What Is a Sewer Scope Inspection?

Sewer line damage can cause many unpleasant issues for you and your home. Damage to sewer lines can later turn into structural problems for your home and cause health issues. You can do something to make sure your sewers are up to snuff. Thankfully, specialists are trained to inspect and identify immediate and potential issues with sewer lines. Getting a sewer line inspection can save you from a world of worry down the line. Follow along as we guide you through the sewer scope inspection process.

What Is a Sewer Scope Inspection?

A sewer scope inspection is just like it sounds. A specialized contractor comes to the premises and looks at the inside of your property’s sewer lines. They look for any signs of damage and let you know what they’ve run across when they’re done.

Homebuyers should get a sewer scope inspection as part of the home inspection process. If this isn’t a service your home inspector provides as a part of their inspection, contact your real estate agent to have a sewer line inspection done before closing the loan. You can also inquire with your home inspector when they come out to do their inspection for the home loan.

Homeowners who’ve never had a sewer scope inspection performed should get an inspection as a preventative measure. If you live in an older house and haven’t had your sewer lines scoped before, you should especially get one. Shifting ground, tree roots, and a host of other environmental factors could be affecting your sewer lines, even as you read this article.

When the inspector runs a sewer inspection, they’re first looking for signs of damage to the pipes. Tree roots could be causing damage. Ground freezes over time could be forming cracks in the lines. Inspectors also look for hairline cracks, signs of buckling, and other small indications that trouble could be brewing, even if nothing’s happened yet.

Once the inspector has run a sewer scope through all necessary lines, they’ll write up a report. The report will outline any damage they find, signs of future problems, and anything else out of the ordinary that might affect your sewer lines. The inspector will give their recommendations for the next steps you should take, and many will offer the name and number of other contractors that can help with repairs or damage prevention.

How a Sewer Scope Inspection Works

A sewer scope is a small, specialized camera, attached to the end of a long cable. A contractor runs this apparatus through the private lines of your property up to the city septic lines or the property’s septic tank. The sewer line scope can show several issues that could be going on with your sewage pipes. The scope can pick up issues before they become problems. 

Once the inspection is complete, the contractor provides a report outlining any issues they’ve found, signs of problems down the road, and their recommendations for the next steps you should take.

Sewer Scope Inspection Cost

The cost of a sewer scope inspection varies based on your location and your service. Many home inspection services offer sewer inspection as an additional service and often discount the sewer line portion if it’s part of their home inspection. On its own, a sewer line inspection of your property will run roughly between $100 and $1,175.

Symptoms of Sewer Line Problems

As the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind. Problems could be forming in your sewer lines and you wouldn’t even know it until that breakthrough moment when the problem presents itself. Once a sewer line problem starts, you’ll know it. Here are some clear signs that your property may be experiencing progressive sewer line damage:

  • Clogs – If you’re getting isolated clogs that don’t clear up through traditional means — such as a plunger or drain cleaner.
  • Lawn greening – If areas of your lawn are much richer and greener than others, this could be from sewage seeping into the ground and acting as fertilizer. This could become toxic over time, so get your line checked if you see this happening.
  • Slow drains – If you have multiple fixtures that have started draining more slowly, this could be a problem at your main sewer outlet.
  • Sewage smell – If you’re getting a continual sewer gas smell from a drain in your home, this could indicate sewer line damage.

Causes of Sewer Line Damage

There are many environmental and geological elements at play that can cause damage to your lines. If your property is experiencing issues, more than one factor could impact your sewer lines. Here are some of the most common causes of damage to sewer lines:

  • Tree roots – Trees can sense the water flowing through sewer pipes and will often work to infiltrate the lines to gain access to water, causing ruptures and blockage.
  • Shifting soil – The ground and soil can shift through natural geological activity, causing stress on sewer lines and causing cracks and ruptures.
  • Home settling – As with shifting ground, the process of a house settling often puts pressure on sewer lines, causing breaks.
  • Rapid ground freeze-thaw cycle – If the earth goes through rapid freezes and thaws, lines close to the surface experience stress through expanding and contracting too quickly, leading to problems with sewer lines.
  • Inadequate pipe material – Some older installations are cast iron, which grows brittle over time, and breaks easily. Cast iron and poor-quality materials can make for cracks and breakage down the road.
  • Poor installation – Several issues could occur if a line wasn’t installed properly. Improper sealing turns into leaks or invites debris into the lines. Inadequate insulation can result in thermal damage over time.

Risks From Sewer Damage

Sewer line damage produces many potential hazards to consider. A cracked or ruptured sewer line results in damaging leaks and introduces sewage into the surrounding environment. A damaged line risks damage to property and provides a serious health risk to those who get too close.

Health Dangers of Sewage Exposure

Many harmful bacteria and fungi thrive on sewage. Sewage contains parasites that cause serious infections. Sewage also carries with it a number of molds that produce health risks. Sewer water has several harmful gasses, such as methane and hydrogen sulfide, that can be harmful when inhaled too frequently.

Physical Damage From Sewer Lines

Whether it comes out in a flood or as a slow trickle, sewer line damage can cause severe problems for your home and property. Apart from the obvious flooding problem in the basement or yard, other, less apparent issues can occur. A constant stream of water can erode the ground beneath your property causing sinkholes. Erosion can weaken the ground beneath your home and cause breaks in your foundation. 

The Bottom Line:

Whether you’re buying a new home or living in the same place for years, it’s good to have a sewer line inspection done. With the potential health risks to you, and the damage that your property can encounter, an inspection is a good investment. Getting ahead of sewer leaks before they happen will save you time, money, and headaches down the line.