If you’re in the process of buying a home—making arguably the largest purchase of your personal life—you’ll be faced with inspections and tests galore. Some are necessary by law. Others are necessary because your lender demands them. In the end, the right tests, like a hydrostic test, are the ones that uncover a house’s “dark secrets,” allowing you to make smarter decisions.
Our Hydrostatic Test Finds Breaks and Indications of Settling.
Some hydrostatic tests use pressure to test pipes and plumbing for the strength and leaks. At Church Foundation Repair, our hydrostatic test monitors the water pressure in the sewer line—we don’t force pressure into the line, thereby risking more damage or a mess if there’s an issue in the line.
Every house in the Houston area is moving. That soil movement causes both the sewer line to break and the sewer line to settle. Sewer lines require a degree of grading to allow wastewater to flow “downhill.”
A hydrostatic test can show that the sewer line is holding water. If the line is holding no more than 30 percent of the wastewater and there aren’t regular sewer backups, then it should be fine. However, once the wastewater line begins holding 40 percent or more wastewater, the sewer line should be replaced and regraded. A line that holds too much wastewater can cause frequent backups into the home.
To Test or Not to Test?
Before you sign the contract on a home, find out whether the property has sewage or plumbing issues. Even if the current homeowner filled out the Seller’s Disclosure document and hasn’t had any sewage backups before, there could still be problems with the sewer pipes under the house or in the yard. Older homes—houses built in the ’60s and ’70s—should get the highest level of testing. Newer houses should also get high-level testing if the inspector notes previous foundation work or movement.
The Older the Home…
Houston has been supporting a booming housing industry for decades, and when it comes to sewer lines those decades matter. Here is a breakdown of what we’ve found in homes built in the ’60s, ’70s, and’80s.
Homes built during the flower power and rock n’ roll era of the 1960s were plumbed with cast iron sewage pipes. At the time, many of these homes featured a matching cast iron yard line or, worse, a concrete yard line. Cast iron dramatically deteriorates over time, and its heavy, sturdy metal doesn’t gracefully move as the ground shifts around it. We find a lot of breaks under the concrete slab under each of these classic homes. In fact, out of all the tests on cast iron pipes we’ve performed, 90% fail, showing breaks or cracks. It’s important to know that, eventually, you’ll have to replace all cast iron pipes.
The 1970s brought us disco fever and ABS plastic piping, a green pipe used for sewer systems in new homes during this time. While ABS doesn’t deteriorate like cast iron, it’s still not as durable as today’s PVC piping. ABS will crack over time due to movement and age; it has a 50/50 pass/fail rate.
The 1980s ushered in big hair, colorful flair, and PVC piping. During this time, houses were built on soil that moves a lot so, typically, we see issues with the underslab plumbing instead of the PVC piping. In fact, the houses in the ’80s that we’ve tested pass the hydrostatic test about 60% of the time.
How Does Church Foundation Repair Conduct Its Hydrostatic Test?
At Church Foundation Repair, we pull a toilet and block the water flow leaving your home at the “clean-out.” Once the sewer system fills with clean water, we use test balls to monitor the water level. If the balls drop, indicating that the system is losing water, then we know that the system leaks. If the balls don’t drop, then the system passes.
After the test, our professional technicians will reset the commode with new wax seals, bolts and caps, and then reseal the toilet. Our hydrostatic test is designed to locate problems without creating any new ones, so it will not damage your pipes.