, washers and dryers are expected to last about 13 years, and dishwashers and microwaves are expected to last nine years.
Flooring All natural wood floorings have a life expectancy of 100 years or more; marble, slate and granite are expected to last for about 100 years; vinyl floors last up to 50 years; carpet last between eight and 10 years.
Kitchen cabinets are expected to last up to 50 years.
Masonry (chimneys, brick veneers, fireplaces) are expected to last up to 100 years.
Countertops have a life expectancy of about 20 years, depending on the type.
Exterior doors (fiberglass, steel, wood) can last as long as the house exists, while vinyl and screen doors have a life expectancy of 20 to 40 years.
Garage door openers have a life expectancy of 10 to 15 years.
The life expectancy of most components is often overlooked. Most components are replaced before they are worn out because of changes in technology, life styles and consumer preferences. Proper maintenance of these components is important in order to achieve the maximum life expectancy.
Monthly Trivia Question
Carpenter Ants destroy wood by feeding on it. True or False?
Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbuck’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.