Camera Sewer line Inspection

Every time we use a sink, take a shower and flush the toilet our sewer lines are performing their often unappreciated and delicate balancing act to ever so gently FLOW. We assume that “it’s gone” as long as it doesn’t come back, as in back up into the drain where we can see it with our eyes. However there is more to the story, your sewer could be on the brink of failure or already failed but you just haven’t seen it come back up, and it may not, ever.

Per 718.1 of the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) sewer lines are required to be installed with a minimum grade or slope not less than ¼” per foot, which is not much! The rational is that water breaks on a plane with a minimal grade so you don’t want the water to flow too fast otherwise it will “run” away from the solids. What this means is that your sewer line is barely draining when it’s brand new and perfect.  Imagine adding years of soil settling, pipe deterioration and root intrusion and the same delicately flowing pipe just gets worse. The tricky part is that you can’t see the effects of the ever increasing failure until it’s too late.

In the early 1980s a camera was invented that could go down into the sewer pipe to see first hand how bad the problem was, to find out if a big problem was lurking below. Over time the technology has improved and become readily available, however most people still aren’t using the cameras in a proactive way. Usually the inspections are done as part of the emergency repair job once the sewer has totally stopped working completely resulting in unexpected repair bills and a big messy hassle. Even licensed home inspectors have ignored the opportunity to find big sewer problems before it costs the homeowner unexpected thousands through camera inspection!

Some agencies have become aware of this loop-hole and preventive efforts have created big saving for unexpected home buyers; saving them a lot of agony and extra expenses.  In the City of Alameda, Ca Ordinance No. 2404 states: “Prior to sale, properties over 25 years old must have their sewer lateral tested for infiltration. If a property is tested and passes, it is certified for 5 years and need not be re-tested if resold during that period. If it fails, the lateral must either be repaired or replaced and then re-tested. Replaced laterals are certified for 25 years, and those that have been repaired are certified for 5 years. The owner is responsible for having the mandatory test performed, obtaining the permit and providing the certification.” Many other agencies in California such as Berkley, Santa Barbara, and Ukiah have adopted this standard and more are in the process of doing so.