Where Does the Poo Go?
Invisible and notoriously insidious, your main sewer line is like your internet connection– you don’t usually think about it until it breaks.
But by then, it’s too late. You’re already holding your nose as you curse your swampy basement because you wish you’d known sooner what you were up against.
Especially when you realize that not only do you have to pay for the smelly damage it’s caused, but traffic jams on this particular stenchy superhighway cost anywhere from $500-$20,000 to clear.
This makes it one of the most important inspections you can get when buying a home.
What is a sewer scope inspection?
A sewer scope inspection is a detailed examination of the inside of the sewer drain pipe from the home to the street (or wherever it connects to the city sewer line).
Why would I need a sewer scope inspection?
A clogged, crushed, cracked, offset, disconnected, or broken sewer line can cause thousands of dollars in nasty water damage to your home. Not only that, since the sewer line is underground the cost of repair can range from $500-$20,000 depending on depth, location, and amount of damage.
This means a sewer scope inspection will help you avoid future problems, budget for repairs, or negotiate with sellers before you buy the home.
What happens during a sewer scope inspection?
A trained professional passes a long camera through the home’s sewer line until it reaches the end (or it becomes blocked, whichever comes first).
They usually enter through the cleanout that’s located either in the basement or outside the home.
On the rare occasion there is no cleanout they will remove a toilet or go in from the roof.
How long does it take to perform a sewer scope inspection?
A sewer scope inspection usually takes less than an hour.
How much does a sewer scope inspection cost?
Between $150-$300 depending on complexity and number of sewer lines (95% of homes only have one).
When should I get a sewer scope inspection?
This is the million dollar question.
I’ll never discourage anyone (heck, I’ve seen a crushed sewer line in a 2-year-old home and broken sewer line in a brand new home), but there are a few circumstances I’d almost insist you do it BEFORE you buy…
1. The home was built before 1980
From about 4000 BC to about 1960, vitrified clay was the most widely used drain material in the world.
Then from 1960 to 1980 cast iron became the upgrade. With better durability and a lifespan of 80-100 years, it was the new material of choice.
So sewer lines in homes built prior to 1980 are either clay, cast iron, or both.
The problem is they become brittle with age.
You might be thinking, “wait, cast iron pots and pans last forever”.
But not after 40 or 50 years in moist soil while water, waste, grease, food, and wet wipes work to erode the inside surfaces.
On top of all that, Kansas and Missouri have expansive soils that shift during wet and dry spells.
This means trouble for an old, splintering cast iron drain and provides plenty of reasons to get that sewer line checked.
2. The home is vacant
It doesn’t take much to make drain lines crack and leak – even in a new home.
And when the home is occupied those cracks keep tree roots watered and happy.
But when the water stops, those thirsty roots start searching for water and become a pain in your drain.
So unless the seller can prove it was recently done, always perform a sewer scope on an empty house.
Especially if it’s older and vacant.
3. The home was recently renovated
I can’t tell you how many rehabbed and renovated homes I’ve inspected that had debris shoved into tub, toilet, and floor drains.
Those are backups waiting to happen (like when your washing machine and dishwasher are running at the same time)
Needless to say, making sure the water is turned on to the home so the water lines and drain lines can be checked is important.
And if the home is older, vacant, and rehabbed a sewer scope is a no-brainer.
Speaking of dirt and construction debris, this is also a good time to get the HVAC system ductwork cleaned.
One last thing to keep in mind…
You cannot perform a sewer scope inspection on a septic system.
This is because the home’s sewer line runs to a septic tank and not to a city sewer line.
If you have a septic system, you need call a septic service company to check your sewer line, septic tank, and leeching field.
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