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Ask an expert: Plumber 

Trevor Wheatley, Trevor Wheatley Plumbing and Heating

Trevor Wheatley says to do your homework. - ANGELA GZOWSKI

After 25 years of working as a plumber, Wheatley knows the ins and outs of your home’s guts. Before doing any bathroom or basement renos that might involve replacing pipes, he recommends speaking to a qualified professional.

The Coast: What got you into the business?

Trevor Wheatley: My Dad. I was forced into the business. At a young age, too. He had a late start in his career. I've surpassed his experience.

TC: How has the business changed?

TW: It's definitely gotten busier. I'm more in demand. Technology has changed somewhat but the basics are always there. I specialize in repair and service work, so that's a little different. With new construction you get in-floor heating and a lot of water conservation, geo-thermal. Though it's more or less older plumbing I'm dealing with, but I do a wide variety of things, touch base on all that stuff.

TC: If I had purchased an older home and was concerned about the plumbing system, what sorts of things should I be looking out for?

TW: Well, it's always good to call a professional to have things scoped out before any renovations. Just things as simple as the main sewerline from the house to the street. If you're going to put a finished basement in, the last thing you want is have a sewage flood, have all your work destroyed as a result. When people are doing renovations they don't think about the structural integrity of their plumbing. They want to do structural renovations, they want to put new bathtubs in, new toilets. But they're working with houses that are 60-plus years old, what they want to do is what I call "an aesthetic renovation." They should definitely be thinking of doing a full plumbing replacement.

TC: How do you know when it's time to replace the plumbing?

TW: Age.

TC: What is the lifespan of pipes?

TW: Well, there are houses that are 40 years old and there is plumbing that should be replaced in that. Copper lines have lifespans of 50 years. It's just time to get rid of it. It's all thinking ahead. Even if you're not going to be there a long time, if I was doing any renovations I'd do it proper, 100 percent, top to bottom. I see it all the time; they've bought a house and renovations are done. Then there's stuff leaking, and they say, "Why is this happening to us?" Because someone didn't do their homework before you.

TC: What should people keep in mind?

TW: If buying an older house, hiring a home inspector is fine, but they don't really specialize in plumbing. It's definitely worthwhile to hire a plumber with experience in service and repair. I can walk into a house and tell people---there's usually tell-tale signs of problems in the past.

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