What is a sewer scope and why are they recommended?

If you’ve bought a home from me recently, chances are you’ve heard me recommend having a sewer scope performed during your inspection period, in addition to having a general house inspection done and a radon test performed (along with other inspections that are available to you). Here’s a quick primer on what exactly a sewer scope is:

The property you are purchasing is likely connected to public sewer system, or if it is in the country, a septic system. A large underground pipe collects all the sewage waste and brings it to the “main” sewage pipe if you are located in the city, or septic (or other) system if they are located in the country. It is very common that these pipes are cracked and/or crushed, sometimes with tree or brush roots growing within the line. As these roots grow or the crushed line becomes worse, the pipe eventually becomes blocked. The result? Sewage backing up into your home. I had a client several years ago tell me that he found out the hard way that he had a broken sewer line, with sewage backing up into his house on Thanksgiving day.

The only way to know if the piece of real estate you are trying to buy has a broken sewer line is to have a company come out and perform a sewer scope. This is when a small camera is dropped down the line, and a video is recorded of the whole length of the line showing you the condition of it. The cost to do this is minimal – $100-$150 depending on how far you live from the contractor and the extend of the work that needs to be done. Occasionally, the contractor cannot find a sewer cleanout (which is where they start the video from) and you’ll need to pay extra to have a toilet pulled up and the wax seal replaced.

If the sewer line is in fact broken, the cost to replace the sewer line can range anywhere from $1,500 on up. The worst case scenario I’ve seen is a sewer line that was buried 15 feet in the ground (normally they are around 6 feet) and the bids came in around $25,000. You do not want to find yourself in this scenario!

Note that broken sewer lines are commonly found in older homes, but that does not mean that newer houses are exempt from the problem. A home inspector told me last year that they saw 17 new construction homes that failed their sewer line test!

The following video is an example of the video you will receive on your sewer line. I’ve received permission from the contractor, Justin Cullers at Inspectek to embed this video here. Feel free to give Justin a call with any questions you have about sewer scopes, but note that his business is ONLY inspecting sewer lines, and does not repair them if damaged. See my resources page if you need a referral for a repair contractor.

As always, please contact me with any questions you might have.

The inclusion of a firm on this list does not constitute an endorsement or guarantee, of any kind, by Oregon Realty Co.

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