Air Testing Water Pipes On Winterized Properties

Air Testing Water Pipes On Winterized Properties

By In Air Testing On March 31, 2009


I recently had a friend ask me if I could do an air test on the water pipes of a bank-owned home he’s buying.   Traditionally, these types of requests have been few and far between, but I’ve been getting more and more people asking about this with the high number of winterized bank owned properties for sale.  I’ve always told my customers that we don’t do this, but I’ve decided that it’s time to start offering this service.

A pressure test is a way of checking for leaks in the water piping without actually having any water in the pipes.  This consists of connecting an air compressor to the water piping, typically at the laundry faucet or exterior sillcock, and pressurizing the pipes to about 60 psi with air.  This is similar to the water pressure that most homes will have from the street.

Air Testing I use the device pictured at the right to connect an air compressor to the water piping.  I make sure all of the faucets are turned off, then I pressurize the pipes.  If they hold pressure, that’s good.  I then disconnect the air hose and leave the pressure gauge in place for the rest of the inspection.  I come back at the end of my inspection and check the gauge to make sure the pressure hasn’t dropped.  If it has, there’s a leak.

The limitations of this test are that I cannot check the drains, vents, traps, or plumbing fixtures for leaks, but it’s better than nothing.   I’ll be charging a small fee to do this test with an inspection.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections – Email - Minneapolis Home Inspections


About the Author

Reuben

Reuben is a second generation home inspector with a passion for his work. He grew up remodeling homes and learning about carpentry since he was old enough to hold a hammer. Reuben has worked for Structure Tech since it was purchased by Neil in 1997, and is now co-owner of the company. Reuben’s favorite customers are the ones who have a lot of questions; he grew up thinking he was going to be a school teacher because he enjoyed teaching others so much. In a sense, that’s a lot of what home inspections are about, so Reuben truly does what he loves. Reuben has an A.A. degree in liberal arts and has attended most of the Building Inspection Technology classes at North Hennepin Community College. Reuben and his wife are the proud parents of two young childen, Cy Alexander and Lucy Nicole, and have a German Shepherd named Stanley. With two young children Reuben doesn’t have much free time, but he still tries to play disc golf as often as possible during the summer. Reuben lives in Maple Grove, MN. Professional Qualifications / Memberships: *ASHI Certified Inspector *President, ASHI Heartland Chapter *Member, Minnesota Society of Housing Inspectors (MSHI) *Licensed Minneapolis Truth-in-Sale of Housing Evaluator *Licensed Saint Paul Truth-in-Sale of Housing Evaluator *Licensed Maplewood Truth-in-Sale of Housing Evaluator *Licensed Hopkins Truth-in-Housing Evaluator *Licensed Robbinsdale Point of Sale Evaluator *Affiliate Member, Southern Twin Cities Association of Realtors

20 Comments

  • Xpert Home Inspections 2 YEARS AGO

    Hey Ruben, i have been doing this for a while. The compressor i use fits easily in floorboard of my suv, has two valves and one will actually give you the pressure of the line connected. Bought all the fittings from Lowes for the hookup and the small compressor from Harbor Freight, on sale too. As i work my way around the homes, i open and closes valves at fixtures, allowing a few moments between fixtures and have found many of the homes i have used it on still have water in the pipes and actually give me some indication of blown 0-rings or washer issues. Its a neat trick, I am using a similar hookup for propane furnaces when tanks are gone with a small tank that ways about a pound.and an regulator.

  • rob 2 YEARS AGO

    aside from faucets what other valves are required to be closed for a pressure test? also can you perform a pressure test from the line that you remove the meter from?

    • Reuben Saltzman 2 YEARS AGO

      Rob - all of the valves; toilets, ice maker, dishwasher, washing machine connectors, whole house humidifier, exterior sillcocks, etc. Yes, you could perform a test at the line you remove the meter from, but you'll need to figure out how to connect to that line. It won't be as easy.

  • Patrick 2 YEARS AGO

    Additional notes--not really applicable at this time of year (summer). If water freezes in the lines, an air test, or water test for that matter, might not indicate a problem. Sometimes when the expanding water splits the line, it maintains a nice airtight seal until it thaws. In these cases, an additional check would be to check each fixture after the pressure test. I would bring down the pressure to something like 5 pounds, including the pipes being tested. Then slowly open each fixture to see if air comes out.

  • Marissa 2 YEARS AGO

    I'm in the process of purchasing a home and I need to do the home inspection well this is what the lady told me.... An air pressure test was completed on said property and lines did not hold pressure. Is this expensive?

    • Reuben Saltzman 2 YEARS AGO

      Marissa - it could be. It might be one point of failure, and it might be twenty points.

  • Jamie Dollyhigh 2 YEARS AGO

    i moved a mobile home recently and plumber said i had 2 pressurize the lines, i have gray quest lines coming from all faucets and garden tub, do i have 2 replace all quest pipe? if so what do i replace it with 2 pass inspection? could i get a quote of how much?

  • s2 3 YEARS AGO

    i have i a question, what should be the recomended time for sound testing copper tube pipe work? thanks

    • Reuben Saltzman 3 YEARS AGO

      Sound testing? When you say 'sound', I'm assuming you mean good, solid, high quality testing, right? When we do an air test, we're just checking to see if it holds pressure at all. When there has been freeze damage to pipes, it's impossible to get any pressure at all. If a house passes an air test, it doesn't mean things won't leak... it's just a way to help lower the potential for water damage when the water is turned back on.

  • Will Engster 3 YEARS AGO

    If the pressure does not hold, how do you find the leak if there isn't water in the lines??

    • Reuben Saltzman 3 YEARS AGO

      I've never gone any further than the pressure test. I've heard that using a stethoscope on the walls to listen for air leaking is effective, but if the air compressor is located inside the house, forget it.

  • Charlene 3 YEARS AGO

    Good morning. I have a few air pressure gauges for water lines for sale. After several attempts to purchase one through MFS Supply (they are always out of stock & cost $50+ after tax & shipping), I gave up and created my own. If interested, please send me an email at absolutepres@gmail.com for pricing info. Thanks!

  • Chris Sikora 3 YEARS AGO

    I have a question. I was looking at a house and the realtor told me their might be some pipe damage so I had an inspection on a house and he pressure tested the pipes and had no pressure. After the fact I checked the sink in the bathroom and the pipes were gone. Could this cause the test to have absolutely no pressure? It was on the opposite side of the house.

    • Reuben Saltzman 3 YEARS AGO

      Chris - even a small split in a pipe would cause no pressure. Missing pipes... definitely.

  • DVD Cleaner : 4 YEARS AGO

    we always use air compressors in spray painting and also in blowing off those hardened dust on our home"-`

  • Scott.P 5 YEARS AGO

    Question can i use this same method to blow the remaining water out in my copper pipes to winter the pipes. Just leave the drains open to remove any water ?????? Scott

    • Reuben Saltzman 5 YEARS AGO

      I've been at one house while it was being winterized, and I didn't pay much attention to what they were doing. The guys that were winterizing the house seemed to be doing something like that with a compressor, but I know there is method to it (and I don't know what it is). I've also inspected many houses that were improperly winterized by some hack with a compressor, so I would ask someone that winterizes properties for a living, or a good plumber. Good luck!

  • donnie youmans 5 YEARS AGO

    just wanted to know is the tester that you use a specific type, because the one that i use will not move when pressuring the lines

    • Reuben Saltzman 5 YEARS AGO

      Donnie - no, nothing fancy. I made it out of plumbing fittings an air pressure gage that you'll find with the air compressor fittings at Home Depot. If the gauge you're using doesn't move... you have a problem somewhere, but it won't be with the gauge. I tried a water pressure gauge attached to the exterior sillcock, and it worked the exact same way.