Sewer Lines in Older Homes

Home Inspector with Smart Move Home Inspection LLC RT # 715

If you are buying or even selling an older house you can disclose the condition of the existing sewer line.

The sewer line is the responsibility of the homeowner from the home all the way out to the street where it taps into the city's line.  Replacing a sewer line can cost the homeowner anywhere from $4000 to 8000 on an average line.  If the street needs to be ripped up to replace the line, then the homeowner will have to pay for the street to be repaired also.  During a real estate transaction, if a Buyer finds a problem with the sewer line after they move in, it becomes extremely difficult to place the onus back on the Seller.  Many times, the Seller honestly did not know the sewer line had problems.  That is why it can be so important for the Buyer to have the sewer line scoped on any home 20 years or older. 

For $185-$350, you can hire a licensed Plumber to run a camera through the line.  The cameras cost over $10,000 and good ones can record the entire process on videotape.  This is the best way to know the true condition of that line and is irrefutable evidence to all parties involved.

                                                                        'Smart Move Home Inspection LLC'

Comments (19)

Matthew Ricker
Keller Williams - Portland, OR
I have a vendor that does this test for $99.00 and records it on DVD to hand to the client.  The client then keeps it in their records for the future.  It is the one of the smartest things that a buyer can do and I highly recommend it to every buyer.  It can save thousands of dollars.
Feb 21, 2008 07:56 AM
Paul Jeremy
Doyno Realty - Bradenton, FL

Doug i hear what you say but i am pretty much an expert at this game in UK terms.

 Ripping up any drain is normally the last option you would choose. Also i think you underestimate the costs in many cases. You can cut fibrous roots out of a drain in not too long a time but if you encounter tap roots it is a very different thing and can take specialist cutting equipment and a team of men. This raises costs enormously.

 In the UK the drain ownership ends as the pipe enters the main sewer, i assume it is the same here. Municipalities would generally not just cut out the roots but also insert a liner which can reduce the bore of a pipe minimally but also increase the flow speed of the pipe as there are less joints equalling less friction. If the pipe is in a very poor condition and bore has been reduced considerably due to collapse or slippage there is the possibility of pipebursting. This method is much less time consuming and can be done in hours instead of days. Ripping up a road has to be the last resort.

My last camera system in the UK cost me $56,000 and that was over 10 years ago....  most basic systems that are capable of a variety of work would set you back about $20000!

Feb 21, 2008 08:04 AM
Paul Jeremy
Doyno Realty - Bradenton, FL

another thing.... 20 years is far too long... i would recommend it even for a new house sale, (i've seen some very poor workmanship)!

this is not an advert i'm a realtor now but i was renowned in the UK for what i did and i worked with top companies as an independent contractor.

Feb 21, 2008 08:07 AM
Doug Gialluca
Smart Move Home Inspection LLC - Canton, OH
Licensed Home Inspector along with Radon and Pest

Thank you for the comments, Matthew and Paul, I wouldn't disagree with either one of you, for the main point here is preventative maintenance and awareness to a potential future expense. I would hope that a new house would have a period of time that the sewer line should be troubled free, however there are some variables in the building industry that could present new construction problems. These are just some of the many things that are sometimes overlooked in the eagerness to purchase that new or older house.

                               Thanks again for the comments,  Doug

Feb 21, 2008 12:16 PM
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Doug, every report I send out recommends scoping---very cheap insurance---and valuable information.  Sometimes your 45 minute video will show the beady little eyes of ratssmiley

Feb 21, 2008 04:07 PM
Doug Gialluca
Smart Move Home Inspection LLC - Canton, OH
Licensed Home Inspector along with Radon and Pest
 Thanks for the response Charles, There is nothing worse than getting ready for a holiday dinner and you have a basement drain back up. Sometimes a small break can be detected and repaired before there is major water damage.I will keep that in mind about recommending scoping, Thanks,    Doug
Feb 21, 2008 11:37 PM
Diane Bell, Hilton Head Real Estate, Bluffton
Charter 1 Real Estate, Hilton Head, Bluffton, SC - Hilton Head Island, SC
What a good suggestion.  Honestly, this is something I never even gave thought to.  Thanks for sharing.
Feb 21, 2008 11:42 PM
Doug Gialluca
Smart Move Home Inspection LLC - Canton, OH
Licensed Home Inspector along with Radon and Pest
 You more than welcome Diane, I myself did this in my present house and found that there was a problem where the soil pipe met with the building drain pipe. This was corrected within a four foot area and probably solved a much larger problem later on. Than just as the other inspector mentioned above that this is very cheap insurance for everyone involved.   Thanks Doug
Feb 22, 2008 12:11 AM
Paul Jeremy
Doyno Realty - Bradenton, FL

we used to get a lot of work from surveyors in the UK. i would not only scan the pipe, i would record it and then make a report on each and every run. if there were problems with a run i would then add an estimate/quote to repair the problem.

we got a ton of work like this and it was all backed up with evidence to present to an insurance company, and they had to do something about it.

and of course our clients were very happy!

Feb 22, 2008 01:13 AM
Doug Gialluca
Smart Move Home Inspection LLC - Canton, OH
Licensed Home Inspector along with Radon and Pest
 That is great Paul and I hope this will help many buyers,sellers, or just home owners to be aware of what they can do as preventative maintenance. When we service are vehicles, we prevent a larger expense down the road. This may also add revenue to a business as for a contractor increasing his work schedule, however it may also prevent as said before additional damages and expenses.   Doug
Feb 22, 2008 05:41 AM
Dan Man

I recommend that all property owners, sellers, and buyers find an independent sewer inspection company in order to know the condition of the sewer pipes.

My biggest problems is with some realtors telling my clients that my recommendation for an inspection is just boiler plate, and that none actually inspect the sewer pipe.. C,mon are you kidding me.?. 

I even had a Plumber(Im sure working for the agent) tell my client that if there was no known history of problems that he did not see any reason to "waste their money". Though this same guy all the while trying to be "the good old guy".. Everything that I suggested should be replaced, or corrected this guy insists "if it aint broke dont fix it.." "it works, right.?.." The house was from the 1930's. I asked the Plumber if he had a sewer camera, he replies "nope, but Ive seen em before, not worth the money if ya ask me".

Anyway, to make a long story short several months later the sewage floods my clients newly remodeled basement.. After remediation cleanup, rooter work, sewer inspection, partial pipe replacement, deconstruction, and reconstruction of basement my clients are $25,000 in the hole.   

Feb 22, 2008 06:06 PM

 Thanks Dan,

I would think that a house with no history of plumbing problems on the disclosure, from the 1930's would be a red flag to get a intrusive look at some areas of concern. The old cast iron pipes should be a concern also in the building lines as well as the clay pipe sewer lines. There will always be skeptics towards a newer industry that some old school tradesmen may not understand. The preventative maintenance again out-weighs  the future damages and loss of property, or even life.   Doug

Feb 23, 2008 12:29 AM
Chris Griffin
Sewerline Check Professionals - Los Angeles, CA
Great Post and wonderful information. I own a sewer line inspection company. I recommend that rather than hiring a plumber to inspect the line it may be a better idea to hire an independent inspector who does not perform repairs. this helps to keep things honest. I don't know if there are many companies like this in your area but it never hurts to look or to ask. (Or to explain to a plumber that you are using another plumber to do the work and would like to hire them as a second opinion on what needs to be done) It may save you some money.
Apr 29, 2008 11:13 AM
Paul Jeremy
Doyno Realty - Bradenton, FL

Chris, that makes no sense at all. You are saying bring in someone who doesnt do repairs but what do you do or say that gives a client the information to get a quote if there is a problem?

 the way you say you work is to say there is a problem, goodbye, cya, au revoir,,, what good is that to a client without a costing???

surely a recording of the pipelines keeps things honest!!!!!

Apr 30, 2008 03:02 PM
Paul Jeremy
Doyno Realty - Bradenton, FL
Apr 30, 2008 03:03 PM
Doug Gialluca
Thank you for the comments. The Home Inspectors job is to make a potential buyer or seller aware that there could be a problem that should be evaluated based on the age or what was observed at the time of inspection. The inspector should not recommend a company to perform the repairs, however can recommend a related service to evaluate the condition that is not in his scope of expertise. However the camera video is a separate service regardless of who would perform this. The seasoned certified plumber that has actually done these type of repairs may have more insight to the extent of its deficiency.
May 04, 2008 12:35 AM
Natalie (home buyer)


Thanks everyone for this thread. A sewer scope was recommended to me by my home inspection team for a mere $100 extra. I said absolutely! I did a search online to find out if it was really worthwhile and came across this blog and a few others, which only increased my confidence in going ahead with it. The house we are buying is from 1943 and there are 2 enormous 65 year old trees out front. I'll let you know how it goes! Thanks again.

May 27, 2008 11:27 AM
Richard Rowdy

I agree that one should find an inspector that does NOT do the repair work.

We have encountered some awful companies which perform inspection, and repair only to find upon second opinion that they were very dishonest.

We now have a list of inspectors(chimney, sewer, roof, foundation, etc) who do only inspections. It has worked out really well, and created a more comfortable escrow as we let the buyer, and seller know that the inspectors have no vested interest in their findings

Sep 10, 2008 09:26 AM
Local Charleston Plumber
Rooter Man Plumbing and Drain Service - Charleston, SC

We have been called out for a clogged sewer by new home owners. They are quite disappointed to find out the condition of the line. Scoping thje line before buying the home is a great idea.

Aug 21, 2010 04:47 PM