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Deterioration of plumbing pipes

Plumbing pipes in a home are in separated into two different system, supply and drain.  The supply lines bring water into the home and distribute it throughout giving you fresh water where you need it.  The drain lines take the wastewater out of the home with other materials that may be present including dirt and feces.   The systems work together to make our modern healthy home plumbing.

The bathrooms, the kitchen, the laundry, hose bibs, and even the refrigerator all have water supply lines.   We use this clean water for everything, some of it is even sent through a filter,  water softener, and water heater.  The distribution system usually delivers it where it is needed, typically there is valves that control the water flow.  These distribution lines are made of a variety of materials from copper to Polyvinyl Chloride(PVC/CPVC).  Over the years many materials have been used including galvanized metal, Polybutylene and even lead.   All of these plumbing lines have life expectancies, meaning they wear out and begin to leak.  Water supply lines that leak usually will cause water damage rather quickly.   On many occasions, it is necessary to re-pipe the home.   Copper is probably the most widely used plumbing supply line material but even that has a life expectancy.  The length of time that pipe lasts can vary based on manufacturing, water supply, installation, and environment.   When the lines fail, the damage can quickly flood a home, destroying the contents.

Different pipes have widely different lifespans. While galvanized pipe will only last about 20-30 years, but is not currently widely used in our area at this time.  Polybutylene because of many known issues should be replaced as soon as possible.  PEX pipe (Cross-linked polyethylene) has been in use for some time and in most cases doesn’t have any great issues except for some of the connections.  Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride(CPVC) used in homes at this point doesn’t appear to have a limited lifespan but does appear to become brittle.   We typically see copper pipes last about 50 years.  The real problem is predicting when a pipe or set of pipes is going to fail in a home, because of the extensive damage it can cause.

The drain systems consist of the drains under fixtures, the vents that travel through the roof and the sewer(waste) laterals that travel under the home.  The materials vary but in our area PVC, copper and cast iron are widely used.  Copper like the supply lines does deteriorate, especially with the use of harsh cleaning chemicals, but is usually limited to vents that are vertical through the roof.  The vents in the home are rarely an issue because they last longer than the laterals that travel under the home.   Many homes are built or retrofitted with PVC products including under sinks which is usually visible.   These products last indefinitely.  The biggest issue we have with sewer lines and laterals is with cast iron.  The metal corrodes and degrades over time, usually 40 -60 years.  This then leaks the wastewater and anything in it.  In our area, we usually cannot see these pipes because they are under the home.  The damage they cause may take some time to present its self.  When it does become known it is usually because the waster water floods the house or the soil gets washed away causing other issues, including structural.

In the course of doing a home inspection, we look at the plumbing pipes in the home.   Unfortunately most of the time a majority of the plumbing pipes are not visible.   As home inspectors we can only report what we can see, but that is not always enough.  It is recommended that you know what types of pipes you have and how long they are expected to last.  When doing remodeling or repairing of a home it is a great time to discuss with the contractor/plumber if it would be a good idea to change pipes or repipe the home or section of the home.  When planning ahead it can prevent a huge problem in the future.    It would also be advantageous to consider re-piping a home as the piping approaches the end of its life expectancy.

If you are purchasing a home or are curious as to what the condition of your drain lines are you can consider getting a sewer scope done.  The sewer scope is a long thing camera that is sent into the drain lines to record and view the condition of the pipes.   The line is accessed through a readily accessible clean out. The inspector will determine the best access point, and the report will outline where the line was entered. The camera inspection does not scope every drain line in the home or all the drain lines running underneath the house. The intent is to inspect the line that runs from the house to the final service point and to inspect this buried line for defects. This information can be used to make decisions about when to re-pipe and consider costs for such work, which is great to know before purchasing a home.   We can help with this additional service if requested.

Here is a link to a video form an inspection of PVC plumbing line


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What is important in a home inspection report

When we do home inspections in and around Melbourne, Fl we get asked some of the same questions.  Most of which can be summed up with what is important.  Honestly, that varies from homeowner to homeowner.  We can certainly help you decide what is important but everyone’s situation is different.  Some people are handy and can easily fix small items, while others will never go near their roof of touch electrical systems.  The only way to decide what is important to you is to have a discussion.

Important to your home include; what will cause damage or make the home unsafe.  Many of those items can range urgent to needing attention in the future.  A roof leak is important but in the dry season, it really will not cause any further damage, while an electrical problem could be an immediate concern.  Plumbing leaks certainly can be a huge issue and can certainly vary in importance.  When someone has an air conditioning issue the speed at which a homeowner wants repairs can certainly be determined by the time of the year.

Water issues from roof leaks can be a problem and ultimately the severity of the problem should be assessed.  A small leak at the fascia is certainly not urgent but a large leak over a critical living area might require emergency repair.  Most roof leaks in a home go unnoticed for months if not years.  That is why many are found during inspections.

Plumbing is what keeps our houses clean.  The water is used for cleaning everything in a home.  The wastewater needs to be quickly removed to prevent illnesses. Plumbing leaks can range from a small drip to a disastrous pipe bursting.  The water heater is probably the most dangerous item in your home, not only can it leak but it has the power to destroy your home.  Mythbusters did a whole episode (Shown in part here) about it.  While it is fun to watch on TV you would want to be sure that nothing like this ever happened in your you.   Here is a new story (  Additionally, water can cause problems such as decay and mold.  The occupants belonging can be damaged as well.

Most of us are accustomed to having the air in our homes conditioned.  We simply set the thermostat and we get heating and cooling.  This also dehumidifies(during cooling), this is what makes the home feel better in Florida.  Without a properly working air conditioning system, our home could not only be uncomfortable but prone to mold and moisture problems.  The system could even be new but leaky ducts, improper draining, or improperly sized unit and sever problems could develop.   Oversize systems are known to create moisture and mold issues in hot and humid environments.

Electrical issues vary from outdated components to downright dangerous situations.  Having a system that meets many of the current safety requirements can possibly save a life.  Adding Ground Fault circuits and Arc-fault circuits is a great way to make a home safer.  Most homes do not meet the current standards and we shouldn’t expect them to since they change every few years.  We can plan upgrades as needed.  Other items like overheating or improper electrical connections are more urgent.  Having breakers that work and are properly sized is important and often missed with an upgrading of other systems.  Pool pumps and other equipment around pools can be especially dangerous and easily overlooked.  We find issues all the time with the pool equipotential bonding (South Florida).

Other safety issues include garage door openers, slip, and fall hazards, as well as a myriad of other issues, should be taken into consideration.  Finally, knowing about your home may not be enough, there are different requirements for loan types and insurance.  Your home will have to meet those requirements as well as your needs.  Unfortunately, those requirements vary with companies and are subject to change.  We do many home and insurance inspections including four-point inspections in the Melbourne area, let our experience help you.  Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

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When Should You Get A New Roof

Having a new roof put on is a big expense and there are many different types of roofs to consider as well, such as: shingle, tile, metal, or even concrete. This post will strictly cover WHEN you should get a new roof, but after you find your answer be sure to click here for our post on what type of roof you should purchase! Also, at the end of this post, I will give you a quick reference sheet for roof life expectancy.

From an inspector (unbiased) point of view, I like to look at a few main points to find out if you need a new roof. They are:

  1. Is the age or roof damage affecting your homeowners’ insurance?
  2. Do you have roof leaks? (Note: plural)
  3. Have you had two different professional opinions on your roof’s life expectancy?

We like to get as many years as we can out of a roof, so if the roof can last another year, why not go for it, right?

Tackling the first question, there are certain cases where an insurance company will request an inspection on your roof. In Florida, they typically like to see at least THREE years left of roof life and no active leaks for them to insure. The reason being is to prevent liability if a hurricane were to hit or a possible claim on insurance due to roof leaks. Therefore, if you cannot receive insurance, you need a new roof.

Secondly, do you have roof leaks? One roof leak is not a big issue as a roofer can repair and you can move on. However, if you seem to have several roof leaks it is a sign that your roof covering is worn out. Moreover, the expense of multiple repairs is a bit larger considering you might even have several new ones arise. Ultimately, if your roof has multiple leaks and is near the end of its expected life, then it is time to pay for a new roof.

Lastly, we always recommend you receive multiple opinions about your roof even from inspectors! It is just like going to the doctors and then picking the treatment that seems most reasonable to you. Keep in mind, if you have a roofer come out to inspect your roof, their interest can be in selling a new roof. Due to this, we always recommend an inspector help you decide on roof replacement with estimates of repairs versus replacement.

According to the InterNational Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNachi):

Shingles (Three-tab): 10-12 years

***Honor sees them last about 14 years on average, but 10 years is a good mark for you to be on the look out.***

Shingles (Architectural): 15-20 years

***Honor sees the average being 17 years***

Tile: 80 years

***Tile roofs can vary as they depend on the underlayment and installation. Tiles themselves can last 80 years, but regular maintenance should be completed.***

Metal: 20 years

***Honor sees Metal roofing lasting longer if you keep up with regular maintenance, but is not recommended near salt water and may not be covered by warranty.***

Modified Bitumen: 10 years

***In our area, the average age is 12-15 years. This type can be coated every couple years to extend the life, but you should note this can sometimes void the warranty, cause problems for insurance, or other issues.***


The above are estimates ONLY! They can greatly be affected by your location in reference to the beach, hurricane season, and the manufacturer. Feel free to contact us if you need assistance!

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