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Tirso De Ubago,cio's Blog

By Tirso De Ubago,cio ASHI | Home Inspector in Walnut Creek, CA

Getting a Home Inspection? Remember to Check the Sewer Pipe!

When buying a home, your offer should always be contingent on the results of a professional inspection of the property. If the inspection turns up something like termite infestation or cracks in the foundation, you can back out of the contract, or you can have the seller repair the problem to your satisfaction.

A professional home inspection will cover the interior and exterior of the house, but it will never include an inspection of the building’s sewer (known as the private sewer lateral or side sewer).

The private sewer lateral is the part of the sewer that runs from the house to the public sewer main which is located under the street, alley, or in an easement behind the house.

The maintenance and repair of the private sewer lateral is the responsibility of the property owner. But most owners don’t give much thought to the private sewer lateral until a sewage backup occurs, usually due to a damaged or root-clogged pipe or an offset joint. Repairing damages caused by a sewage backup can cost thousands of dollars, an expense not always covered by homeowners insurance policies.

For only a few hundred dollars, a licensed plumber can do a video inspection of the private sewer lateral. The video will show if there are cracks or breaks in the pipe, offsets, and any root intrusion (the leading cause of sewer backups). If the private sewer lateral needs to be repaired, costs can be several hundreds of dollars. Replacement costs can run $5,000 or more.

If a licensed plumber discovers a private sewer lateral problem prior to close of escrow, the buyer has the opportunity to negotiate with the seller to cover the cost of cleaning or repairs.

A Simple Device Can Protect Your Home From Sewage Backups
Two other things you’ll know with a private sewer lateral inspection are: (1) whether or not the lateral has a cleanout; and (2) if that cleanout is fitted with an Overflow Protection Device. If you don’t have a clean out, you should have one installed. It will give you and the licensed plumber easy access to your private sewer lateral for cleaning and maintenance.

The recommended way to prevent sewage from backing up into your home—from a blockage in your private sewer lateral or from the public sewer main—is to have an Overflow Protection Device.  This inexpensive device allows backing up sewage to spill outside, rather than from a drain inside your house.

Sanitary Districts requires that all homes and businesses have an Overflow Protection Device. New construction, and construction where sewers are being repaired or replaced, are required by District Code to install the devices.

Installation of the device (which is available at many plumbing supply stores) is relatively simple, but must be done according to Sewer District specifications. We recommend that a licensed plumber install the device since elevation and location are critical for the device to function properly. If you have any questions, please call your Local Sanitary District for more information.


Ó Castle Rock Home Inspections – 1-800-995-8242


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