Your sewer needs a colonoscopy!

By Jamie Dunsing, Veteran Home Inspector

During my long career as a home inspector there have been many new services that inspectors have added to their basic home inspection. Some have been more of a “flash in the pan”. Others are truly valuable services that a home buyer should be sure to include with their home inspection. I remember many years ago when inspectors were testing for formaldehyde in insulation, or for electromagnetic fields in homes. To me, it just did not seem like something that inspectors should be doing. This is not to say that those hazards are not of concern to some people. It is more to point out that, in our opinion, some services are not appropriate for home inspectors to be testing for. (I will not even get into discussing mold inspections and testing!) In this article, we will concentrate on sewer surveys.

Why a Sewer Survey?

A sewer survey is like a colonoscopy for your home’s sewer. In our estimation, a sewer survey is the most important service a home purchaser can have done, other than a home inspection. The cost of replacing or even repairing a sewer is almost always in the thousands of dollars. Our experience is that about half of the sewers that we survey have some sort of defect that needs attention. From a simple economic standpoint, it is a good bet that there will be return on your investment. Moreover, if these defects go undetected, you could end up with a basement full of sewage!

“In our estimation, a sewer survey is the most important service a home purchaser can have done, other than a home inspection.”

Dunsing Inspections
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A sewer survey in process

What is a Sewer Survey?

A sewer survey utilizes a specially designed camera that can look at a home’s sewer from where the pipe leaves the home to where it connects to a city main (aka “the tap”). The camera will record a video showing defects such as root intrusion, bellies, cracks, or in severe cases, cracked or broken sewers. As all sewers are underground, repairs to sewers can be quite expensive and disruptive, depending on where the defects are located. When our company performs a sewer survey, we access the sewer from cleanouts outside the property, cleanout and inspection access points within the home or building, or by other means. We NEVER remove toilets to access the sewer, as this could potentially cause future leaking. We provide a video showing what was found and sometimes we can provide the specific location of where the problems are located.

What then?

After the sewer scan is completed, a written report and a video linkup are provided to show what was found. If problems were found, a contractor can then perform repairs, or provide a cost estimate for repairs. Our experience is that most contractors will want to perform their own inspection to confirm our findings, and to understand the specific scope of work that they are performing.

Why not use a plumbing contractor for this service?

You can. We work with several plumbing contractors who perform these scans, as well as performing them ourselves. We have an understanding with these contractors that they will NOT upsell any work. They are there for one purpose only – to provide an unbiased opinion of the condition of the sewer. We have found that this is one of the many benefits of using an objective third party for these types of services. We do not have a “dog in the fight”, so are never trying to sell unnecessary services.

Who are you going to choose to perform your colonoscopy?

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