Serving all of East Toronto

Buying a Home in Toronto? Watch for These Common Plumbing Problems

Old Toronto houses are beautiful, but they may have common plumbing problems that buyers don't notice

Plumbers see first-hand the importance of getting an inspection before buying a home. We get a lot of calls from people who’ve just taken ownership of their Toronto dream home—and are now finding common plumbing problems like slow drainage from fixtures.

It’s even worse when we have to tell someone who’s lived in their home for years that they have a major, costly issue like galvanized piping. Or when someone hires a contractor to build them a brand new home and the builder skimps on materials or does a bad installation.

The best way to protect yourself from these issues is with information. A qualified home inspector can spot issues before you buy, giving you the bargaining power you need to negotiate a fair deal.

What issue should you be concerned with when buying a house or condo? Here are some of the most common plumbing problems we see in Toronto houses on the market today.

Plumbing Problem #1: Bad fixtures

It might take a few days of living in a new place to notice the dripping basement faucet or the toilet that doesn’t always flush completely. Fortunately, plumbing fixtures are one of the first things we check when inspecting a home.

Common plumbing fixture problems in Toronto homes

  • A toilet that won’t flush completely
  • A toilet tanks that refills slowly or won’t refill
  • A leak at the base of a fixture where the sealing has failed
  • Low water pressure from showers and/or faucets
  • Hot and cold water reversed or not working
  • A tub or shower that won’t drain or drains slowly

In many cases, problems with a fixture can be a symptom of a drainage problem. For example, a slow draining sink can indicate a clog deeper down the pipe.

Plumbing Problem #2: The plumbing isn’t up to code

We love the character that older homes bring to Toronto neighbourhoods (the Beaches, Riverdale and Cabbagetown jump to mind!). However, old homes have had a lot of inhabitants and needed a lot of repairs. Some of the “creative plumbing” we find in them is enough to give a plumber nightmares!

More shocking to us, we often visit newly built houses to find that professional contractors haven’t followed plumbing codes.

Why does it matter whether plumbing is up to code? The plumbing code is there to protect you. It outlines the necessary practices to keep your plumbing performing well and to keep your house safe and sanitary.

Plumbing that isn’t up to code may function properly day-to-day, but in many cases it’s a problem waiting to happen. It also may come up as an expense years later, when you want to sell your house.

Most common plumbing code violations we see in East Toronto:

  • Drain pipes that don’t slope properly, causing leaks or sink and bathtubs that drain slowly.
  • Not enough cleanouts, where plumbers can access inside pipes to clear clogs and debris. Without an accessible cleanout, a clog can be a much more invasive and expensive problem to solve!
  • Cleanouts in bad spots, like over electrical panels or food preparation areas. When we open up a clogged pipe, trapped water drains out. Would you want water from a flushed toilet draining over your kitchen stove?
  • Bad fittings where waste tends to get stuck because the pipe bends too sharply.
  • Improper or missing traps and vents, which can lead to bad smells and even pests creeping up out of your drain pipes.
  • Not enough space around toilets to allow access for larger people. If you’re a small person, this might not be a problem for you—until you have a house guest or want to sell your house.
  • Sinks or tubs where the faucet spout is too close to (or even under) the highest fill line of the basin. If you fill your sink up all the way and the faucet is too close, water from your dirty dishes can be splashed up into the clean water line. “Anyone care for a glass of tap water?” No thanks!

Plumbing Problem #3: Bad piping material

We’ve used many materials as piping over the years, and some were better than others. Some turned out to be so bad that they can even harm your health!

Redoing the piping in a house or condo can be a huge expense. According to, the average cost to replace a small section is $1,042, while replacing all the piping in a house can cost up to $15,000!

A licensed plumber can spot undesirable piping, so you can negotiate replacement costs into the price of the house.

Types of pipes you don’t want in your new home

  • Lead pipes: Look out for this material in Toronto houses built before the mid-1950s. It was also used until the 1990s to solder pipes together. Lead in drinking water is a major health concern, especially for families with babies and young children. Therefore, Toronto Public Health recommends replacing any lead piping in your house as soon as possible. In the meantime, here are some important tips to help reduce your lead exposure.
  • Galvanized pipes: From WW2 to the 1960s, after people realized the dangers of lead, builders switched to galvanized pipes—steel pipes coated or “galvanized” in zinc to prevent corrosion. The problem? Corrosion still occurs decades leader, causing warped pipes that weaken your water pressure and, once again, lead in your drinking water.
  • Kitec pipes: Kitec is a plastic material that was used in Toronto condos, townhouses and houses built between 1995 and 2007.  During that time, we thought Kitec was a great long-term piping solution, but it turns out it’s actually very prone to corrosion, leaks and breaks. Condominium corporations are obliged to inform prospective buyers of any Kitec on the property, but they’re not always aware of it or forthcoming with the full information. Kitec pipes put you at risk of expensive repairs or damage in the future, plus it can make it difficult for you to get insurance.

Finding a qualified home inspector

A house inspection can save you thousands of dollars—but only if they’re qualified and actually find all the problems.

The issue with many house inspectors in Toronto is that they’re generalists. They can recognize the most common problems, but they’re not licensed in the specific areas of your house that cause the most trouble.

Triple Check Home Inspections with 3 experts on-site

After years of fixing problems that home inspectors missed, we at Neighbourhood Plumbing have decided to take action. We’ve partnered with other experts to form Triple Check Expert Home Inspections.

  • When you call us for an inspection, we send you three licensed experts: a plumber (that’s us!), an electrician and an HVAC specialist.
  • Each expert inspects the property. When we’re finished, we’ll give you three reports outlining any problems.
  • Need advice about what we’ve found? As experts in our fields, we can help guide you on what steps to take next to get the best value for your closing deal and save money long-term.

Toronto house-hunters, don’t pay for common plumbing problems you didn’t notice before you signed papers! Buying a home is the single biggest purchase most people make in their lifetime. It’s worth calling an expert inspector to help you make an informed decision.

For more information or to book your inspection with Triple Check Expert Home Inspections, please visit the Triple Check Inspections website or give us a call at 647-404-7139.

Neighbourhood Plumbing specializes in plumbing issues and emergencies in East Toronto homes, from old to new. If you’re having a plumbing problem or need information, contact us today!

Cabbagetown photo credit: Jay Woodworth