If you’re buying or selling a home, it might come up in the conversation. Where you really see it is after you’ve done foundation work on a home. You’ve taken the foundation that was here, you’ve lifted it up in most cases, and it’s left a gap there. Well, your pipes are inside that gap. Oftentimes it will pull away from the pipe. Well, if it’s a fresh water leak, of course you’ll know that because you’ll see our water bills go up pretty quickly, so you can catch that, but what really happens on this is the sewer line is what gets disconnected and starts leaking. That’s something you’ll never know until you start seeing evidence of it in your home.
Sometimes we think we’re having foundation problems because we think the sides of the house are going down. What’s actually happened is the water underneath the house from the sewer line leak is making the foundation rise up. Water swells our soil and makes things rise up. When we think it’s actually sinking down, nope, it’s rising up. This is actually accurate. This is what’s risen. They discover that by doing a hydrostatic test. That word alone brings terror to some people. I can understand that because in some instances, hydrostatic testing is used… well, that kind of static testing is used for gas lines, where they put an undue pressure on the gas line. Or if you have a fire sprinkler system in your home or in your building, they put undue pressure on those to make sure that the line is holding. In a hydrostatic test, that’s not exactly what they do.
The plumber runs a ball down the line, fills it up with water, it holds, we deflate the ball and move it down the road and run some water. If the ball holds, the water holds behind it, then we know there are no leaks in that sewer line. If at some point they run the ball down and the water is leaking, they know that at a minimum, there’s a leak at that spot. They don’t know if there’s leaks any further down the line because they can’t test that because the water is going to leak out at the first source, isn’t it? You won’t know if it’s leaking as well, further down the line. At a minimum you know that there’s a leak and it needs to be addressed, there.
Actually, our pipes in our city are really old. They used cast iron back then, they’re rotting, they’re disintegrating. As well as our soil moves so much that the lines just become disconnected at some point. It’s not something that’s unusual to have happen, but if you’ve had foundation work, the chances are much greater that it might. Might not, but that it might happen. Any good foundation company will usually tell you after doing foundation work, to get a hydrostatic test and make sure that the lines are all intact and everything’s doing what it’s supposed to do.
As a buyer of a home, if you see that foundation work has been done in the recent past, say two years or so, I would be asking for that test. Do they have one? Did they do one? Those would be really important questions, but sellers, from your side of it, if you’ve had foundation work, you need to do that as well because the foundation company oftentimes won’t. They give you a warranty, but if you don’t have that work done, they don’t have the tests done, they sometimes will negate that warranty. You need to be asking those questions, but like I said, most really reputable foundation companies strongly recommend on their report that you do this test after you’re through doing foundation work. Talk to your plumber, he can explain this a lot better than I can as a Realtor. I’ve just done it enough and seen it enough to know. People often think that a camera test will be sufficient and that is not sufficient. A camera test does not give you the results that you need from actually doing hydrostatic tests.
I know when buyers ask for it, sellers get a little bit hysterical about it, but the reality is it’s a really important test, especially as our homes get older and our pipes get older. It’s just a smart thing to do, especially on a slab foundation. On a pier and beam, you can see what’s going on underneath the house, if there’s water, you’re going to see it, but not so much in a slab.
If you have any questions, catch us over at http://www.dallasnative.com and we’ll be glad to answer them for you.