Sewer Scope Basics

Considering buying or selling a home, office, or commercial building?

In addition to a basic home or building inspection, one “optional” thing to carefully consider is to have a sewer scope performed. The seller before listing, and the buyer during the buyer’s inspection period.  You may have some questions about that.  In this article we will share with you the answers to the following questions:

What is a sewer scope?

Why do I need to have a sewer scope done?

What buildings should be scoped? And;

Who is the best person to do a sewer scope for me?

  1. Let’s begin:

What is a sewer scope?

A sewer scope inspection is a video inspection of the lateral sewer line (referred to by some plumbing codes as the “building sewer”) from the house at or near the foundation to the municipality’s or HOA’s tap or septic tank, performed for a fee.

Why do I need to have one done?

For sellers: For the same reason you would get a pre-listing inspection of your home or commercial building: So that YOU are not surprised. If the buyer has one done, and it reveals problems, you will have to deal with corrections, or negotiating compensation, when there is a clock ticking on the closing. “Emergency” repairs are always more expensive. Doing pre-listing building and sewer scope inspections can inform you of problems before they become an issue at closing, and that gives you time to learn about options and to shop for best prices.

For buyers: The #1 reason: To avoid costly repairs sometime in the future. Those repairs could be for either damages to the building caused by a plugged lateral line, or repairs or cleaning of the lateral line, or both.  We can’t see below ground. The sewer drainage system is a vital part of a building. If it does not consistently work properly, under all levels of use, living conditions in the building will be less than ideal. In fact, a partially or fully blocked DWV – Drain, Waste, Vent system, can make the home unlivable or temporarily close a business. Even brand-new homes and offices are found to have issues with the “lateral line” pipe between the building and the city sewer “tap” or property septic tank. After the building is complete and the landscaping is finished, there are only two ways to check the lateral lines: Digging up the pipes ($$$) or performing (and recording) a sewer scope.

The outside of a sewer lateral line might look fine, but could the inside look like this?:


What buildings should be scoped?

All buildings should have their lateral line(s) scoped periodically. But YOU only need to have it done if those lateral lines are, or will be, your responsibility.  So, the short answer is: every building, old or new, should be scoped, except where you are not responsible for the lateral line, as in a multi-story condo or townhome.  You might ask: why scope new or recent construction? The answer is: Because more than half of the problems that develop later are due to faulty or poor installation techniques along with lines that were damaged just after installation.

Who is the best person to do a scope for me?

Unless there are known issues with the sewer drainage system, a Sewer-Scope Certified Home Inspector is the best person to scope the sewer line.  You can get a plumber to do it, but that can cost as much as double what the inspector will charge.  Even at an equal price, plumbers are looking for additional income from “other” plumbing work.  Inspectors are not. That’s the purpose of a home inspection. A neutral third party who has no conflict of interest in telling you what additional specialty contractors need to look at the property, and which are not needed.

At The Best Property Inspections LLC, we can offer you the services of an InterNACHI Certified Sewer Scope Inspector for your inspections.   When considering which additional services to add to a basic building inspection, don’t forget to consider a sewer scope inspection.

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