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What Is A Sewer Inspection And How Do I Know I Need One?

sewer inspection
Suspect you have pipe problems? Call in the sewer inspector, stat!

In the world of homeownership, a suspiciously backed-up toilet or flooded basement can result in sheer chaos. What first seems like just a little water can actually be a costly sewer-line problem. To prevent headaches down the road, you can opt to have a sewer inspection when first buying your home — one of many optional, niche inspections that can save you money. Here’s a closer look at this gritty inspection and how to determine whether you should add a sewer inspection to your home-buying checklist.

What is a sewer inspection?

To get a sewer inspection, call a plumbing company and ask if the contractor can use a camera to inspect the sewer lines for you. Your real estate agent can be a big help here and refer you to contractors who do these inspections regularly.

During the sewer inspection, the contractor will use a camera attached to the end of a plumbing snake. When inserted, the snake camera allows the inspector to view the interior of the plumbing lines and determine whether there are any issues, such as live oak tree roots growing into your Savannah, GA, home pipes (shudder). The camera can also reveal any cracks or breaks in the sewer line from the house to the street. Take note: Should there be something wrong with the line from the house to the street, it’s the homeowner, not the city, who must cover damages — possibly through homeowners insurance, though.

The contractor can tell you what kind of material was used to construct the sewer line and whether that material meets today’s standards. Once armed with the inspector’s results, inform the seller of any issues and negotiate necessary repairs or replacement during the remainder of the buying contract’s inspection period.

Signs that an inspection is needed

But how can you tell if a sewer inspection is needed in the first place? The condition of a home’s sewer lines is usually not part of a regular home inspection. Adding a sewer inspection becomes particularly important for houses that are 20 years older or more. Not only can the pipes in these older homes erode and break down, but they’re also more susceptible to intrusion by roots, which makes sewer inspections critical for properties that are heavily landscaped.

Sewer suspicions also may arise from something you saw in the seller’s disclosure or in the home inspection report. Or perhaps you attended an open house during your home search, which is a good time to look around or simply ask about the sewer’s condition if the seller is there.

During an open house, let your senses come into play. Check out the basement and smell for any musty odors. Look for water stains in the ceilings and along baseboards in the basement — those are signs of flooding, drainage, or maybe even roof trouble. Are storage boxes in the basement stacked atop pallets so the bottoms of the boxes won’t get wet? If the basement has carpet, look at its condition. If it appears the carpet has been there awhile and shows no signs of water damage, perhaps the space hasn’t had any flooding issues.

If you have any suspicions about water issues, it’s best to get a sewer inspection. The extra test might cost you a few hundred dollars, but when you consider that the cost to replace a sewer line can run into the thousands, it’s money well-spent.

When you were buying your home, did you first get a sewer inspection? Share in the comments!

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