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Very few first-time home buyers consider sewer inspections before buying a home. Sewer inspections are not something most buyers think about. They know to get a home inspection, but sewer lines are almost an after-thought if it crosses a buyer’s mind at all. Yet it’s one of the most important inspections a buyer of older homes should conduct.
The time to find out if a sewer is faulty or needs replacement is before buying a home, not after the fact. I recommend to all my buyers that they obtain a sewer inspection if the home is older than 20 years. Although the sewer line may be fairly new as compared to homes built before 1950, for example, tree roots can still clog up a 20-year-old sewer line.
Reasons to Inspect the Sewer Line
Tree roots growing into sewer lines is a common problem. Roots crawl into tiny openings and expand in the sewer line, latching on to other debris that typically cause backups such as grease or eggshell waste. Sometimes chemicals can kill the tree’s roots, but if the roots reappear, the pipe may be damaged and require excavation to fix the problem.
Homes that were constructed prior to city sewers often relied on cesspools. After cities installed public septic systems, sometimes the cesspools were left intact and connected to the sewer line. You won’t know unless you inspect the sewer.
Many homes built in the 1950s have sewer lines made from tar paper called Orangeburg pipes. These disintegrate and collapse over time. If a home has Orangeburg, the sewer line definitely needs to be replaced.
How to Inspect a Sewer Line
Simply call a plumbing company and ask if the contractor can use a camera to inspect the sewer. Your real estate agent might be able to refer several companies to you. The plumbing company inserts a snake attached to a small video camera into the clean-out and snakes the camera through the sewer. You can watch the image on a monitor.
Not only will the plumbing company find out if the sewer line is clean or clogged, but the inspection will disclose the condition of the sewer. Ask the contractor to tell you what kind of material was used to construct the sewer line and whether that type of material is considered good construction today. Some sewer lines are made up of different materials, from Orangeburg to clay to cast iron.
It might cost anywhere from $200 to $300 to have the sewer line inspected, but considering the cost to replace a sewer line, it’s money well spent.
When is a camera inspection necessary?
Your plumbing professional or sewer solutions specialist will most likely recommend a camera sewer line inspection if you’ve experienced repeated backups in your sewer line or if he “feels” something odd while cleaning the line with a cable machine.
But regardless if this is your first sewer problem or not, camera inspections can go a long way in identifying all types of pipe problems commonly found in your home or business.
One of the more common issues is that a root mass has obstructed flow in your sewer system. But if a sewer pipe is damaged, a section is misaligned or it has begun to collapse due to old age, a camera sewer line inspection will reveal the issue.
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