Colorado Springs Home Inspections - Tales from the Frontlines

As a home inspector in Colorado Springs, I often find myself inspecting situations that have previously confused a home owner or contractor. In those cases, the home owner reaches out to me for an inspection to help find the cause. In this particular case, the call went something like this, "Jeff - we have an issue. The volume of water flowing from our tap is really low. We had a plumber check it out and he recommended we increase the pressure from the city line. That didn't work, and now we're experiencing even more plumbing issues with leaks in several new areas. Can you come have a look?"

I'll admit, my curiosity was piqued. Though, having several years of foundation and excavation experience under my belt, I had an idea of what the cause might be. On to the home to find out.

I arrived at the property with a water pressure gauge to get an initial reading. The pressure was surprisingly high - around 100psi. On average, a residential water pressure reading will be between 40 and 70psi which is the level most in-home plumbing is designed for. And sure enough, even though the pressure was high, the volume of water flowing out was low.

Speaking with the homeowner, I confirmed the initial conversation that since the initial plumber recommended a water pressure increase, several new leaks in previously working sections of plumbing had emerged. I investigated the leaks and found them in sections of pipe that looked otherwise fine - not old, cracked, or corroded.

At this point, I had a good idea of where to look. I ventured down into the crawlspace to the junction of the main city line and the main home water intake pipe and found what I was looking for. There was a noticeable "kink" in the line that was likely caused when the initial hookup occurred. This kink was responsible for the low-flow, since it was effectively like trying to feed an entire home through a straw. But since the pressure from the city line was cranked up so high, the small amounts of water that were making it through were coming out at a high pressure - enough to overwhelm several previously fine connections and pipes that were simply not designed to handle it.

As I provided my report, the homeowner naturally asked, "Why wasn't this found earlier? How come the plumber didn't find this?" I can only speculate that the plumber was in a hurry and/or didn't want to crawl down into the crawlspace to find out. I hate to say it, but this is a perfect example of why a home inspector - a quality home inspector - is so valuable. Good contractors will take their time, perform their due diligence, and won't leave until they've verified your problem is fixed. But, as with any profession, not all contractors are that good. An inspector's primary mission is to identify exactly these circumstances and help pinpoint the cause. And a good inspector will take the time to get dirty, go into the crawlspace, and complete their mission.

I take great pride in my work and was happy to have helped this particular home owner figure out the issue and, most likely, prevent them from having to deal with a high pressure pipe failure that could very easily have led to a major flooding issue - goodness forbid that being on a weekend camping trip in Woodland Park!

If you have any questions about plumbing or need a home inspection, feel free to give me a call at (719) 302-5568 - always happy to help!

When it Rains In Colorado, It's Time to Check Your Sump Pump

One of the most often cited issues in my home inspection reports when inspecting homes in Colorado Springs is the sump pump, and the sump pump well. Given the rain we've had this year it's been particularly important to educate home owners on the purpose and functionality of their sump pumps.

What is a sump pump?

A sump pump is a water pump that is usually installed in the basement of a home. It's usually tucked into a utility closet, in a well several feet below the floor of the basement. It's often accessible by a plastic cover that is easily removed. The tell tale sign that you've found your sump pump well? A long PVC pipe being routed up above ground level.

This is a view of me inspecting the sump pump. In this case, the homeowner has their pump elevated on a number of 5 gallon bucket lids. There's also a lot of dirt and debris that pose a risk of pump failure if they are sucked into the pump. The big white pipe coming up through the top is the pipe that the pump moves water through to get it out of your foundation.

This is a view of me inspecting the sump pump. In this case, the homeowner has their pump elevated on a number of 5 gallon bucket lids. There's also a lot of dirt and debris that pose a risk of pump failure if they are sucked into the pump. The big white pipe coming up through the top is the pipe that the pump moves water through to get it out of your foundation.

What is the purpose of a sump pump?

The foundation of your home has a series of drains around the perimeter that facilitate drainage around the outside of your house. These drains help bring the water from the surface of your home down below the foundation, ultimately routed into the sump pit or well. As the water goes into this well, the sump pump has a water level detector that kicks on and pumps the water out of the well, into the pipe, and routes it outside (usually in your side yard or backyard) far away from your foundation.

Why should I check my sump pump?

The last few inspections I've done have had issues with the sump pump system. In one case, the check valve on the pipe leading out from the sump pump was missing entirely - likely never installed. The reason this is an issue is because without the check valve, the pump may kick on, pump gallons of water up the pipes, but then when the pump turns off (having reduce the well water level to the acceptable level), all of the water still in the pipe system will run right back down into the well, starting a vicious cycle that results in your pump running continuously.

When this happens, the pump becomes much more likely to fail. When that happens, look out - before you know it, you're going to be looking at a flooded basement during the next big rainstorm.

What is a check valve?

A check valve is one of the most important, if simplest, parts of the whole system. It prevents water that has been partially pumped up from running right back down into the sump pump well, thereby causing a vicious cycle of the pump always running. It's really easy to check if it's there. And if it is, you just need to verify that the arrows are pointing in the right direction.

This is what you want to see coming out of your sump pump well. A check valve installed, arrows pointing in the correct direction.

This is what you want to see coming out of your sump pump well. A check valve installed, arrows pointing in the correct direction.

What do I do if I think my sump pump is broken?

If you have reason to believe your pump is broken (flooded basement, full pump well, constantly running, etc.), you can call your local plumber or handyman for a fix. The symptoms of the problem should resolve themselves fairly quickly if the fix was performed properly. And if you're buying a home, be sure that your home inspection report includes your sump pump!

Ten Tips to Speed Up Your Home Inspection

Sellers can speed up their home sale by preparing their home for the inspection ahead of time using the following tips. The inspection will go smoother, with fewer concerns to delay closing.

  1. Confirm that the water, electrical and gas services are turned on, and that gas pilot lights are lit.

  2. Make sure your pets won’t hinder the inspection. Ideally, they should be removed from the premises or secured outside. Tell your agent about any pets at home.

  3. Replace burned-out light bulbs to avoid a “light is inoperable” report that may suggest an electrical problem.

  4. Test smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors, and replace dead batteries.

  5. Clean or replace dirty HVAC air filters. They should fit securely.

  6. Move stored items, debris and wood away from the foundation. These may be cited as conducive conditions for termites.

  7. Remove items blocking access to HVAC equipment, electrical service panels, water heaters, the attic and the crawlspace.

  8. Unlock any locked areas that your home inspector must access, such as the attic door or hatch, electrical service panel, the door to the basement, and any exterior gates.

  9. Trim tree limbs so that they’re at least 10 feet from the roof. Trim any shrubs that are too close to the house and can hide pests or hold moisture against the exterior. If necessary, hire a professional.

  10. Repair or replace any broken or missing items, such as doorknobs, locks and latches, windowpanes and screens, gutters and downspouts, and chimney caps.

Checking these areas before your home inspection is an investment in selling your property. Better yet, have your InterNACHI inspector ensure that your home is Move-In CertifiedTM. Your real estate agent will thank you!