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What Is A Sewer Scope Inspection? (Complete Guide)

By August 31, 2021September 8th, 20212 Comments
inspector completing a sewer scope inspection in tampa bay fl

When you are purchasing a home, you will typically run into the home inspection. However, you might not have heard of the sewer scope inspection before. So, what is a sewer scope inspection? In short, it’s when a technician runs a camera through your sewers to check for damage and leaks.

While a sewer scope inspection does not have to be during a real estate transaction, most of the time this is when it occurs. Sewer scope inspections are also generally not included in the typical home inspection and are an additional inspection a client should order.

Let’s learn more about sewer scope inspections and the process.

What Is The Sewer Scope Inspection & Process Like?

During the sewer scope inspection, a technician will use a specially designed camera on a long cable to view the inside of your drains.

Depending on the access available and the company, a technician might start on your roof and enter a vent stack on the opposite side of where your sewer ends in order to access the sewer. This gives the inspector the best chance to find damage since the inspector can view the sewer from start to finish.

Flashing torn at vent stack
Vent Stack

Some technicians and companies might only view the sewer from the sewer cleanout to the street. The sewer clean-out is typically located right outside the home. While this is a less holistic view of the drainage pipes, it can suffice to see the general condition of the pipes.

Other technicians might remove a toilet to access the sewers, however, this is not common.

The inspection generally takes about 30 minutes and the entire inspection is typically recorded on the camera. Then, the technician can usually report the findings after the inspection. However, the client should await the final report for pictures and the technician’s conclusive findings in order to make decisions on what to do next.

How Much Does It Cost?

A sewer scope inspection can cost $150 (if coupled with a home inspection) or over $400 if the inspection is completed on its own.

Why You Need A Sewer Scope Inspection

There are many reasons you need a sewer scope inspection. Watch this video for a quick overview and then check out the other reasons below.

Health Risks

If your sewer system were to backup or leak, this can cause many health issues. Listed below are some of the health hazards that live in your sewers.

  • Bacteria Infections
  • Fungal Infections
  • Parasites
  • Viruses
  • Harmful Gases
  • Mold

Health effects can occur if your sewer were to back up or leak under your home.

Structural Foundation Issues
Structural Foundation Issues

Structural Damage

Damaged sewers can also cause structural damage to your home. For example, if your sewer is leaking under your home, the home could shift.

In addition, settling drainage pipes can be a sign of home settling and shifting as well.

Lastly, if your sewage system was affected by tree roots, you should take action so the tree roots do not affect your foundation.

Causes of Sewer Line Damage

Signs You Need A Sewer Scope

If you currently own your home, consider looking for the following to see if you need a sewer scope inspection:

  • Water Back Ups – This could indicate damage or breakage to the sewer line, or a significant clog.
  • Large Trees & Roots – One of the most common causes of sewer pipe damage is the growth of roots around the pipe. Roots can grow around and constrict the pipe, breaking it, or grow into small cracks in the pipe, clogging it or causing leaks.
  • Older Homes (Pre-1970) – Older homes are more likely to have sewers that are degraded and damaged.
  • Structural Movement – If the soil around a house seems to have shifted, the pipe may have been affected. If it has moved, it could have broken or become bent and damaged, which may require a costly repair.
  • Lush Patches Of Grass – This is a common sign of a septic or sewer leak. Given its contents, sewer water is actually a powerful fertilizer that can help encourage plant growth. If you see a suspiciously healthy-looking area of the yard, especially if the rest of the lawn seems to be less lush or green, you should be suspicious.
  • Rodents or Pests – Pests and rodents can live in sewer systems.

What If You Are Buying A Home?

We recommend getting a sewer scope inspection whenever you are purchasing a home, but especially when the home was built before 1970. This is because homes older than 1970 may have Orangeburg or cast iron drain lines.

These drain lines are too old to be used today and usually need replacement. They can suffer from root damage, rust, degradation, and ultimately cause backups or sewer smells in the home.

Damaged-Sewer-Drain-Pipe
Damaged Sewer Drain Pipe

Sewer Scope Inspection Results

Once the inspector finishes their inspection, you will want to listen for the following:

  • Clogs or blockages
  • Cracks, damage or imperfections in the line
  • The type of material used for the line (clay, concrete, plastic, orangeburg, cast iron, etc)
  • Roots growing through the line
  • Separation or failure of the line
  • Bellies in the drain

Any of these items might need repairs or replacement. However, each case is different so be sure to listen to your inspector.

So Is A Sewer Scope Inspection Worth It?

The short answer is, yes. For perspective, the average cost to replace your sewer drains is $3,000 to $30,000! This can be due to location, size, and type of replacement. For example, if your drains under the home are in poor condition, you might have to rip up the flooring to access the drains.

On the other hand, there is technology available that allows plumbers to basically pump a liner into your old drains. However, data on their reliability is not yet available.

Most sewer scope companies also recommend these inspections on new construction homes. This is because the sewers were just installed and not tested. It’s not uncommon for new construction drain lines to be cracked or improperly installed.

Overall, the cost of having to possibly replace your sewer drains far outweighs the cost of the sewer scope inspection.

Final Thoughts

A sewer scope is an inspection of a home’s drain lines by using a camera. The inspection costs about $150-$400 and is needed when a home was built before 1970. Other homeowners or homebuyers should consider a sewer scope inspection even if their home is newer.

Waypoint Property Inspection completes sewer scope inspections in the Tampa Bay, FL Region.

If you have additional questions, comment below!

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