Plumbing hasn't been used in years

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by southernnaturelover, Jul 8, 2007.

  1. southernnaturelover

    southernnaturelover New Member

    Messages:
    12
    I am going to be buying a house from a family member soon and have a few worries about it. For starters, it hasn't been occupied since 2001, and even then it was a rental. Second, the house is on a slab and has cement block outer walls. It was built in the 50's so I'm assuming the drain pipes are all cast iron. There are no large trees with roots near the house, but the brush is shoulder high around it(it's in a rural area). I'm hoping to renovate the house and turn it into rental property some day. Will it damage the plumbing and septic system if it hasn't been used in six years? I'm getting the house cheap, but I still hope I'm not in over my head. I assume I can go through the attic with new supply plumbing, but the drainage is my biggest worry.
  2. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    I would have a plumber come out and get the plumbing system up and running. There are probably freeze breakes and a host of other problems. If it is on a septic system have it pumped and the tank inspected at the same time.

    Do you know if the leach field has ever been replaced?
  3. leejosepho

    leejosepho DIY scratch-pad engineer

    Dormancy is a good thing for a leach field, but I would still do as Cass has suggested and have everything checked.
  4. southernnaturelover

    southernnaturelover New Member

    Messages:
    12
    I dont think the field lines have been replaced. If so, it would have been in the 70's or 80's. Freezing isn't usually a concern here since I'm near the gulf coast (it rarely gets under 25 degrees). My main concern was with the pipes being dry so long.

    There is actually two septic systems on the property. There used to be a mobile home behind the house, but it was moved out in the early 90's so it's probably even worse.
  5. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    If there is no or minimal chance of freezing then most likely, if the copper hasen't been ripped out of it, you will have minimal problems.

    Leach fields will last 30-50 years on average but the main thing that determines the life is how often the tank is pumped. Solids going iito the leach field is what ruins the field.
  6. got_nailed

    got_nailed DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    277
    I would put the leaching field on the bottom of the list of stuff to think about. It is for the good that it has sat unused for so long. I have problems with the leaching field form not pumping the tank when needed then letting them sit for 6 to 8 months if they can dry out they will be as good as new.

    If you don’t have a trees around the field you should be good to go.
  7. southernnaturelover

    southernnaturelover New Member

    Messages:
    12
    This makes me feel better about the septic system. Unfortunately the water pipes are not copper, I believe they are galvanized. I'm planning on having to replace them as they will probably be rusty.
  8. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    If the house has been sitting that long without the water being on and being used I have seen where there is so much rust in a galvanized line that the line plugs when the water is turned on. I would suggest that you turn the water on at the street very very slowly say over a period of 1/2 an hour or so. This may allow the rust to find its way out without clogging the line. If the line is 3/4" it will be less likely to clog. Don't be surprised if it comes out a very dark brown almost black.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2007
  9. leejosepho

    leejosepho DIY scratch-pad engineer

    ... and have all faucets both inside and out completely open with all aerators removed beforehand. Not only will that help while flushing the lines, but it could also reduce the flow at any leak until you begin closing faucets one at a time while listening and looking for any problem.
  10. GrumpyPlumber

    GrumpyPlumber Licensed Grump

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    Licensed Grump
    bike pump, test gauge.
    Avoid possible water damage, if you prefer to.
    Get a schrader fitting (like the fill inlet on a car/bike tire)...put together a tee with a test gauge, schrader fitting and a hose connection (guy at hardware store can guide you)...connect it to an outside hose spigot and open it then pump the system up with a bike pump as high as you can get it (a compressor & high pressure gauge-100psi or better would be preferential, but I'll guess you don't have one handy)
    Let the gauge sit for a few hours with all fixtures/faucets off.
    If it doesn't hold, make sure there are no leaks on the gauge set-up or hose connection (you can use dishwashing liquid and water...wet it down and look for bubbles).

    IF it doesn't hold, you'll then need a compressor to pressurize it high enough to listen for hissing....eventually if there are any leaks you'd need a plumber anyway, he'd do all this.
  11. southernnaturelover

    southernnaturelover New Member

    Messages:
    12
  12. southernnaturelover

    southernnaturelover New Member

    Messages:
    12
    I do have a compressor. I'll have to experiment with that.
  13. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    I wouldnt do that. You may have low enough pressure for the pipe to hold but 100# may burst it. Then you will have to replace the line coming in from the street.
  14. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    No do not open all the faucets only an outside hose bib. The rust could be thick enough to clogg the faucets, ask me how i know.
  15. GrumpyPlumber

    GrumpyPlumber Licensed Grump

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    Location:
    Licensed Grump
    true...thats why I mentioned the compressor...assumption went that (she?) doesn't have a compressor...I was then enlightened to the contrary.
    The assumtion is the water main to the street is off anyway.
    If low pressure doesn't hold...then you pump it high and listen for hissing.


    NO!
    Knots in my stomache just thinking of the story.
  16. leejosepho

    leejosepho DIY scratch-pad engineer

    Ah, yes, first flush as much as possible elsewhere!
  17. Winslow

    Winslow Plumber

    Messages:
    450
    Location:
    Hawaii
    Typically when cast iron that has been used for a period od time then lies unused can present some problems. The inside dries up then when water runs through them the inner buildup in the pipe breaks loose causing clogs, especially in cast iron stacks. Good luck (sincerely, not sarcastically)
  18. CHH

    CHH New Member

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    225
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    What's with the talk of Schrader valves? Use quick connects. They're 3/8" thread and it's easy to bush out to 1/2 or 3/4. Put a ball valve in line and no worries about a leaking connection (or Schrader valve).
  19. GrumpyPlumber

    GrumpyPlumber Licensed Grump

    Messages:
    1,404
    Location:
    Licensed Grump
    to connect a compressor or pump to.
    It's how we test gas ...pump to 3psi and let it sit.
    Water is tested at 125 psi the same way with a high pressure gauge, but in this case best to test it at low pressure first and see if the gauge holds...I have half a dozen test tee's set up with shrader valves & gauges on them...never seen it before?
  20. CHH

    CHH New Member

    Messages:
    225
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    Nope. The folks I've seen around here use hard piping and ball valves. A Schrader leaks at the coupling, restricts flow, and doesn't provide positive shut-off. They might be fine for a 10 minute test but they will leak sooner or later. Local code requires a 24 hour test. A little crazy but ya gotta do what ya gotta do...

    All that said, I find a quick coupling more convenient than a Schrader coupling. I'd have to purchase a locking connection for the Schrader and the quick connects lock by design.
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