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Don’t Let a Clogged Sewer Drain Your Wallet

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Sewer line failures can be among the costliest repairs a homeowner can face, and unfortunately, this high-cost component is entirely hidden from view. That's where sewer scope service comes in.

When it comes to purchasing a home, there are many things to consider beyond just the physical structure. One important aspect to pay attention to is the sewer system. As a certified professional home inspector and professional engineer, I cannot stress enough the importance of sewer scope inspections for homeowners. Sewer line failures can be among the costliest repairs a homeowner can face, and unfortunately, this high-cost component is entirely hidden from view. That’s where sewer scope service comes in.

When are Sewer Camera Surveys Most Critical

Sewer camera surveys are critical to perform when purchasing a home, particularly if the property has older plumbing materials like cast iron. These materials can be more brittle and prone to damage, making them more urgent to have inspected. Moreover, they develop very sharp edges that catch debris and cause temporary blockages. Sometimes, the seller or property appraiser will mention if cast iron or other older materials were used in the plumbing lines, but other times, it’s up to the buyer to ensure their inspector checks for the composition of the pipes. It’s important to be aware of signs that may indicate the need for a sewer scope, including strange odors, unusual vegetation, puddles, slow drains, and large trees in the yard. The house could look pristine, but unbeknownst to you, the prior owner dumps Drain-O down the drain every other day. Don’t wait until it’s too late to invest in a sewer camera survey and avoid costly repairs in the future.

Equipment Needed

A sewer inspection, also known as a sewer scope, requires specialized equipment to accurately assess the condition of the sewer line. The primary tool used in a sewer inspection is the sewer camera, which is a high-definition camera mounted on a flexible rod. The rod is inserted into the sewer line and navigated through the pipes to capture live video footage of the interior of the pipe. This footage is transmitted to a monitor above ground, where the technician can view and assess the condition of the sewer line. Light controls as well as a photography button are at the operator’s control during the survey. Other tools that may be used in a sewer inspection include locators to identify the location of the sewer line (which is typically outside the scope of a Home Inspector’s survey) and cleaning equipment to remove any obstructions that may be obstructing the camera’s view. Overall, the equipment used in a sewer inspection is specialized and designed to provide accurate information about the condition of the sewer line.

How Do You Do the Survey?

First, the inspector will locate the sewer drainpipe and attempt to remove the cleanout cap. If the cap removes easily, they will insert the camera and begin recording a high-quality imagery, which will be delivered to you in the final report. If the cleanout cap does not easily remove, the inspector will explain a few options to you. One of these options is to remove a toilet (to gain access), at a roof vent, or at toilets without removal. It’s important to note that permission from the homeowner is needed to remove a toilet, and there would be an additional cost associated with this extra work.

The camera transmits live video footage of the inside of the sewer line, which is then viewed on a monitor by a trained technician. The technician can then identify any issues such as blockages, cracks, damage, or leaks, and assess the overall condition of the sewer line. This information can then be used to plan for repairs or replacement of the sewer line if necessary. Each major observation will be memorialized with a photograph and an approximation of where the image was collected from.

One of the benefits of a sewer scope inspection is that it allows you to see what cannot be seen during a regular home inspection. A trained technician can identify issues such as blockages, cracks, damage, or leaks, which can be missed during a regular home inspection. Some issues that can be seen from a camera survey include identifying blockages or obstructions in the sewer line. It is not out of the ordinary to detect cracks, breaks, or damage to the sewer line. In all, the operator will be attempting to assess the condition and structural integrity of the sewer line.

In addition, a sewer scope inspection can help prevent issues before they become major problems and costly repairs. For example, it can identify potential issues before they become major problems, such as recurring clogs or slow drains. It can also check for invasive tree roots in the sewer line and identify potential issues that arise when renovations are made to the plumbing and are not in compliance with building codes.

What can you expect from a sewer scope inspection report?

The report should include a visual inspection of the entire sewer line, a detailed report of the findings, video segments and/or interior photos of the sewer line, a detailed explanation of the issues found, a summary of the overall condition of the sewer line, and a mention of any potential safety hazards.

What Issues Can This Camera Survey Discover?

A sewer camera survey can discover a wide range of issues within the sewer line, including blockages caused by tree roots, grease buildup, or foreign objects; cracks, fractures, or other damage to the pipe; bellies, where a section of the pipe has sunk and created a low spot where waste can collect; misaligned or offset pipes; corrosion or deterioration of older pipes; and even collapsed or broken pipes. The inspection can also reveal the type of material used in the pipes, such as cast iron or clay, which can be important information in determining the overall health and lifespan of the sewer line.

In addition to the issues mentioned earlier, a sewer camera survey can also discover cracks or holes in the sewer line caused by shifting soil, frozen ground, or settling. It can also detect misaligned or collapsed pipes that can cause backups and flooding. Another issue that can be found is the presence of foreign objects or buildup of debris that may cause blockages in the sewer line. The sewer camera survey may reveal the type of materials used in the sewer line, which can help determine its age and potential for future problems.


In conclusion, a sewer camera survey is a valuable tool that can help identify potential problems with your home’s sewer line. It can detect blockages, cracks, leaks, and other issues that can lead to costly repairs down the road. Getting a sewer scope inspection is especially important for older homes with cast iron or other brittle plumbing materials. Signs that you may need a sewer scope performed include strange odors, slow drains, and large trees in the yard. If you’re in the market for a new home, be sure to consider adding a sewer camera survey to your inspection checklist. It could save you a lot of money and headaches in the long run.

Hello!  I’m Mike Powell, P.E., the founder of Red Flag Home Inspection, LLC and the creator of this website.  I am also a Professional Engineer and Forensic (failure) Scientist.  Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post.  We appreciate your time spent on this site and are always open to suggestions and ideas from our readers.  You can connect with us through our social media channels (FacebookInstagram, Youtube, Twitter, or Email me anytime. We would love to hear from you. 🙂

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