New Vancouver House Owners: Check These 5 Plumbing Issues

If you’ve recently purchased a new home in or around Vancouver, one of the worst things that can happen is a major plumbing problem. Water leakages can result in structural and cosmetic damage, as well as promote the growth of mold and bacteria. If left unchecked, the repair bill for the damage could end up costing you tens of thousands of dollars. Let Milani give you some pro advice to help save you money in the long run. Here are some things for new homeowners to check after purchasing a house.

Shut off valves

When you have a plumbing issue with a faucet, toilet, bathtub, or any other fixture, a simple way to contain the problem is to turn the shut-off valve. However, it’s not until an emergency happens that many homeowners find that the shut-off valve has also failed at some point. It’s wise to check the shut off valves to make sure they are still in working order. If you know that the valves have not been changed in the last 20 years, you should replace them before disaster strikes.

Different types of shut off valves for plumbing exist. Here we have a ball (left) and wall (right) valve.
Different types of shut off valves exist. Here we have a ball valve (left) and wall valve (right).

Poly-B Piping

Poly-B or Polybutylene piping was a resin based plumbing product that was used extensively in Vancouver from the mid 1980s to mid 90s. Unfortunately for the people of the Lower Mainland, the pipes had one major flaw: they weren’t waterproof. More specifically, the pipes would react chemically with the chlorine and oxygen in water which caused the pipe to flake or become brittle. Vancouver water has a relatively low level of chlorine but a high level of oxygen. This, absurdly enough, means that running water through the pipes would actually cause cracks to appear over time. Leaks would most commonly appear at connecting joints and the stop-gap solution was to replace the joints with another material. However, Poly-B piping will eventually crack and cause more leakage as time goes on.

If your home was built in the 80s or 90s, be sure to check your home for Poly-B. It can be identified as a grey or white plastic pipe. You may see brass or copper fittings at joints if any previous work has been done. If you’re unsure, get a professional to inspect your plumbing. Should you find any Poly-B piping, the best thing to do is have your home repiped. Pipe failure can be unpredictable so do it as soon as you are able.

Poly-B pipes are made from white or grey plastic.

Water Pressure

Checking your water pressure is a simple task that can help prevent other major problems. If the water pressure is too high, it can cause strain on the joints and pipes. Pinhole leaks and leaks at the joints can begin to appear if the pressure is not adjusted. Water pressure in a home is usually controlled with a Pressure Reducing Valve, commonly known as a PRV. It is a mechanism that sits where the water main is connected to the house and, as it’s name suggests, reduces the pressure of the incoming water from the city line. The average lifespan of a PRV can range from 7 to 12 years. It is advisable to have it replaced periodically to maintain the pressure of your water system. If your home uses hot water radiant floor heating, you should have that inspected as well. It uses a similar but separate piping system.

Replacement of the Hot Water Tank

People who sell their homes tend to do so without replacing the appliances. The purchaser not only buys the house but the old appliances as well. If your hot water tank has not been replaced in the last 6 to 8 years, it’s time to start looking at a replacement. Over time, the tank of the water heater begins to corrode and leak. Many people often wait until the unit breaks down before taking any action, leaving the owner with a pool of hot water on the floor.
The cost of the hot water tank installation is often less than that of the water damage repairs.

Water Main Replacement

The water main is a pipe or hose that connects the water from the city to your home. In Vancouver and most of the Lower Mainland, the water main is usually located in the front of the house. If you haven’t already checked, you should confirm the date of any maintenance done on the water main by checking the maintenance invoices from the original owner. It’s not uncommon for a water main to have a 10 year warranty. Any longer and you run the risk of flooding your property and causing extreme damage to the foundations of your home. The excess water will make the ground soft and any holes or cracks in the walls and foundation will allow water to enter. A broken water line is usually identified by wet walls and floors in the house or a wet patch on your lawn.

Many new homeowners tend to sidestep maintenance on their homes as it can seem costly at first. However a little prevention can smooth out the your experience as a homeowner and keep your property secure and comfortable for years to come.

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