The plumbing system is one of the most important systems in a house, both for your comfort and your safety. That is why you should carefully evaluate the plumbing system of any house you are planning to purchase. Here are some of the specific things to focus on:
You need to assess the adequacy, material, and condition of the pipe system in your house. Plumbing pipes are available in different materials such as plastic, copper, galvanized steel, and many others. Each of them has its pros and cons, and you should know which ones you are getting. For example, galvanized steel pipes can corrode over time, and the rust buildup inside smaller pipes can reduce their effective diameters.
There are two main reasons you should be concerned about the condition of the water heater. First, a malfunctioning heater may leave you without hot water on the days you need it most. Secondly, some water heater malfunctions can even lead to an explosion. Signs of water heater problems include rusty water, unusual noises (cracks and pops) from the water tank, and leaks around the water heater, among other things.
When it comes to evaluating the toilet, the main thing you should be concerned about is the possibility of leaks. What's worse is that a typical toilet has multiple seals holding it together, which means diagnosing the source of the leak may not be easy. Some people repair toilet leaks (at the toilet base) by caulking them, but this doesn't fix the root of the problem. Look for signs of rot around the base of the toilet, as this may indicate that the leak has been going on for a long time.
A malfunctioning sewer line is both a disgusting sight and a health hazard; in fact, this is most people's worst nightmare as far as plumbing fails go. You need to confirm that the sewer lines are in good condition and able to handle the house's wastes. You should particularly look out for serious damage, such as root intrusions into sewer pipes that are expensive to fix.
When searching through homes for sale, you can make a preliminary walk through the house you are interested in to check its plumbing condition; however, you will know more about this and other parts of the house after the home inspection process. As your realtor will tell you, you should commission a specialist home inspection targeting the plumbing system if you suspect a deficiency or malfunction.