Older sewer lines were made from various materials like cast iron, clay tile and even wood. These lines due to age and material can separate at joints, have root damage or the interior wall of the pipe can flake off and snag debris on its journey out. Modern sewer pipe is a smooth wall PVC that is less vulnerable to failures than the older materials. But even the modern pipe is vulnerable to separated joints, tree root damage, damage from being driven on my heavy equipment, bellies/sags in the pipe and so on. The best way to evaluate your sewer line is by sending a video camera down the drain.
As with all other aspects, we as inspectors cannot perform repairs on any home we inspect. This is to protect you, the client, from unethical practices. If a car mechanic both finds a problem with your can and then can instantly repair it for a fee, do you really know that he/she was looking out for your best interests? Similarly, having inspectors view the sewer line instead of a plumber, we will just tell you the facts about your sewer pipe and not try to sell you on a costly upsell repair.
- Low Areas: also known as a ‘belly’, these low areas can collect water and solid waste, causing poor flow through the pipe and can lead to back-up and damage to the pipe as it sags further.
- Offsets: on some older piping, sections in the piping can separate, causing an offset in the piping to occur. Solid waste may not clear this offset, and waste water will seep into the surrounding soil, causing further settlement and eventual breakdown of the piping.
- Tree Roots: small gaps in sections of piping can allow tree roots to enter the sewer line. As the roots grow, the pipe can break and crack, requiring repair. Minor tree root intrusion can be rooted and cleared on a regular basis, with minimal or no significant pipe damage. Assessing the amount of root intrusion is part of a sewer scope inspection.
- Pipe Collapse: if extreme root intrusion has occurred or significant soil settlement has occurred around the area due to offsets or a low area, complete pipe collapse can occur, requiring full excavation and repair of the sewer line. While rare, this condition can be assessed as part of a sewer scope inspection.
- Debris: Occasionally construction debris or other items can become lodged in the sewer line, preventing the flow of waste through the pipe.