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Pre-Drywall Inspection - Plumbing Clean Out Hidden From Future Eyes?

Plumbing clean outs are important.  What happens when an installation has the plumbing clean out hidden from future eyes?

Pre-drywall inspections are very, very important, in my opinion.

This is the only time I can see the house in a skeletal state. 

  • I can see if bearing walls are actually lined up on top of beams or foundation walls that are supposed to support them.
  • It is easier to see if HVAC ducts (virtually glorified Slinkies with insulation and plastic wrap) are crimped around rafters and such to the point of collapse, making them unable to blow air.
  • Electrical cables and plumbing tubes need protection from possible future nails and screws and need to be protected with a fairly strong metal plate.  Are they all done?
  • Is insulation stapled?  Does it completely the fill cavities it is supposed to?
  • Are drywall screws used to hold down toilet flanges, hold up rubber shower wrap, secure bath tubs - i.e., are they used for everything but drywall?
  • Are basement bathrooms actually connected to drain lines?  (Twice I have seen where they were not...)
  • There are a zillion other things I look for too.

Well, what about plumbing clean outs?

That is the little round cap that appears on every main plumbing drain line, and, recently, also in the front yard.

These allow the plumber to be able to snake out a drain line that gets clogged.

To unclog a drain he will usually start in the yard and send a mechanical "snake" down the line to try to dislodge the clog.

If that doesn't work, he will pick on the one (or two or three) indoors.

If that doesn't work he will go down the toilets.

Sooner or later he will find and dislodge that clog.

Don't think this never happens.  Just two days ago my neighbor's plumbing clogged.  I told them what to do and the plumber did find and dislodge a clog.  I also suggested that they stand right beside the plumber when he unscrews that cap so they could "get the full benefit of the experience."

What if the only clean out inside the house will be hidden by drywall?

This one is under the basement staircase.  IT IS THE ONLY ONE INSIDE THE HOUSE!

A plumber would never see it once the drywall is installed.

And I can see from the framing that no small doorway is provided to be able to see that clean out and get him inside that cavity should he need to snake the line out.  Access must be provided, and it should be obvious so people will know to look there.  It's also a space that can be used for storage, so why not have access?

HERE'S MY BEEF.  THE DRYWALL IS SCHEDULED TO BE INSTALLED INSIDE THIS HOUSE THE NEXT DAY.  DO YOU SEE THAT PRONG STICKING OUT?  THAT IS A PLUG.  IN THIS COUNTY THE BUILDER IS REQUIRED TO PLUG THE DRAINAGE SYSTEM AT ITS LOWEST POINT AND COMPLETELY FILL THE ENTIRE DRAIN SYSTEM WITH WATER FOR 48 HOURS.  THEN, AFTER THOSE 48 HOURS ARE UP, THE COUNTY COMES TO MAKE SURE THERE IS NO LEAKING.  THIS IS THE LAST STEP BEFORE THE COUNTY SIGNS OFF ON THE "ROUGH" PLUMBING.  THE COUNTY HAS ALREADY SEEN THIS SYSTEM, AND APPROVED IT!

I BET THEY NEVER EVEN NOTICED WHERE THIS CLEAN OUT IS.

So much for that! 

My recommendation:  the builder wants buyers to think that because a supervisor is on site every day, and the county performs its various "inspections," that a buyer DOES NOT NEED a home inspection.  BUYERS ABSOLUTELY NEED NEW CONSTRUCTION INSPECTIONS!  DON'T LET THEM CONVINCE YOU OTHERWISE!

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 22 commentsJay Markanich • June 14 2012 04:14AM

Comments

Hi Jay,

I can see what you are referring to. Not surprising that a "public inspector" missed something. 

The cleanout seems to be in a room to the right of the stairs. The pipe is offset enough to miss in wall. Is there no door to the small room/ closet at the right of the stairs? Or is this a lost space area?

Have a good day in Virginia

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) almost 7 years ago

Clint - I have been inside the house when the County shows up and they are quick, quick.  They are supposed to throw me out, but don't, in favor of asking me questions!  This photo is taken from a basement office, already wired and ready for the computer equipment this buyer (a big IT company exec) had pre-wired.  Beyond the stairs is the basement family room.  There is no way to even see inside this location, once the drywall is up.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

I too have been in a new home when the county inspector came through for the final inspection.  They spend approx. 2 minutes going from floor to floor flushing toilets. 

They rarely even look under the kitchen sink - hence the house that, when we did a pre-settlement walk-through following the county final approval (sticker on the elec. panel), the dishwasher drain wasn't connected to the sink drain and the kitchen flooded.  You can imagine the look on that buyer's face.  Imagine how they'd react if they used the dishwasher for the first time after settlement.

Or, the pre-drywall inspection (following the county sign-off on the foundation permit, where the inspection disclosed that there was no brick ledge for the installation of the brick front. 

Or, the pre-drywall inspection, after the county signed off on the framing, where the home inspector discovered that the two car garage was not strapped to the main structure and the entire garage could be physically moved with a light nudge.

Or. . . . . . I could go on and on but anyone reading this post should get the idea.

 

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) almost 7 years ago
these days it would be great if the inspector videotaped the pre drywall inspection and gave the video to the new buyer so he could pass it down to the next buyer...
Posted by Edward Gilmartin (CRE) almost 7 years ago

On every inspection I look for the clean out(s). New or old, many end up behind a wall. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Lenn - I had a front porch roof on a new construction the other day that had been attached with four toe-nailed nails!  I'm sure it was on the supervisor's list though.  That's what the usually say to the buyer!

You are right about the quick, quick county inspection.  On one I witnessed, they beeped one smoke detector to make sure they were all connected and pushed the test button on one kitchen GFI. 

Edward - not bad, but nobody sees everything!  And to have that on tape, well, um, it's on tape!

Jim - as do I.  Often, then the basement has been finished by the homeowner they are hidden, sometimes visible sometimes not, and not accessible.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Yicks....good thing for all homeowners to know...this location, water shut off ...circuit breakers....details details !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) almost 7 years ago

All that stuff is very evident at this stage S&D.  And no electrical yet beyond the box and rough wiring.  But even that needs to be looked at too!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

I go crazy when I hear OTHER AGENTS say that you don't need a home inspection for new construction because the builder gives a warranty for one year.  They obviously don't read your blog (or have any common sense!)

Posted by Kathryn Maguire, Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach (GreatNorfolkHomes.com (757) 560-0881) almost 7 years ago

No common sense, Kathryn, OR good sense.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jay, In some areas here they will allow air tests. Some want the water test. I think this is one of those items that is unnoticed by many.  

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Don - here they fill the drains for 48 hours minimum and pressurize the supply lines with public water for 3 days.  Then they pass it all off at once.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Probably just as important as the cleanouts is the configuration of the plumbing venting. Nevermind 'is it to code', first, is it there, especially with renos.

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) almost 7 years ago

Jay -- if that is the plug, how is a plumber supposed to use the cleanout for its intended use, assuming he could find it?

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) almost 7 years ago

Here we go again.  My sister used to sell new homes and she was a better construction supervisor than the ones that were hired in her communities.

Posted by Justin Dibbs, REALTOR® - Ashburn Virginia Homes for Sale (Pearson Smith Realty) almost 7 years ago

Robert - the vents were all obvious through the roof.  Access to this only clean out is really important!

Steven - that plug is temporary so they can trap water in the entirety of the drainage system.  It will be removed, that water drained, and the round clean-out cap installed.

Justin - on this house, at the pre-drywall stage, they are already on the third supervisor!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

Jay, a lot of things can get missed by the building inspectors, we see it all the time. It is a good idea to have a home inspection, even on the new construction.

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) almost 7 years ago

Good morning Jay you sir do find some interesting things and future problems in your journey through homes.  Enjoy the day

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty AR LLC) almost 7 years ago

It is a great idea Tom.  Everyone knows this is there and thinking a bit ahead is not difficult.

James - thanks, and yes I do!  Again, we have to think ahead!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

That's a great list of stuff to check, Jay.  Just last night I was reading about how there has apparently been a big increase in clogged building drains over the last 15 years or so.

Old building drains were sized for 5 gallon-per-flush or 3.5 gallon-per-flush toilets.  That large slug of water would do a good job of 'scouring' the drains with every flush.  Newer low-flush toilets obviously don't scour the larger drains as well, and people are left with you-know-what building up in the drains.

That cleanout needs to be accessible.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) almost 7 years ago

Jay -- my thought was that if they were supposed to hang dry wall the next day, and would have blocked that in, the hangers would not have thought anything of that plug being there, it wasn't in their way.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) almost 7 years ago

It's a start Reubs.  There are lots more things and this is the only time to see them!  Clogs are more and more frequent in main drain lines.

That's not their job Steven!  They just know they are supposed to put the stuff up!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) almost 7 years ago

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