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PLUMBING SYSTEM INSPECT DIAGNOSE REPAIR
AGE of PLUMBING MATERIALS & FIXTURES
AGE of AIR CONDITIONERS & HEAT PUMPS
AGE of HEATERS, BOILERS, FURNACES
AGE of WATER HEATERS
AIR DISCHARGE at FAUCETS, FIXTURES
AIR INLET VALVE, WATER TANK
AIR VOLUME CONTROLS, WATER TANK
ANTIFREEZE for BOILERS
APPLIANCE EFFICIENCY RATINGS
BATH & KITCHEN DESIGN GUIDE
BUILDING SAFETY HAZARDS GUIDE
CHECK VALVES, WATER SUPPLY
CROSS CONNECTIONS, PLUMBING
DEBRIS in WATER SUPPLY, Water Heater
DRAIN a WATER HEATER TANK
DRINKING WATER - EMERGENCY PURIFICATION
DRINKING WATER EMERGENCY SOURCES
ELECTRIC WATER HEATERS
FAUCETS & CONTROLS, KITCHEN & BATH
FAUCETS, OUTDOOR HOSE BIBBS
FLOODED HEATING EQUIPMENT REPAIR
FLOODED SEPTIC SYSTEMS, REPAIR
FLOODED WATER HEATER REPAIR
FLUSHOMETER VALVES for TOILETS URINALS
GALVANIC SCALE & METAL CORROSION
GAS BURNER FLAME & NOISE DEFECTS
GAS FIRED WATER HEATERS
GAS PIPING, VALVES, CONTROLS
GALVANIC SCALE & METAL CORROSION
GALVANIZED STEEL PIPING
HARD WATER - SOFTENERS
HEAT TAPES, Heat, Insulation prevent Freeze-Up
HOT WATER HEATERS
KITCHEN & BATH DESIGN GUIDE
KITCHEN VENTILATION DESIGN
LEAD POISONING HAZARDS GUIDE
LEAD PIPES in buildings
LEAD IN DRINKING WATER, HOW to REDUCE
LEAD in WATER, ACTION LEVELS
LEAK TYPES, WATER SUPPLY or DRAIN PIPES
LEED GREEN BUILDING CERTIFICATION
MIXING / ANTI-SCALD VALVES
MUNICIPAL WATER PRESSURE IMPROVEMENTS
NOISE / SOUND DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
OIL FIRED WATER HEATERS
OIL-FIRED BOILERS, HEATING
OIL & GAS PIPING
OUTHOUSES & LATRINES
PIPING IN buildings, Clogs Leaks Types
PLUMBING FIXTURES, KITCHEN, BATH
PLUMBING VENT DEFECTS & NOISES
Plumbing Materials & Fixtures, Age, Types
PUMPS, WATER REPAIR
RELIEF VALVE LEAKS
RELIEF VALVE, TP VALVE, BOILER
RELIEF VALVE, TP VALVE, STEAM BOILER
RELIEF VALVE, WATER HEATER
RELIEF VALVE, WATER TANK
SHUTOFF VALVE LOCATION, USE
SULPHUR & SEWER GAS SMELL SOURCES
SUMP PUMPS GUIDE
SWEATING (CONDENSATION) on PIPES, TANKS
TANK TYPES: EXPANSION, OIL, SEPTIC WATER, ALL
TANKLESS WATER HEATERS
Temperature Pressure Relief Valves - Water Heaters
TIMERS for ELECTRIC WATER HEATERS
TOILETS, INSPECT, INSTALL, REPAIR
TRAPS on PLUMBING FIXTURES
WATER HEATER PROBLEM DIAGNOSIS
WATER HEATER COMPARISONS, PROPERTIES
WATER PIPES, Clogs Leaks Types
WATER PUMP REPAIR GUIDE
WELLS CISTERNS & SPRINGS
WINTERIZE A BUILDING
Here we provide a photo guide to determining the age of a building or its plumbing system, piping, and fixtures by examination of visual clues. The age of a building can be determined quite accurately by documentation, but when documents are not readily available, visual clues such as those available during a professional home inspection can still determine when a house was built by examining its components, building materials, even nails, fasteners, and types of saw cuts on lumber.
Here we list some helpful clues to answer the question "how old is the house?" and we provide photographs of key visual clues useful for determining the age of a building. Also see AGE of a BUILDING - how to determine and ARCHITECTURE & BUILDING COMPONENT ID.
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Age of Supply & Drain Piping: Chart of Dates When Different Types of Plumbing Piping Were Used in Homes
While nearly any home inspected in North America will have an indoor bathroom at present, in 1921 only one percent of homes had an indoor bathroom.
How can we determine the age of a residential water heater? By looking at and decoding data on the water heater's label. It would be unusual to find an original water heater in a building built before 1970 in the U.S. so don't assume that the water heater age is the building age for an older home.
That doesn't tell you exactly when a water heater was installed in a particular building but it does indicate the age of the water heater itself.
However most manufacturers encode the year and month of manufacture of their water heater in the product's serial number so that the water heater age is not immediately obvious, but it can be decoded. .
Our photo (left) shows a gas-fired Rheem™ water heater. The label containing the unit's serial number is probably at the water heater top left. The label above the gas control at the water heater bottom typically contains water heater lighting instructions.
For details about determining the age of water heaters, see AGE of WATER HEATERS where we include a chart which Scott LeMarr has generously shared. For the most complete and very detailed HVAC and water heating equipment data tag and age decoding information anywhere, Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto, offer Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Technical Reference Guide to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment ($69.00 U.S.). At Water Heater Life Expectancy Comparisons we list factors that determine the life expectancy of a water heater.
Does the toilet date stamp tell the age of a building? Well not exactly, but lots of toilets include a date stamped or embossed into the interior of the toilet tank, often in the toilet tank lid, as we show in our photo (above right). That embossed date stamp indicates the year of manufacture of the toilet. If the toilet is original to the home that may give us a clue about the age of the building. Of course if the toilet has been installed during a plumbing update it will be newer than the home. In our example the example toilet was manufactured 30 July 1994 but the toilet was installed in a home built in 1920.
Sir John Harington is credited with invention of the first flush toilet (for Queen Elizabeth I in 1596), but the flush toilets were not produced in volume before the water closet designed by Alexander Cummings - 1775.
Indoor toilets using a high wall-mounted local water reservoir (and a pull chain flush valve) have been in use in the U.S. since around 1890. An early wall-tank flush toilet is shown in the sketch at left.
Flush valve toilets that operated by (high) municipal water pressure (and excluded a local water reservoir tank) have been in common use in the U.S. since around 1920.
Modern tank type toilets that incorporate their water reservoir right atop the bowl have been in common use in the U.S. since around 1940. Reader Kathy Bohon points out that the date stamp on a toilet tank or lid is a useful age indicator provided that the building plumbing system has not been renovated. Of course since the toilet will have been manufactured before it was installed, or if the toilet was re-used from another structure, in either case it's date will be a bit earlier than that of the building.
Low-flush toilets that reduce the quantity of water used began in popular use in the U.S. by 1980, but you may need to look closely inside the toilet tank to identify some models.
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Technical Reviewers & References
List of Online Articles Giving Detailed Information & Reference Materials for Determining the Age of buildings