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What is a Sewer Scope Inspection

By October 1, 2020January 8th, 2021Sewer scope
What is a sewer scope inspection

When buying a home, a home inspection is highly recommended.  This is because we as homebuyers don’t always know what to look for and can only see certain things.  But, a home inspector does. The home inspector may also recommend a sewer scope inspection, but what does that mean?

A sewer scope inspection is a close look at the property’s pipelines to see if there are any defects.  You don’t want to lock into a house that has pipeline issues in the ground. 

This inspection is not something that an average person can do and requires the use of a sewer scope.  Let’s take a look at the sewer scope, signs you should have this inspection done, how long it takes and cost, what the inspector will do, risks, and results.  Also, some information about lawsuits surrounding sewer scopes.

What is a sewer scope inspection
Cracked Drain Line

What is a Sewer Scope Inspection

A sewer scope inspection is the use of a camera that takes a video of the sewer line that connects the house and foundation to the city sewer line or HOA tap and looks for cracks, rust, deterioration, or broken pipes. 

These are not things that can be seen with the naked eye and require this specialized camera to find. It is a recommendation for older homes (pre-1970’s) but can be done on newer homes as well. Unfortunately, more new construction homes these days have drain line installation issues.

Signs You Should Have a Sewer Scope Inspection

The home inspector may recommend the sewer scope after the initial home inspection. It is a good idea to do the sewer inspection, especially if there are signs as the sewer is an expensive area to replace- sometimes $250-$300 per foot of repaired line.  

Here are some signs you should have a sewer scope inspection:

Patches of lush grass

Often a sewer or septic leak will fertilize the soil well and leave areas that are noticeably different than the rest of the grass.  This should be a sign, especially if the rest of the yard is a duller green or brown.

Signs you should have a sewer scope inspection
Roots Growing Inside a Drain Line

Large trees

Large trees are beautiful and provide a lot of shade, but their roots can also grow around and into pipes, causing the pipes to break and crack.  The trees can also cause clogging and leaks to happen.

Homes over 25 years old

Homes in South Carolina and other states built before 1975 may have cast-iron pipes.  These pipes have a history of corrosion and deterioration and need inspecting.  Later on, we will talk about a lawsuit against insurance companies in regards to cast-iron pipes.

Houses built after 1975 probably have PVC pipes, which is good but needs inspecting for leaks or broken pipes.  Remember that the small amount for the inspection is worth it to save thousands a little later.

Water backing up or draining in the house

An indicator there is damage in a pipe somewhere in the sewer line and in need of inspection.

A pile-up of soil or soil sunk in the ground

You may notice areas in the yard where the soil has piled up or even sunk in, which is not a good thing.  This can indicate that there is a possible sinkhole developing and it is important to have an inspection to check it out.  Better to be safe than sorry.

Contaminants in the water supply

If you find that your water has particles in it, or it is contaminated, this is a sign there may be a leak or broken pipe and an inspection is needed right away. Contact the health department and drink bottled water until your water can be tested and an inspection can be conducted.

How Long Does the Sewer Scope Inspection Take and Cost

The inspection takes about an hour and can range in cost from $100-$250 depending on the location of the house, the inspection company, and other variables.

What will the home inspector do in a sewer scope inspection

The home inspector will contact the homeowner and set up the inspection time.  He/she will also give the homeowner instructions about not running the water (laundry, showers, etc.) during the inspection.  This small inconvenience only takes a few minutes.

The inspector will run the water through the sewer lines so he/she can flush out the sewer line.  This will allow the camera to float through.  The inspector pauses the camera at defects so pictures can be taken and then he/she can see what is going on.

How Long Does the Sewer Scope Inspection Take and Cost
Cracked Drain Line

The inspector will be looking for the following:

  • Clogged sewer line
  • Type of material the line is made of: Concrete, clay, PVC, Cast iron, etc.
  • Cracks and holes in the sewer line
  • Roots growing through or around the line
  • Septic tank issues (if present)

The inspector will go over with you what is going on in the video, the findings. and then refer you to a professional for any repairs and additional diagnosis if necessary.

Risks of not doing a sewer scope inspection

The risks of not doing a sewer scope are that you will have no idea if the home you are excited to buy has hidden issues that can cost you thousands of dollars.  It is not just older homes that need inspecting, but also newer homes. 

Often, in newer construction, workers are careless and will put anything in the sewer lines and that will cause issues to the homes.  Living in the south, tropical storms and hurricanes can wash debris into yards and pipelines that can clog the system. Additionally, heavy equipment used during construction can cause damage to the main sewer line.

Results and your rights

As mentioned above, the home inspector will go over with you issues that are found.  If there are no issues, that is wonderful!  On the other hand, if there are issues found, he/she will refer you to a professional who can give you an estimate of the repair. 

A lot of issues allows the home buyer to choose to walk away or ask the seller to fix it or lower the price of the home to make up the difference in the repair.  Consult a realtor with help in negotiations. 

Lawsuits For Cast Iron Drains

Currently, there are lawsuits against insurance companies that fail to help homeowners or give them low settlements if they have a home with cast iron drains.  These homes were built before 1975 and cast iron drains were used for the sewer pipes.  

The lifespan is 50-75 years in optimal conditions.  Unfortunately, they deteriorate over time and crack and cause damage.  Their life span is shortened to 25-50 years or less in non-optimal conditions due to the hydrogen sulfide, acids, salts, and moisture-rich environments that are found in South Carolina. 

When this happens, the insurance companies say it is “deterioration” or “water damage” and are excluded from claims; meaning common wear and tear.  The companies are not insuring plumbing drain leaks that are under the slab and not visible. 

Morgan and Morgan and other firms are leading the lawsuits against the insurance companies to help the homeowners who need these drains repaired. 

If the drains are not replaced, they will break and lead to the following:

  • Water damage in the home in various rooms
  • Clogged drains in the sinks and toilets
  • Leaking sewage throughout the system and yard, maybe even backups in the home
  • An infestation of pests in the home as animals can get into the water supply
  • Possible health risks to homeowners and family due to water contaminants etc.


A sewer scope inspection is worth the small investment for peace of mind when buying a home.  Whether it is an older or newer home, you want to know what is going on in the pipes, as this can be a costly repair. 

Rivertown Property Inspections has the technology to look at your sewers and advise you on the recommendations and next steps.  If you have questions about the sewer scope, drop us a line below today!  We would love to hear from you!

The Rivertown Team

Author The Rivertown Team

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