Moving house can be quite an ordeal so once you find yourself settled in your new property the last thing you want is an unexpected plumbing nasty. Worry not! We have come up with a list of basic checks that can help you identify some of the most damaging plumbing issues before you move in or put in an offer. Whats more none of our tips require any knowledge of plumbing or use of tools.
One thing to note before we start - if the property is a new build or newly renovated any plumbing issues will not have left their marks. In this case it is best to have building contractor's details on hand as they are liable for any problems resulting from poor workmanship.
#1 Don't look down, look up!
If you are expecting a big puddle of water in the middle of the room to tell you there is a problem somewhere you will be disapointed. Many plumbing issues are passed on from one owner to the next some unknowingly others either underplayed, completely unmentioned or even worse covered up.
A freshly pained ceiling right underneath a bathroom can indicate a one off leak or an ongoing problem especially if the rest of the property is still sporting old paint. In fact bathroom is where most leaks tend to happen. This isn't the end of the world of course, except if that bathroom is in fact a wetroom (no shower tray just tiled floor with a drain hole) . Wetrooms are notorious leakers, what makes things worse is a leaking wetroom floor can not be patched up, it will eventually leak again. The whole shower area will need to be removed along with any tiles, tanking (waterproofing), floorboards, showerscreens (along with wall tiles around the screens). You are looking at a massive expense and several weeks of taking showers at your local gym.
Other indications of a badly installed wetroom are:
Cracks in the tiles or tile grout
Tiles move as you walk on them
Any undrained water forming small puddles
#2 Does it smell of mushrooms in here?
As soon as you walk through the door take in the air inside the property. Is there anything that stands out? We aren't talking about smelling a stirfry here, what you are trying to detect is damp and fungal growth. If the property has any issues with that you should be able to sense the moisture rich air and sometimes a very telling and unpleasant smell of mould.
Look at the skirting boards any exposed woodwork and paint. These quickly deform, flake, and become discoloured. Again if you smell damp and the only thing freshly painted in the house is that one wall in the hallway and the skirting boards be suspicious.
Damp signs outside the bathroom can indicate rising damp, rain ingress or leaks in pipework concealed in walls or solid floor.
Bathroom will always be a big moisture contributor and it is essential that there is at least an openable window or an extractor fan, preferably both. If the extractor fan is the only means of ventilating the bathroom make sure to check it is working effectively as soon as you move in.
#3 Know thy stopcock
Working out where exactly to turn the water off should be on top of your to do list moving into the new property.
This one especially applies to blocks of flats which share stored water usually fed from tanks at the top of the building. If the property has a combination boiler you are likely to be entirely on mains water with one stopcock isolating all water in the property. In other cases you might have to do some digging around to find out where the stopcock(s) is, make sure to test it once you locate it. You might find yourself in a situation where the stopcock is nowhere to be found or the one you have found is completely seized. In this case make it a priority to put in a working stopcock in an accessible place.
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Without facility to turn off water in your own flat you will find it extremely difficult to carry out any plumbing work whatsoever, plumbers you invite over will flee in terror minutes after setting foot in your place. Even worse any leaks will be extremely difficult if not impossible to stop so don't wait until the disaster strikes.
This is it for our top three avoidable disasters but stick around as we put together top 10 tips to give you a good idea about the overall state of plumbing in the property and help you identify plumbing faults before they become an emergency issue.