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Plumbing System

Photographs of plumbing system elements found during home inspections.

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Back to the contents page for the home inspection photos


A. Water Supply System and Fixtures


a. Location of water meter:  the meter is used to determine usage, but this is where a shut-off valve to the property is located. If the water cannot be shut off at the other valves, this location becomes the last resort, so you should know where it is. The meter can also show you if there is a leak (meter running when all water use has been discontinued). The location is also checked to see that the shut-off valve canbe reached (often these are buried). If water is in the box, there may be a leak, or the box may be in the line of water draining due to grading.

water meter

b. Location of main water supply valve: Most homes have a shut-off valve that is separate from the water meter (not all do though). On many homes, this valve will either be found on the exterior near a hose bib, or in the garage. Although these locations are the most common, they are not always the case. I have found shut-off valves in dining rooms, Master bedroom closets, and kitchen pantries. On pier and beam homes, the shutoff can often be found under the home near a hose bib. On any water supply pipe coming up from the ground and then entering the home, there needs to be insulation to protect the pipe from freezing (ice expands, pipes burst).

water shut off valve

The picture shows the valve stem without the handle. This is more common than one might imagine. Wen the handles break for the shut off, homeowners forget to add a new one, because they hardly ever have to shut off the water to the home.

uninsulated water supply

Water supply pipes for the home can come up inside the house, but often you will find them on the exterior. Insulating the pipe prevents damage from freezing, and the insulation helps prevent the transfer of heat through the wall. This pipe has some insulation that has been torn.

c. Static water pressure reading: 

Readings between 40psi to 80 psi are acceptable

The fixtures in your home are designed to work within this pressure range. Under 40psi causes homeowners to feel that the water in the shower is weak, but you will also notice that toilet tanks take longer to fill, and other tasks may take longer too. Over 80psi causes damage to fixtures and equipment. What determines the water pressure in your home? There are a few factors, but for water coming into the home, there is one main factor: proximity to a water pumping station. The closer you are, the higher the pressure.

d.If there is a water manifold, location of this unit:

Manifolds are a great convenient feature, but this can also be a leak point. One

concern is to use the plastic key provided to operate the valves.

Not all manifolds need the plastic key. If the valves have metal levers, then they can be turned. If the valves have plastic knobs shaped like diamonds, then you should use the plastic key. Using metal pliers can damage these knobs, where the valve can no longer be turned off.

Why are manifolds convenient? You can turn water off to each fixture individually, which is not easy to do for a shower or tub in an older home.

e. Other findings

P-trap under sink

another p-trap
are two P-traps under a kitchen sink. Most homes will just have one,
but a second way was hiding behind a disposer. At one point work was
done on the wall behind these pipes, so the stains in the back are
from this work not water stains. However, you will see water stains
on the tubes. You can also see that there is rust on a conduit tube
in the picture on the right (running through the middle). Water was
leaking there, but I found no leak now. The piece coming out of the
sinks drain in the right hand picture is called a tailpipe, and it is
new, so the leak was probably from that older pipe.

anti-siphon device

brass object attached between the hose bib and the hose is an
anti-siphon device. It prevents standing exterior water from back
flowing into the home’s drinking water supply.

hose bib pipe

There are a few things wrong in this picture, but we are looking at the white pipe running along the ground. The homeowner wanted a hose bib in a certain spot, so he tied this pipe into his water supply system. He then simply laid the pipe on the ground to where he wanted the hose bib. The hose bib was brought up to a height of about three feet. Problems: this pipe can freeze and burst causing a leak; lawn equipment can damage it, since it is exposed; and a leak may occur simply by normal use, since the hose bib was not secured as well. You may not realize that this solution is common, but this is how many people create new hose bibs.

toilet drain

toilet moisture damage

This is a photo of the toilet drain and the flange which holds the toilet down. The silicone outline is from where the toilet was. When a toilet is loose, the bolts or the flange are either damaged or loose. A loose toilet causes damage to the wax ring, which is not present in the picture, and leaks can occur. With the tile, you may never notice the leaks till much later, since the water can go under the tile at this point. This is shown in the photo on the right. The back wall trim has moisture damage signs. This can be from the tub (children splashing water) or this can be from the toilet flange.

toilet spaceThe concept of workspace sometimes goes by the side in some homes. This space is called the water closet, but in my reports I use the term toilet closet to make it clear. There needs to be enough space around the toilet for the homeowner, but there should be space for to easily work on it as well. With this toilet, the work will take longer (costing more money) due to the limited space in this closet.

uptairs bath leak

If there is a hole in the ceiling where there is plumbing, expect a leak. Once the water was turned on, the leak began when I was testing the equipment. These are the drains under the second story floor of a bath.

plumbing through the foundation

You will not see this part of your home on a normal basis: the plumbing coming out of the foundation. The larger pipes are for waste with smaller pipes for supply. The blue pipe is PEX. The blue color indicates that this is for cool water supply. The pipes have been capped, because this commercial site has been sitting vacant (hence the weeds).

B. Drains, Wastes, Vents


broken cleanout cover

Cleanout for the home’s drainage system. The cover has a hole where the plug for the wrench should be. This can cause problems with the plumbing system or with pest intrusions. This was probably damaged by a lawnmower.

plumbing vent

On a home inspection report, you will find mentions about vents in the roof covering section, but I wanted this vent here to help explain the plumbing system. Your pipes need access to air for the water to flow, so vents like this one come through the roof. This vent has lead flashing covering the pipe. This type of flashing lasts longer, but still needs repairs over time. Plastic plumbing vents have seals which can crack, that will allow water to enter the home. Most damage to these metal flashing comes at the top of the vent. The metal should be wrapped over the edge of the pipe end. If there are gaps, you can have leaks.

C. Water Heating Equipment

Energy Source:

Capacity: gallons


a. The temperature pressure relief valve and drain line:

b. The housing and vent:

water heater

access to burner on water heater
is a gas water heater. The vent on top is to take fumes from the
burning process out of the house, so you can think of it like a
chimney flue. The cold water supply will have the valve on it to shut
the water off. On the right is the burner compartment. The second
cover can be seen lifted to the right; another cover goes over this
assembly. The longer thicker tube provides the gas for the burner.
The thinner tube provides gas for the pilot light.

water heater connection

This is an example of corrosion at the water heater fittings, caused by galavanic action. This can lead to a leak.










© Frank Schulte-Ladbeck Professional Home Inspector Houston, Texas
Frank Theodor Schulte-Ladbeck
home inspector, TREC# 9073
Houston , Texas , 77063 United States
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