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15 Electrical and Plumbing Red Flags to Look Out for

Category Helpful Hints

A house is like a car - it needs ongoing maintenance as some parts have a limited life span. It is therefore important that buyers and homeowners alike look out for red-flag problems when buying a home or deciding to have some maintenance done. 

There should never be exposed electrical wiring (wiring not inside its casing or exposed copper wires) in any home.

Antonio Vannucci-Smit, owner of Ionic Plumbing, Electrical and Gas, shares a list of plumbing and electrical red flags that buyers and homeowners should consider when house hunting or assessing the condition of their current home. 

1. Inspect the condition of plug outlets and switches 

Light switches and plug outlets are easily overlooked items. 

When these have scorch marks or missing shutters and only work when ‘they want to’ it could mean that they need to be replaced. This could also be a sign of an underlying wiring fault. 

2. Open or exposed wires 

There should never be exposed electrical wiring (wiring not inside its casing or exposed copper wires) in any home. Not only is this a fire hazard, but could also electrocute an adult, child or pet.

3. Check the condition of lights and light fittings 

Although it doesn’t seem like a major concern, loose hanging or flickering lights are something homeowners should take note of. 

Stove plates can easily tell you when they’re not being looked after - they can also give an indication regarding whether the stove needs to be replaced or not.

This could mean that you’re dealing with faulty wiring or fittings, or that the ceiling isn’t strong enough, or even that a globe needs replacing. In all these instances, if left unattended, repairs could get quite costly, really quickly. 

4. Examine the condition of the stove plates 

Stove plates can easily tell you when they’re not being looked after - they can also give an indication regarding whether the stove needs to be replaced or not.

As a stove ages, the cooking plates or elements start to wear and swell. They become loose fitting or stop working.

Take the time to look at your stove plates for any signs of wear and tear as they could cause the electricity to start tripping when the stove is due for an upgrade.

5How far is the electrical outlet’s proximity to flowing water? 

South African building standards state that an electrical outlet source should be a minimum of 1m away from flowing water. 

Most times, this isn’t taken into consideration when installing a new plug for convenience sake, and can cost you dearly when it is time to get an electrical certificate of compliance. 

By simply looking at the water pipes running outside a home, homeowners or buyers can tell what condition they are in.

6. Lookout for extension cords running straight through the walls 

It is not okay to make a hole in the wall so that an extension cord can be brought into another room as an extra plug point. Sadly, this is fairly common and needs to be removed to comply with standards.

7. Beware of badly executed DIY fixes 

This point not only applies to electrical components, but to plumbing as well. 

Some homeowners are incapable of doing good quality work around the home. However, this does not stop them from attempting do-it-yourself projects. 

Keep an eye out for evidence of this as it could get expensive to repair work that has been ‘fixed’ by someone that’s unqualified to do so. 

8. Look at the condition of water pipes 

By simply looking at the water pipes running outside a home, homeowners or buyers can tell what condition they are in.

It is important to check the water pressure when looking at a new home as it could be a big expense to get low water pressure sorted out.

Firstly, look for rust or wet spots along the pipes. If the pipes look terrible on the outside, they probably look worse on the inside.

Galvanized pipes were commonly used in older properties and don’t have a long lifespan.

Newer homes or extensions will most probably be piped with copper pipes that have a much longer lifespan. 

9. Check for stop taps

In order to be compliant, toilets and basin water points should have their own stop taps or closing valves. 

When a tap or toilet starts to leak, or a flexible connector pipe bursts, it is much quicker and more efficient to close the water at the point where it is connected. 

Not having a point to shut off the water immediately when disaster strikes could result in your home flooding. 

10. Inspect peeling or flaking paint 

Geyser placement inside the roof or outside the building is important to note for accessibility and water heat retention, as well as a number of other reasons.

The easiest way to detect a water leak inside your walls is to look for signs of peeling or flaking paint, usually on a wall bordering a kitchen or bathroom.

The leak can present itself either on an interior or exterior wall. If there is a water leak present inside a wall, it could mean extensive repairs or re-piping is needed to sort out the problem.

11. Pay attention to funky smells near drainage pipes 

A blocked drain is fairly easy to sort out, but it isn't always that simple. 

When there is a permanent smell hanging around drains it could mean the drain has collapsed and needs to be replaced. Another problem that could cause the stench is incorrect or absent ventilation pipes or valves. 

12Spot taps and mixers in a bad condition 

All taps and mixers have washers, rubbers or cartridges, which means they need regular maintenance.

If you notice lime scale on the taps or mixers, it is a sign that they are not being maintained and will start to leak or seize - if they haven’t already.

Feel free to open and close the taps to check if they leak or are difficult to open and close.

13. Keep an eye out for running toilets 

Toilet inlets that do not close or flush valves that do not seal are a sure way to crank up your water bill.

Every time you flush the toilet it uses 9l of water to refill the cistern. Now imagine the amount of water being wasted running into the cistern and down the toilet hours on end.

Make sure that the toilets flush properly, fill up in a timely manner and stops when the cistern is full.

14. Check for low water pressure 

There are few things in life that are as frustrating as showering under a trickle of water, or waiting an hour for your well-deserved bath after a long day.

It is therefore important to check the water pressure when looking at a new home - it could be a big expense to get low water pressure sorted out.

15. Assess the accessibility and placement of necessary installations 

Geyser placement inside the roof or outside the building is important to note for accessibility and water heat retention, as well as a number of other reasons.

The same goes for the main water shut-off valve to the property and the drainage and hatches.

If you can’t shut off the water to your house when necessary, or get access to a drain that’s blocked, it could cause a number of unnecessary and expensive problems.

Check that a professional will be able to access these installations easily and know where to find them in your own home.

Remember - most of the time these issues can be fixed, so keep calm and know the professionals in your area.

Author: Antonio Vannucci-Smit, owner of Ionic Plumbing, Electrical and Gas

Submitted 25 Aug 16 / Views 625