Dealing With a Winterized Home

Dealing With a Winterized Home

When a home has been winterized the buyer has a few options with respect to having an inspection performed:

  1. Have the home inspected without testing the plumbing system.
  2. Have the home de-winterized for a full inspection.
  3. Have the inspector perform an air pressure test on the water supply lines to test for leakage.

In this article I describe the advantages and disadvantages of each option. At the end I answer some frequently asked questions related to winterized homes.

  1. Have the home inspected without testing the plumbing system

The advantage of this option is that it’s the easiest. There’s nothing extra to schedule or pay for. The disadvantages can be substantial, though. First, there is no way to know if the supply lines will hold water. And second, there is no way to know if the drain lines will work properly or leak.

If the supply lines have water left in them after the winterization process (which often happens) freezing temperatures may cause this water to freeze and rupture the supply line. Since the water was off at the time of the rupture no evidence that the lines won’t hold pressure will be present.

  1. Have the home de-winterized for a full inspection

This is the best option from a functional perspective. With this option we will be able to test each faucet, toilet, tub, and shower that has water pressure to it. We will also be able to determine if the drain lines drain water from each device properly.

The disadvantages of this option are the cost and time that it will take to de-winterize the home. The cost is usually around $300 to de-winterize the home and then re-winterize it after the inspection because the seller will likely require this. If, for some reason, the seller doesn’t require you to re-winterize the home, the de-winterization alone will usually cost half that.

Time is another concern here. You may not have the time to get the home de-winterized before you’ve committed to having the inspection done. The key here is advanced planning.

One question you may have is: Why does de-winterization cost so much? The answer is that de-winterizing a home takes time if everything goes ok (30-45 minutes), and a lot of time if things don’t (an hour or more). The cost of the service has to take into account both scenarios. De-winterization is a lot more than turning on the main water valve! See my checklist on what de-winterizing entails.

  1. Have the inspector perform an air pressure test on the water supply lines to test for leakage

This option is the middle ground between the first two options. We will be able to determine if the supply lines leak or hold air, and if they leak how much. Also, if the lines leak we are often able to determine where from. The disadvantage of this option is that we can’t test the drain lines. While drain lines work most of the time, you just can’t be sure unless you test them. This option is also the middle ground from a cost perspective. It usually costs around $75 for an air pressure test.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. When the inspector enters the home, what should be working?
    Here’s a list:

    1. Bathtub and shower faucets should work
    2. All sink faucets should work
    3. Toilets should flush
    4. Water heater should be lit and operational
    5. Furnace should be on and operational
  2. Will the city de-winterize the home?
    No. The city will only turn water on at the street. If more than 20 gallons runs through the meter they turn off the valve at the street and leave. No clean-up provided. This is not de-winterization (see below). However, the water does need to be on at the street in order to de-winterize the home.
  3. When a home is de-winterized what is done?
    Some people think de-winterization is simply turning on the main water valve in the basement/crawlspace or at the street. It’s actually much more than this. Here’s a list of what is usually done:

    1. Check that the furnace is on and operational so that the pipes won’t freeze before it is re-winterized. If not, attempt to start it (gas on, power on, etc.)./font>
    2. Shut off every valve in the home (hose bibbs, sink faucets, tub and shower faucets, water heater drain, ice maker hose, clothes washer valves, etc.).
    3. Shut off water valve at the water heater inlet.
    4. Check for disconnected lines, drains under sinks, etc.
    5. Turn on the main valve (sometimes at the far end of a crawlspace).
    6. Wait to see if anything leaks on the cold side. If it does, clean-up time!
    7. Turn on the valve to the water heater.
    8. Wait for water to fill the water heater.
    9. Wait to see if anything on the hot side leaks. If it does, clean-up time!
    10. Light the water heater so that it can be tested.
  4. Note: I do not recommend de-winterizing a home yourself. This job is better left to a professional.
  5. Will Abacus Inspection de-winterize the home for me?
    Abacus Inspection Service does not offer a de-winterization service. The reasons are these:

    1. We don’t carry the specialized insurance for this service.
    2. This process takes about 45 minutes if all goes well and well over an hour if problems are discovered. The time allotted for a home inspection does not include time for this process.
    3. We don’t carry tools to make any repairs if something goes wrong. And things do go wrong!
  6. Who should I have do the de-winterization?
    The best person to de-winterize the home is the person that winterized it. Ask the seller who they used and, if possible, to schedule it for you.
  7. Can you refer me to someone that does this service?
    Yes, please call us at the number below for a referral.

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