Residential Plumbing Part 1

Did you know that your home has not one but two plumbing systems that need to be kept completely separate? They are:

  • Water Supply System (Public or Private)
  • Drain, Waste & Vent (DWV) System

Most homes in the Hampton Roads Area are connected to supply plants and use public water supply. It is supplied to homes in various pipes with the biggest concern being lead pipes. Most in the Norfolk and Virginia Beach areas have been replaced.

Other concerns for the home inspector are homes that use the following types of supply pipe:

Galvanized Steel

The main issue with this type of supply pipe is its age. As it has not been widely manufactured for over 60 years, the 40-to-50-year life expectancy has long since passed. The other main problem with this type of plumbing is that it will rust from the inside out, leading to low pressure, rusty water, and ruptured pipes. These pipes should be monitored and replaced if corroding or leaking occurs.

Polybutylene (PB) and/or Qest

There have been large class-action lawsuits filed against the manufacturers of PB products alleging that they have an unacceptably high failure rate. While the internet is full of horror stories in my experience there have been very few problems with both types of pipe, especially in our area, and are usually the result of poor fittings. The main concerns are that if these pipes fail, they tend to catastrophically burst rather than leak and that some insurance companies refuse to insure homes with these types of pipes without some form of mitigation, up to complete replacement.

With all that out of the way, what is a good type of pipe to use? Generally, two main types are used today: Copper (usually Type L) and Plastic (PVC, CPVC, PEX). There are pros and cons to all these types of piping and a qualified contractor can advise on the best option for your home.

It is very important that supply piping be kept separate from DWV piping as this can lead to contamination. The biggest issue we see is homeowners leaving garden hoses connected when not in use. This can lead to outside water being drawn into the potable water supply and they should be disconnected when not in use.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where we look closer at DWV plumbing. This is a system that is surprisingly complex, works differently than supply plumbing, and has special considerations.

Let Summit Home Inspections inspect your crawlspace to find out which type of supply pipe you have. We have qualified, knowledgeable home inspectors in the Norfolk and Hampton Roads Area that can create a detailed report for the home buyer.

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