Just how old is the plumbing?
My parents’ house was 57 years old when my father died. Not long after he passed I noticed a crack in the ceiling in their dining room. Was it from the house settling or something more serious? (Jump to Lessons Learned)
The last months of my father’s life he made sure I knew where important documents were kept and how to access them. He left me with a list of account numbers, passwords and contact people. The one thing we did not discuss was upkeep and repair for the house. Oh, I knew who to call for a plumbing or electrical problem but I had no idea how old the water heater, air conditioner or plumbing were. And it never occurred to me that I would need to know these details until I saw that crack in the ceiling.
I was about to start traveling for work again, so I am fortunate that my father kept good records. I was able to determine that the water heater had been replaced within the last five years. However, I had no idea the condition of the plumbing and the last thing I wanted was a phone call while I was out of town that a pipe had burst.
A plumbing inspection showed that the return valves to shut water off to the house were so corroded they could not be turned off. The stack to the only toilet in the house was the original. And under the kitchen and bathroom sinks, pipes and on/off handles should be replaced. We had everything fixed including installing a new stack as a preventative measure before I started traveling again.
Keeping mom safe in her home took on an additional meaning for me that day. Safety now included being proactive about a home that is fifty-seven years old and requires saving money each month for unexpected repairs. Oh and by the way, the air conditioner in the attic was installed in 1982 so if anything broke we would not be able to get parts for it. Yes, it is being replaced this spring. And the crack in the ceiling? From the house settling.
- Call to see if a plumber, heating and air conditioner professionals etc. will come to your home and conduct an inspection free of charge. The plumber my parents used for years did our inspection for free.
- In a 3-ring binder, document the age of each major unit or appliance in your home, including where it was purchased and when. To uncover information about major systems and appliances in my parents’ home, I had to look through a lot of files. I have not used it, but “The Black & Decker Home Planner & Logbook” by Chris Peterson appears to be an excellent resource, detailed and organized. (Affiliated link: Amazon.com: The Black and Decker Home Planner Logbook)
- Filling in this book with your parents would be a great (and non-threatening) way to organize them and have things in place when you need it.
- Replacing the return valves that shut off water to our house required an orchestrated ballet. The first call was to the water company to let them know we needed water turned off at the street. An inspection by the water company showed they needed to clean out before they could turn the water off. Weeks later a phone call let us know the cleaning was complete. The next call was to the plumber to get an appointment. Coordination is important because the water at the street needs to be turned off first. With only one toilet in the house, I did not want the water off for hours before the plumber came. Once I had the date with the plumber, a call back to the water company put us on their schedule. Finally, before the plumber left, I called the water company to turn the water back on at the street. NOTE: If the plumber is not onsite and the water company thinks there is a problem, they will shut the water off at the street again.
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.