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  • Neal Wilson

Sewer Scopes &Why They’re Recommended

When buyers reach out to me to schedule their home inspection the conversation often turns to sewer scopes. Depending on the age of the home, I often recommend having a scope performed in addition to the standard home inspection.  A sewer scope is when a plumber places a camera into the sewer cleanout to inspect the service lateral. The service lateral is a pipe, usually 4” in diameter, connecting a home’s waste plumbing to the municipal sewer main located in the middle of the street. In modern houses they’re often made of PVC but in our older northern New Jersey homes they are usually made of terra cotta or cast iron sections and often a combination of the two. A sewer scope typically costs between $200 and $400. A video file from the service is usually sent to the buyer. Some defects that are revealed include: 

  • Most commonly, scale build up

  • Breaks or significant cracks in the pipe

  • Misalignment of the pipe sections due to soil movement, which is very common on hillsides

  • Tree roots that infiltrate the pipe at the joint 

  • Bellies, when the pipe undulates up and down on its journey and creates low spots 

  • Blockages caused by baby wipes and sanitary products

The good news is that identifying these defects during your inspection window allows you to address any potential issues. If a service lateral simply has some scale build up, minor blockage or small tree roots up to the diameter of your finger, your plumber will either use a high-pressure water jet or possibly a grinder. This is the most common outcome of a scope. This service typically ranges from $750 to $1500 depending on severity and length of the pipe. For cracks or breaks without misalignment plumbers are often recommending the installation of an epoxy liner. In this technique the pipe is first cleaned and a tube of epoxy-impregnated fiberglass cloth is inserted into the pipe. Steam or hot water then cures the lining. In theory this seals any small holes or cracks. This solution ranges in price from about $5,000 to $8,000 depending on the length of the pipe to be serviced. It doesn’t always work, with poor adhesion and collapsed liners a possibility. If this happens the only solution remaining is excavation and replacement. When misalignment or a complete failure of the pipe occurs, a trench must be dug from the house to the break or often all the way to the main. When the excavation equipment comes out, things get more expensive. A home purchase is a big investment! You owe it to yourself to do a thorough due diligence of all major home systems, which often includes the sewer line.

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