Updated: Dec 8, 2020
The main Sewer Line is a large pipe (usually buried deep underground) that most interior drains go to. Basically the drains from every sink, shower, tub and toilet eventually end up connected to the main sewer line. The sewer line itself is not visible once it leaves the home because it is buried underground. During a typical home inspection, we cannot see into a home's underground main sewer line without the use of a specialty camera, called a sewer scope. The question is, should you pay to have a sewer scope inspection completed before you buy a home?
A few things to consider....
You are buying it-
This is the often the biggest surprise home buyers have when we talk about the sewer line. In nearly all jurisdictions in Colorado, the homeowners own the main sewer line inside of their home and the entire buried line all the way to a city connection (or city tap). The city connection is usually near the sidewalk area or even under the street itself. Maintenance and repairs are the owners responsibility.
Problems are not uncommon-
There are a host of potential issues with a main sewer line. The most common issue we find during a sewer scope inspection is that the line has significant buildup and needs a professional cleaning. That's pretty straight forward. The rest of the problems are not so simple. We sometimes find completely disconnected lines, which means the sewage is literally dumping underground somewhere on the property. Tree roots can puncture the sewer line. Blockages can cause back-up into the interior of the home. The pipe itself can crack, separate, offset or even be compressed from pressure underground. Older sewer lines are sometimes made of a clay or concrete, which can fall apart easily and are likely to need a full replacement. Brand new homes are not immune to the issues either. We occasionally find broken lines on newer homes, often from construction vehicles crushing the line. The real kicker is that these issues are usually unknown to the current homeowners, so do not expect to see this disclosed during a home sale.
Sewer Lines are expensive-
Don't take our word for it, ask around. A sewer line general cleaning is likely in the $200-$300 dollar range depending on the area and method used. Any other repairs at all are likely going to be in the thousands of dollars, and possibly tens of thousands of dollars range. Nothing is cheap here. When a full replacement of the sewer line is necessary, it is not a small task. Remember, these are often buried deep underground which means heavy equipment, manpower and money. After the underground repairs are completed the soil, landscaping, sidewalks, driveways and even city streets will have to be repaired as well. Guess who pays for that? Yep, the homeowner.
When our clients ask if a sewer scope is necessary to add onto their full home inspection package, our answer is nearly always a confident YES. Currently we are finding issues in roughly 50-60% of the sewer scopes completed, regardless of the age of the home. When you consider a sewer scope inspection costs $150-$300, it makes sense to have this completed during your due-diligence and inspection period. Spending $150 to find out if there are thousands of dollars of repairs needed is a no-brainer.
About the Author:
Cody J. Jones is a Certified Professional Inspector (CPI) and the owner of Green Door Home Inspections Ltd. He and his family have lived in Castle Rock since 2012 and currently serves clients along the Front Range of Colorado. As a Veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Cody takes pride in the service he provides to new home buyers and values integrity and professionalism above all else.