Try to find out in advance of the home inspection what the water supply is.
Plumbing components, piping, and fixtures can be found throughout the house. Start looking for plumbing vents outside on the roof when you first arrive at the site. Sometimes you have to go out in the backyard to find them. Many plumbers and owners prefer to penetrate the roof in back so the vents won't be visible from the street.
As you commence your attic inspection, keep an eye out for the plumbing vents. If you found them outside earlier, you should have a better idea where to look after you get inside. Occasionally, I find a plumbing stack vent terminated inside an attic. To my knowledge, plumbing vents should terminate outside.
In the attic, take a look around and under the plumbing vent flashing. If there are any daylight openings around the flashing, it might leak. These openings also provide a point of entry for small animals and birds as well as insects.
Is the plumbing vent material plastic, cast iron, copper, or steel? What is the condition of the joints? Is there an elbow right under the roof penetration? If so, check around for signs of leakage and try to determine if the joints are tight. If the vent stack is cast iron and has elbows, how well is it supported?
Occasionally, you will run across a sink in a bedroom or dressing room. Usually, the first plumbing fixtures you will come to after you exit the attic are in a bathroom.
On the bathroom page, we were trying to determine the condition of plumbing fixtures. On this page, we are more interested in plumbing design and accessibility. See if any provision was made for access to plumbing adjacent to showers and bathtub surrounds. Lower the lid and take a seat on the water closet bowl. Does the fixture rock back and forth at all? How about clearances? Do you have enough elbow room on both sides? Where is the toilet roll stored? Within reach? How much clearance is there in front of the toilet bowl? Are there any shut-off valves under the lavatory sink? Are they easy to get to or out of reach? How about the water closet tank fill shut-off valve? Can you reach it?
Does the bathtub or shower have grab bars? Even if you are not elderly or disabled, grab bars can be a nice thing to have.
What is the height of the lavatory sinks? Typically, it would be about 31 1/2 inches. While this is too low for most adults, it is about right for most children. Occasionally, I come across a lavatory sink more than 36 inches high!
You are likely to come across at least one clothes washer hookup somewhere in the house. If there is a washer installed, would you or someone else be able to move the washer out of the space if that should become necessary for maintenance or replacement? Does it look as if part of a wall would have to come down before you could get the appliance out?
Every once in a while I come across a clothes washer drain that has not been used for a few months or years. After that length of time, it is not unusual for a trap to go dry. Sometimes when that occurs, sewer gas is released into the house during certain weather conditions. This can be corrected by filling the trap with water or nontoxic antifreeze and covering the opening with plastic tape.
Try to get a look behind the washer at the hot and cold connections as well as the drain connection. If you are on the first floor, make a mental note of the location of the clothes washer drain pipe and try to find it later on in the basement.
By the way, your home inspector should be looking at most of these things during the home inspection. Still, it doesn't hurt if you follow along in his or her footsteps with this knowledge.
In the kitchen, make a note of the kitchen counter top height adjacent to the kitchen sink. Typically, this would be about 36 1/2". That might be a little too high or too low for you depending upon your height.
What about the distance of the sink rim from the outside edge of the counter top? Is it a long reach for you to reach the faucet controls?
Are there shut-off valves under the kitchen sink? Can you reach them?
While you are looking under the sink, how is the dishwasher drain connected? I have seen some dishwasher drains connected directly into the drain downstream of the trap. This is unsanitary and should be corrected by a licensed plumber. Occasionally, a plumber will install a separate trap just for the dishwasher.
What about the location of the traps and drains under the sink? Are they positioned out of the way or do they occupy a lot of the cabinet space?
Another thing to check in a kitchen is the height of the floor in front of the dishwasher. I have been in one or two kitchens where new flooring material was installed over old flooring. The edge of the new flooring was as much as 3/4 inch higher than the original floor under the dishwasher. The edge of the new floor prevented the dishwasher from being slid out from under the counter top for maintenance or replacement! Watch out for this one!
With so many great reasons to work with Mark Turnbow Real Estate Inspections, why would you choose someone else?