Reuben's Home Inspection Blog

Air Testing Water Pipes On Winterized Properties

March 31st, 2009 | 20 comments

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

20 responses to “Air Testing Water Pipes On Winterized Properties”

  1. donnie youmans
    June 2, 2009, 6:31 am

    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

  2. Reuben Saltzman
    June 2, 2009, 2:49 pm

    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.

  3. Scott.P
    September 22, 2009, 3:16 pm

    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

  4. Reuben Saltzman
    September 23, 2009, 5:19 am

    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!

  5. DVD Cleaner :
    October 26, 2010, 7:59 am

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

  6. air pressure in water pipe | my avia blog
    April 25, 2011, 6:32 am

    [...] Air Pressure Testing On Water Pipes | Reuben's Home Inspection Blog Mar 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 … [...]

  7. Chris Sikora
    September 25, 2011, 8:08 pm

    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.

  8. Reuben Saltzman
    September 26, 2011, 3:58 am

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

  9. Charlene
    December 14, 2011, 9:07 am

    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!

  10. Will Engster
    December 21, 2011, 1:25 pm

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

  11. Reuben Saltzman
    December 22, 2011, 6:31 am

    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.

  12. s2
    April 11, 2012, 4:21 am

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

  13. Reuben Saltzman
    April 13, 2012, 4:47 am

    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.

  14. Jamie Dollyhigh
    June 4, 2012, 3:53 pm

    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?

  15. Marissa
    July 6, 2012, 8:31 am

    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?

  16. Reuben Saltzman
    July 6, 2012, 10:38 am

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

  17. Patrick
    August 19, 2012, 2:47 pm

    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.

  18. rob
    September 26, 2012, 6:17 pm

    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?

  19. Reuben Saltzman
    September 26, 2012, 6:29 pm

    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.

  20. Xpert Home Inspections
    November 4, 2012, 12:22 pm

    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.

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