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Why Old Homes Need a Sewer Scope Inspection

BY Steve Rodriguez
Steve Rodriguez
BY Steve Rodriguez
Steve Rodriguez

The plumbing system is one of the 5 major areas in every home.

And with a one-of-a-kind ability to create a particularly smelly catastrophe, a home’s main sewer line might be the most critical component in a home. 

Why?  Because the sewer line is insidious.  It’s buried outside your home where it stays out of mind as it transports mass amounts of daily doody to the city wastewater treatment facility.

Well, usually.

At least until there’s a break, crack, offset, or clog in this upsized ca-ca canal.  That’s when it might not just back up into your home, it can also cause underground erosion and structural damage to your driveway, sidewalk, walkway, porches, foundation, and even your street.

But much of this has to do with the age of the home.

You see, residential sewer lines after 1975 are all pretty much made of plastic.  This isn’t just newer, it’s more flexible and resistant to root penetration.

Before 1975, you’ll find cast iron and clay sewer lines.  And even though these are strong, they’re also heavy and have a tendency to crack, break, deteriorate, rust, corrode, leak, and have sections that don’t stick together very well (one of the many ways roots get in).

So instead of giving your stinky stuff a one-way ticket to doo-doo dreamland, an old, tired, and overworked main line just might turn Taco Tuesday into a nightmare.

If this happens, you not only have to hire someone to dig deep and fix the pipes, you’ll also be fixing the damage it caused, which could easily reach thousands of dollars.

This is why your home needs a sewer scope inspection if it has clay or cast iron drain pipes.

In fact, if I could insist, I would because sewer line repairs cost anywhere from $500 – $20,000.

Common Sewer Scope Questions:

Question 1 – Is there ever a time I wouldn’t need to get a sewer scope inspection in an older home?

Yes, if the home you’re buying has already had one done in the last 3 months.

But don’t just take someone’s word for it.  Get proof.  This means getting all receipts and paperwork before the end of your inspection period.

Question 2 – How much does it cost to perform a sewer scope inspection?

A sewer scope inspection ranges from $150-$250, with the average price being (you guessed it) $200.

Spending $200 to save thousands is a no-brainer and why I encourage everyone to do a sewer scope inspection when they buy an older home.  Especially if the home is:

  • 40+ years old
  • Vacant
  • Remodeled
  • Rehabbed
  • Surrounded by mature trees
  • Had the water turned off
  • On a busy street

All of these conditions can affect the main sewer line in one way or another.

Question 3 – I was told NOT to perform a sewer scope inspection if my home is inside Kansas City (proper) because if I get sewer line insurance, the less I know the better. Is this true?

I’ve heard this a few times and it’s not true.  If your inspection finds a problem and the sellers already have insurance, they can call Kansas City’s sewer line warranty company and file a claim to get it repaired. 

If they don’t, it’s time for you to negotiate.

One last bit of insight:

If the home is vacant, make sure the water is turned on and flowing through the faucets.  Both the home inspection and sewer scope company will need to run the water through the drains as part of their inspection. 

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Steve Rodriguez is a Certified Master Inspector® and the owner of Bulldog Professional Inspection Services. He will perform your home inspection and has personally uncovered tens-of-thousands of defects in 14,000+ Kansas City properties since 2003.
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