Owning a home comes with a lot of responsibilities. From routine maintenance to major repairs, there's always something that needs attention. One area that is often overlooked is the sewer line. Out of sight and out of mind, most homeowners don't think about their sewer lines until there's a backup or clog. But being proactive and having regular sewer scope inspection can help avoid expensive emergency repairs down the road.
Why Inspect Your Sewer Line?
There are a few key reasons why it's important to periodically inspect your sewer line:
1. Identify problems before they become emergencies
Like all infrastructure, sewer lines will degrade over time. Small cracks or root intrusion will gradually get worse if left unaddressed. A sewer scope inspection allows a technician to visually inspect the interior condition of the line. They can identify issues like cracks, blockages, root intrusion or misalignments. Catching problems early means repairs can be done proactively before a total line failure.
2. Avoid backup disasters
If a sewer line is blocked or collapses, sewage has nowhere to go but back up into the home. This can mean thousands of dollars in cleanup and restoration costs, not to mention being out of your home for weeks or months. Sewer scope inspections allow technicians to find blockages or collapses before they turn into an emergency.
3. Reduce risk of water damage
Like backups, a compromised sewer line can also lead to water damage inside or around your home. Cracks or misalignments in the line allow water to seep out and saturate the surrounding soil. This can lead to flooding, mold growth and foundation issues. Identifying leaks early is the best way to prevent water damage.
4. Confirm repairs were done properly
After any sewer repairs, it's smart to do a follow-up sewer scope inspection. This allows the technician to visually confirm that the affected area was fixed correctly. It also provides a new baseline to compare future inspections against.
How Often Should Sewer Scope Inspections Be Done?
Most experts recommend having your sewer line scoped every 3-5 years. Some municipalities even require regular inspections. But there are a few factors that can increase or decrease the ideal frequency:
Age of the sewer line: Older lines are more likely to have issues, so should be inspected more often. Newer lines can go longer between inspections.
Pipe material: Clay lines are more prone to cracks and root intrusion than modern PVC. Pine lines may need more frequent inspections.
Tree proximity: Root intrusion is a common problem. Homes with mature trees nearby should be inspected more regularly.
Previous issues: If you've had sewer line repairs or backups, it's smart to do follow-up inspections more often.
Plumbing usage: Heavy use of water can accelerate wear and tear on sewer lines. Homes with more occupants may need more frequent scoping.
If you notice gurgling drains, wet spots around your foundation or slow drains, have your line inspected right away regardless of when it was last done.
What's Involved in a Sewer Scope Inspection?
Sewer scope inspections are usually simple and straightforward. Here is an overview of what to expect:
Accessing the line
First, the technician needs to access your main sewer line. This is usually done through the sewer scope inspection access point inside or outside the home. Often it's near where the lateral line connects with the city sewer.
Inserting the camera
Next, the technician feeds a specialized sewer camera through the access point and into the line. The camera is connected to a long cable with lights and a video transmitter. As the technician feeds the camera through the pipes, the video is transmitted to a monitor for real-time viewing.
The technician will slowly pull back the camera while closely inspecting the interior of the pipes. They are looking for any signs of cracks, obstructions, misalignments, root intrusion or other issues. The inspection video can be recorded for later reference. Most inspections take 30-60 minutes to thoroughly scope 100+ feet of sewer line.
Once the inspection is complete, the technician will provide their assessment of the overall condition of the line. They will note any defects and where they are located. Most issues can then be prioritized for repair if needed.
Detailed inspection reports are provided, documenting all findings and recommended next steps. Some technicians also provide video recordings of the actual inspection to clearly show the interior condition of the line. Photos of any issues can also be included.
If any major defects are identified, a sewer scope technician can often provide repair estimates on the spot. Knowing the condition of the line allows them to recommend the appropriate repair technique and project costs.
Key Sewer Line Defects to Watch For
Sewer technicians are trained to recognize a number of common sewer defects during inspections. Here are some of the major issues homeowners should be aware of:
Cracks in the pipe allow water to leak out and tree roots to grow inside. Longitudinal cracks run along the length, while girth cracks wrap around the pipe. Both types will gradually worsen over time if not repaired.
Tree roots near sewer lines will aggressively grow towards any water sources. Root masses inside pipes restrict flow and can totally block the line. They also damage pipes during growth.
Major dips, sagging spots or offsets in the line can cause flow disruption. Solids get trapped and start accumulating in these low spots. Eventually they can total block the line.
A sewer line collapse means the pipe shape has been compromised. This totally blocks flow and causes an emergency backup into the home. Collapses are usually preceded by cracks or root intrusion issues.
Partial or total obstructions in the line from debris, grease buildup, root masses or other causes. Catching blockages early prevents backups.
When cracks or defects allow groundwater to enter and overload the pipes. This can lead to sewage backups and contamination issues.
Prioritizing Sewer Line Repairs
If a sewer inspection reveals issues in the line, here are some general guidelines for prioritizing repairs:
Immediate repairs: Collapses, major blockages or severe infiltration should be fixed right away to prevent sewage backups.
Near term repairs: Significant cracks, misalignments or heavy root intrusion should be repaired soon to avoid emergency scenarios.
Elective repairs: Minor cracks, small root masses or slight misalignments can be monitored and fixed when convenient.
Preventative maintenance: Flushing the line annually can help avoid buildup issues. Trees near the line should be removed.
Follow up inspections: Rescope high risk areas more frequently to confirm condition is stable.
Prioritizing repairs not only prevents major emergencies, but also maximizes the lifespan of your sewer line. The goal is to complete repairs before small issues become major ones.
Sewer Repair Options
If your sewer scope inspection reveals defects that need attention, there are several repair techniques that can be used:
Trenchless pipe lining involves coating the inside of the pipe with an epoxy resin. Once cured, it forms a smooth new layer inside the old pipe. This essentially creates a new pipe within the old one. Lining repairs cracks and seals roots out.
Pipe bursting is another trenchless method. It involves breaking the old pipe and expanding a new replacement pipe in its place from the inside. This expands the sewer capacity since larger pipes can be installed.
For minor cracks or damage in short segments, spot repairs may be an option. This involves digging down and cutting out the damaged section of pipe and replacing just that portion.
For sewer lines that are too deteriorated to repair or restore, a full excavation and pipe replacement may be needed. While intrusive, this provides brand new pipes for maximum longevity.
The right repair technique depends on the type, extent and location of the damage. A professional can recommend the optimal approach after reviewing the sewer scope findings.
Maintaining Your Sewer Line
With regular sewer scope inspections and prompt repairs when needed, your sewer line should have a very long useful lifespan. But there are also some maintenance tips that can optimize performance between inspections:
Don't flush wipes or hygiene products - This leads to major blockages. Only human waste and toilet paper should go down.
Limit use of garbage disposal - Overuse adds a lot of solids that accumulate inside the pipes. Compost food instead.
Don't pour fats or oils down the drain - Grease sticks to the insides of pipes and causes blockages. Collect cooking oils for disposal instead
Install screens on drains - This catches hair and debris before it goes down the line. Screens should be cleaned regularly.
Don't plant trees over or near sewer lines - Tree roots aggressively seek out any water sources, including leaky sewer lines.
Annual drain cleaning - Having main sewer lines professionally flushed yearly removes accumulated debris/buildup.
Water conservation - Excessive water usage can erode sewer pipes over time. Fix any leaks and install low-flow fixtures.
Lateral line maintenance - The segment connecting your home to the main line is prone to clogs from home debris. Keep this clean.
Direct downspouts away from sewer - Don't allow roof runoff to saturate the ground over your sewer line. This can lead to infiltration.
Upgrade old sewer lines - Have vintage clay pipes replaced with modern PVC to prevent cracks and root issues.
With proper maintenance and care, your sewer line should have a very long service life. But periodic sewer scope inspections are still crucial for identifying potential problems early. Investing in regular scoping provides peace of mind and avoids disastrous line failures down the road.
When to Call a Professional
While many maintenance tips can be performed by homeowners, sewer inspections and repairs should always be left to qualified professionals. Here are some signs it's time to call in a sewer specialist:
Slow, gurgling drains
Standing water around cleanouts or foundation
Significant drainage issues during rain events
Strong sewage smells around drains or cleanouts
Visible water damage in basement or crawlspace
Recurring sewer backups
Plumbing fixtures draining slowly
Any signs of raw sewage around the property
Reputable sewer contractors have the specialized equipment and expertise to thoroughly inspect lines and make all needed repairs. Many municipalities require licensed plumbers for any work on sewer laterals. Always obtain the proper permits.
Calling at the first signs of trouble can prevent minor issues from becoming major headaches down the road. Sewer repairs are rarely inexpensive, but the right professional can help prioritize and budget the work over time.
Ignoring sewer problems inevitably leads to emergency scenarios, expensive restorations and possibly uninhabitable homes. A small investment in regular sewer inspections provides valuable and actionable information to safeguard one of your biggest assets.
Our sewer lines are one of the most essential utilities for any home, yet they often go uninspected for years. Participating in regular sewer scope inspections provides tremendous preventative value for homeowners. Staying informed on the condition of your underground pipes allows you to address any issues proactively before they result in sewage backups, water damage or other disasters. Prioritizing repairs according to severity optimizes your maintenance budget over the long term. With periodic professional scoping, you can help ensure your sewer line remains in good working order for decades to come.