Sewer Line Inspections

Getting your sewer scoped now can save you thousands of dollars later!

In addition to checking normal plumbing functionality during a home inspection, we can also conduct a sewer line inspection. The information it yields can be very helpful to homeowners, as well as prospective home buyers. Main sewer line repairs can be quite extensive and expensive so it is wise to get the line inspected before the purchase of a home.

A sewer scope is a video inspection of the lateral sewer line leading from the house at or near the foundation and connecting to the main city line or septic tank.

To perform a sewer line inspection, an inspector will insert a flexible rod with a high-resolution video camera on it into the sewer pipe. This will allows us to see through the pipe as the rod is flexible and can bend around corners.

Inspection Works recommends having a main sewer line inspection done if:

  • you are considering purchasing a home,
  • you have been having multiple plumbing issues, or
  • you have recently had plumbing service performed, to insure that the line was properly repaired and cleaned.
A lateral sewer line is the privately-owned pipeline connecting the property to the publicly-owned main sewer line, or septic tank.

In addition to finding unforeseen problems, a sewer line inspection can find the answers to known or suspected problems, which are vital for homeowners and home buyers to be aware of. For example, if there is a damp depression in the lawn above the sewer line, or if there is backflow into the home, or if contaminants have been discovered in the potable water supply, a sewer scope inspection can be critical to identifying and confirming these problems, which must be addressed immediately.

A sewer scope inspection will check for the following:

Click to expand.

A break is any breach in the pipe’s wall. If the break is on the bottom of the pipe and completely breaches is pipe’s wall, the break will allow sewage to enter the ground, compromising the function of the side sewer.

We may find that the break does not effect the overall function of the pipe (like when the inspection camera captures a small break in the top of the pipe), but breaks are usually a must-fix abnormality.

sewer scope inspection camera reveals a break—a complete collapse of the pipe that likely started as an offset

A buildup is any significant material that has remained on the pipe’s wall. The sewer scope could reveal debris (soil and aggregate) or solidified cooking oils.

Depending on the severity of the buildup, we may recommend cleaning the sewer—a common maintenance action for sewer lines.

sewer scope inspection camera reveals buildup in the sewer line—notice the camera sitting almost halfway up inside the pipe

Constriction, in this context, is the lessening of the interior diameter of a pipe via the pipe’s own material, such as a kink or fold can cause in plastic or “Orangeburg” pipe.

Constriction is not commonly found, but it is one of the few abnormalities that plastic pipes can exhibit.

sewer scope inspection camera reveals a constriction in the side sewer—a moderate crushing of the Orangeburg pipe that reduces the pipe’s ability to function

Corrosion is the gradual destruction of the pipe’s interior surface. Rusting is a common form of corrosion. Cast iron pipe commonly corrodes at a very slow rate.

The inspection camera may find areas of heavy corrosion that either restrict the interior diameter of the pipe or compromise the integrity of the pipe’ wall. The severity of corrosion, not the presence of corrosion, is the determining factor in the health of your side sewer.

sewer scope inspection camera reveals corrosion in the side sewer—the rough side wall is not yet seriously effecting the function of the pipe

Erosion is the natural removal of aggregate and cement from the interior of a concrete pipe. Erosion is a slow process that tends to accelerate towards the end of a pipe’s life. As the surface of a concrete pipe become more eroded, the force of the water tends to wash away more cement, loosening the aggregate and washing it down the side sewer. Erosion is also generally not consistent in severity throughout a pipe; it is often most severe where the force of the water is greatest (close to the house) and less severe further down the line.

The sewer scope may reveal erosion, but not all erosion requires repair—it is part of the natural life cycle of concrete pipe.

sewer scope inspection camera reveals erosion in the side sewer—you can see the typical water-flow line towards the bottom of this 6″ concrete pipe (compared to the smooth top)

A foreign object is any remaining object not native to the sewer line. A foreign object could be something as harmless as a child’s small toy car that will soon wash down the line, or it might be something as severe as a piece of rebar driven through the center of the pipe.

sewer scope inspection camera reveals a foreign-object in the side sewer—close to the left side of the camera’s view there is a grounding rod driven through the top of the concrete pipe

A fracture is the cracking of the pipe’s wall. Fracturing is most commonly seen in vitrified clay pipe.

The presence of fracturing does not require the replacement of the pipe—only fractures that impair the function of the sewer line (or fractures that could be classified as a break in the pipe’s wall) may require repair.

sewer scope inspection camera reveals a fracture in the sewer line—the top-left of the camera’s view shows fracturing just past the bell joint of a vitrified clay pipe

A low area is a length of the sewer line that never completely drains. The presence of a low area requires that care be taken as to what is sent into the line, as buildup may occur over time when sewage doesn’t completely drain down the line.

Generally speaking, only low areas that block 2″ of a 4″ pipe (50%) may need to be repaired.

sewer scope inspection camera reveals a low-area in the side sewer—sewage is not draining completely from this section of cast-iron pipe

An offset is a difference in height between to adjoining sections of pipe. Offsets are fairly common in sectioned pipe made of concrete or vitrified clay pipe.

The sewer scope inspection camera may reveal an offset exposing the underlying pipe bed or presenting a significant barrier to the flow of sewage (a serious condition requiring repair), but often the inspection camera reveals an offset that doesn’t require repair. Your Sewercam sewer scope technician will be able to determine the offset’s effect on the side sewer’s function.

sewer scope inspection camera reveals an offset in the sewer line—in this case, the pipe has shifted so severely that the sewage can flow beneath the pipe, compromising the function of the sewer pipe and eroding the pipe’s bedding, causing further shifting over time

Root intrusion is the presence of live root matter in the side sewer, usually through a pipe section’s joint. Root intrusion often intensifies in the late spring and early fall. Root intrusion is present in many of the sewer lines we scope, to varying degrees.

Not all root intrusion requires immediate treatment, and several treatment options exist.

sewer scope inspection camera reveals root-intrusion in the side sewer—the roots are blocking about 25% of the pipe; when caught at this stage, root intrusion is an easily-treatable abnormality

Sample sewer line inspection video: