SEWER AND SEPTIC LINE INSPECTIONS FOR HOME BUYERS
The time to inspect a home’s sewer lines is before buying a home, yet very few home buyers think about this critical aspect of the inspection process. They know to get a home inspection, but sewer lines are an after thought if it occurs to a buyer at all. However, it’s one of the most important inspections a home buyer should have done. In fact, standard home inspections do not cover the structural integrity or condition of sewer or septic lines. A sewer scope provides an innovative approach to make an educated buying decision, plan for upcoming maintenance, budget for necessary repairs, or gain valuable purchase price negotiation. Remember, replacing sewer or septic lines can cost many thousands of dollars, so if you buy a home without inspecting those lines, you’re simply “buying” that liability; a classic case of “buyer beware.”
SEPTIC INSPECTIONS & MAINTENANCE FOR CURRENT HOME OWNERS
Even if your home’s plumbing or septic system appears to be functioning properly, sewer or septic line inspection is critically important to maintain the integrity and functionality of these often neglected systems. There are a number of causes for sewer and septic line failure that can occur over time. Tree roots, for example, are attracted to the nutrients and moisture that are found in sewer lines. If lines sewer or septic lines are cracked or damaged by wear and time, roots can infiltrate the system and grow until lines become backed up or burst completely. If invasion of roots is an issue, it’s best to contact a professional to remove the tree. To avoid future root issues, do not plant trees within 10 feet of a sewage line, or implement an underground barrier system to protect pipes.
Another common sewer or septic line problem that can occur without an obvious precipitating event are “sewer line bellies” or low areas which cause lines to sag and collect water and debris thus causing backup or blockage. A belly in a sewer line can be caused by geological events such as soil erosion, foundation settlement, earthquakes or by human error such as poor soil compaction or poor installation.
WHO SHOULD YOU CALL FOR YOUR SEWER OR SEPTIC LINE INSPECTION?
It’s important that you work with a full service company, especially if you have a septic system or are considering buying a home with a septic system. You should make sure the company can not only inspect your lines, but can follow through on repairs to your lines or septic system, either immediately or in the years to come. Finding the right company will ensure that the inspection and any necessary repairs are done by one company and not a group of sub contractors who may not take responsibility for their work. Be sure that your inspector is ATT (Alternative Treatment Technologies) and O&M (Operations and Maintenance) certified, and that they are part of a Preferred Plumber Program. Your real estate agent may be able to refer you to a full service company that provides comprehensive inspection, maintenance and repair services, and that has all of the necessary certifications.
WHAT IS INVOLVED IN SEWER LINE & SEPTIC SYSTEM INSPECTION?
When it comes to sewer and septic line inspection, the plumbing company inserts a snake attached to a small video camera into the clean-out and snakes the camera through the sewer. You can watch the image on a monitor, and even request a recording of the inspection in the event documentation is of value. Not only will the plumbing company find out if the sewer line is clean or clogged, but the inspection will disclose the condition of the sewer. Ask the contractor to tell you what kind of material was used to construct the sewer line and whether that type of material is considered good construction today. Some sewer lines are made up of different materials, from concrete to clay to cast iron.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU INSPECT YOUR SEPTIC SYSTEM?
Tanks need to be well maintained to operate at their best. They require inspection every 1-3 years, depending on which region you’re in. A properly certified septic system inspector and installer will recommend servicing tanks every 3-5 years. They will need to be serviced more frequently for certain types of soaps (liquid soaps are harder on septic systems than powder). Also, any medical condition byproducts and the types of paper products discharged through your system will impact the frequency of service. If your home remains vacant for more than six months, septic problems can arise and an inspection is recommended.