Plumbing 101: Know Your Pipes When You Buy

A home’s plumbing is usually second thought as long as the toilets flush and the shower flow is strong. Yet, replacing pipes can be a really expensive proposition, so you want to be sure to get a plumbing inspection – either from a plumber directly, or ensure your home inspector understands a home’s plumbing system. Look for American manufactured copper plumbing installed with lead-free joint materials.

Below are commonly used pipes for homes and the potential issues that might arise.

  • Chinese copper pipe in residential homes nationwide, 2005-to-present. (pin hole leaks because of inferior manufacturing):
  • Pex piping systems are probably the most common pipe put in new homes in the USA since about 2009. However, PEX has been known to fail when the pipes are in contact with certain chemicals such as chlorine within water, petroleum products and/or oxygen.
  • Polybutylene Pipe in a million plus US homes installed between 1978 & 1995 (Class Actions and it probably should be replaced).
  • Kitec plumbing systems used nationwide from the early 2000’s until 2004. (National Class Action. The brass fittings with the pipe were prone to fail because of poor metallurgy)
  • Wirsbo PEX plumbing systems (brass fitting failures) 2000’s (National Class Action)
  • CPVC pipes which are plastic with glued joints may break at the joint (2000’s-2017)
  • Zurn F1807 Fittings (Defective brass fittings that were prone to fail because of bad metallurgy. Sold by Zurn between 1996 and 2010)
  • Galvanized pipe was not subject to a class action. It was commonly used in US homes prior to 1980. Homes with galvanized plumbing pipe should probably be re-plumbed.

What are the consequences of defective plumbing? Here are a few:

  • Continuous plumbing leaks that might cost hundreds of dollars per year in plumbing repairs, personal property damage and/or costly water bills.
  • An undiscovered water leak could cause a side or section of the house to rot without you even knowing about it before it’s too late. If a defective pipe is responsible your home owner insurance policy may not cover the damage as most standard home owner insurance policies have a clause that indicates there is “no coverage for damage caused by a defective construction product.”
  • A leaking water line could potentially cause foundation issues.

A condo or single-family homeowners association might have the responsibility to inform potential buyers about defective plumbing. By not disclosing this information the HOA could be liable for concealing a known defect. It’s a good question to ask!

Key Takeaways

1. Hire an inspector knowledgeable in plumbing systems.

2. If the home you are purchasing is in an HOA, be sure to ask about defective plumbing. within the HOA development or condo – be sure the question and answer are in writing.

3. Be sure you know the type of piping in your home (have that in writing in the inspector report).