Sewer Scope Inspections


70% of homes older than 20 years have plumbing issues

At Bent Nail Home Inspection Services, we can provide our customers with a thorough inspection that gives them an accurate assessment of the home they are purchasing. One area that may be overlooked would be the condition of the sewer line. As this line is buried and not visibly accessible, it is not covered in a standard Home Inspection. At Bent Nail, we believe that it is important to understand the condition of the underground sewer line as it is an important part of your home’s assessment. Bent Nail offers a video inspection by a certified professional to remedy this missing information. This type of inspection is also known as a sewer scope. To perform the Sewer Scope Inspection, we put a camera in the sewer line at a cleanout or through the vent sewer pipes on the roof. We then move the camera down the sewer line until we reach the city’s main sewer line. We record the condition of the sewer line and take pictures of any defects we find.

Value of a Sewer Scope Inspection

The Sewer Scope Inspection is necessary to understand the condition of the line since it is buried several feet underground and cannot be seen in plain sight. Unless the seller knows the house has a problem with a sewer backing up or a slow drain, the buyer might not know until after closing. If a backhoe is needed to dig up and replace the sewer line, the repair could become costly. During our certification course, it was said that the minimum cost to repair the main sewer line is $2,500.00.

Here is another reason the Sewer Scope Inspection is essential. In most neighborhoods, the city’s sewer line travels down the middle or close to the middle of the street. You can find the city’s sewer line by looking for the manhole covers. The homeowner is responsible for the home’s sewer line from the house to the city sewer line. Just think of the cost if you have a blockage or a crushed sewer line under the street. I don’t even want to guess at that cost.

Common Sewer Scope Inspection Defects

Below is a list of commonly found Sewer Scope Inspection defects:


Pipe Collapse In extreme cases of root intrusion or if significant soil settlement has occurred due to offsets or a low area, complete pipe collapse can occur. A pipe collapse could require a full excavation to repair the sewer line. Another possible cause of sewer pipe collapse is if heavy equipment has been moved across the sewer line. While total pipe collapses are rare, this condition can be identified and assessed as part of a sewer scope inspection.


Debris How many stories have you heard about kids flushing toys or other objects down the toilet? This happens all across the US every day. Sometimes these toys don’t make it all the way to the city sewer lines and get stuck in the home’s sewer lines. Over time these objects will start backing up solid wastes and eventually cause a total sewer line blockage. Sometimes a blockage happens on a new construction house. Construction debris or other items are washed down the sewer line but do not make it to the city line. These items then dry and harden in the sewer line or become lodged in the sewer line. Just like the toys, these items will start blocking the solid waste and preventing the flow of waste through the pipe.


Low Areas A low area in the sewer pipe is also known as a ‘belly’. The belly will collect water and other items as they travel down the sewer line. This low area also causes poor flow through the pipe and can lead to back-up and damage to the pipes.


Offsets On some older sewer lines, sections in the piping can become separate over time. The pipe separation will cause an offset in the piping to occur. Solid waste may not clear this offset, and wastewater will seep into the surrounding soil, causing further settlement and eventual breakdown of the piping. Sometimes the offset gets so bad that it catches solid waste, leading to an eventual blockage.


Tree Roots Tree roots love sewer lines. The sewer line is a constant flow of water and nutrients for the tree. The tree roots enter the sewer line through small gaps in sections of piping. As the roots grow, the pipe can break and crack, requiring repair. Minor tree root intrusion can be rooted and cleared regularly with minimal or no significant pipe damage. The issue with just rooting or cutting out the tree roots is they will grow back bigger and stronger. Assessing the amount of root intrusion is part of a sewer scope inspection.

Defect Locating Services

If we do find an issue, we have two ways of locating and reporting where the issue is located. First, as the sewer camera goes down the pipe, it tracks the length of cable that is in the pipe (by feet). Once an issue is found, the camera tells us how far down the pipe it is (ie. 10 feet) so it can be located again to be repaired or corrected. The other option we have is using what is called a Sonde and locator. The Sonde sends radio waves, and the locator uses these radio waves to mark the general area of the camera head and Sonde. It also gives you a general depth. We are able to determine the general vicinity of where a sewer line defect is located in the yard or street and can mark it for you if needed for excavation and repair.

Let me tell you a personal story about sewer line blockages.

My wife and I were renting a brand-new three-story townhouse. Undenounced to us, the townhouse had a blocked sewer line. Here is how we found out that the sewer line was blocked. My wife gave one of our kids a bath. When she drained the water out of the third-floor bathtub, the water started coming out of the toilet on the first floor. I quickly went up and told her to plug the tub back up, but we had three floors of water in the pipes. Yes, it was a total mess, imaging your worst thoughts and that it is what it was. When the plumber came to fix the sewer line, they found it blocked by drywall mud that was stuck in the sewer line. If the townhouse owner would have had a sewer scope inspection, he would have known about the blockage before the bathroom floor and hallway carpets were destroyed.

Please don’t underestimate the importance of having a sewer scope done as part of your home inspection. We provide independent and unbiased inspection of your sewer lines. Also, remember in most municipalities, the homeowners are responsible for the sewer lines on their property and under the streets until it connects with the city sewer line. Repairs can be messy and costly. Call us today, to schedule your Sewer Scope Inspection!