When Do I Need A Sewer Inspection

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The 4 Scenarios to Get Your Sewer Checked Out

Sewer inspections aren’t something most people have at the front of their minds. People know to check the tires and oil before they buy a car, people know to get a home inspection before they sign on the dotted line, but if you ask people when they should get a sewer inspection, you’re going to get a lot of blank stares.

On the one hand, it makes sense. You don’t see a sewer system, so you don’t think about it as much. You flush the toilet, turn on the faucet, and think everything is grand. On the other hand, sewer systems can cause significant headaches for homeowners.

In this article, we are going to cover when you need a sewer inspection, what goes into an inspection, and how much it’ll generally cost.

Ready to get your sewer line inspected? Contact Alpha Environmental for a thorough sewer inspection in Portland, Oregon. 

1. You’re Buying a New Home

The number one reason to perform a sewer inspection is purchasing a home. Inspecting the sewer system isn’t required by home inspectors. But prudent home buyers will take the time (and the little extra upfront money) and schedule a sewer inspection

The older the home, the more critical it is you get the pipes tested. It isn’t uncommon for older homes to have been built with clay or concrete pipes. And clay and concrete pipes are more susceptible to root intrusion. However, we have seen brand new construction fail sewer inspections. 

Why would a new sewer line fail?

When the original main lines to the sewer of a neighborhood are laid, there are no houses present. Once the plumbing of the house is done, inside first, then the outside gets connected to the main line.

When this happens, some builders will cut corners which causes a sewer line to fail inspection. If this is not caught when the first year of ownership, the cost of repair will likely fall upon the homeowner.

Why would an older sewer line fail?

Root intrusion, pipe decay over time, bellying or an offset joint.

Root intrusion is simply the power of roots to move and push through nearly anything in order to find water. A sewer line is an easy, and sometimes constant, source of water. 

Bellying occurs when the soil underneath a particular area in a pipe moves or becomes compacted more than the areas around it. This causes a belly that holds water and other debris which may cause the line to clog. 

An offset joint is caused by soil underneath the pipe moving causing the junction or joint of two pipes to separate thereby developing a leak or clog. 

Unfortunately, if you’re doing a sewer inspection as part of a bid to buy a new home, you’ll have to pay for the inspection yourself. While giving away more money is never fun, the truth is it beats moving into a new home, getting all settled, and then having to deal with a cracked sewer line.

Sewer repairs can be expensive and time-consuming, so it’s best to know about them before buying a new home.

2. Your Sewer System Has Never Been Checked Before

The second reason to perform a sewer inspection is time. Sewer inspections aren’t just for new homeowners. We recommend getting any home inspected every 3-5 years. 

The positive side is sewer inspections aren’t monthly or annual requirements. Once you get one done, and your pipes are cleared as in good shape, you can rest peacefully for another 3-5 years.

With the amount of moisture in Oregon, ground conditions can change frequently, which is why it is prudent to inspect every 3-5 years.

3. There’s a Leak at Your Foundation

The third reason for a sewer inspection is foundation leaks. Foundation leaks are hard to diagnose andthey are often expensive to fix. A leak in the foundation could be the result of a failing or failed sewer line.

A sewer video inspection is a great way to determine if the sewer line is the cause of the leak, saving you money on unnecessary excavations.

What Happens During a Sewer Inspection?

If you have a sewer problem, the first thing to do is call a professional sewer inspection service like Alpha Environmental (insert hyperlink). Most likely, you simply don’t have the required tools needed to inspect the sewer properly. 

At Alpha Environmental, we will attach a plumbing snake to a high-quality, color video, so we can scope your sewer lines. The snake is inserted into a clean-out, and from there it goes into your sewer lines.

This camera allows us to check the quality of your pipes, look for any blockage or cracks, and give the whole system a bill of health.

If there is an issue present, Alpha Environmental is able to determine the depth and complexity of repair while on site.

How Long Does a Sewer Camera Inspection Take?

Obviously, the answer is, it depends. But in most cases, from setting it up to snaking the video camera through the pipes, a sewer inspection will take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours depending upon site size and complexity. 

If the pipes are harder to access (longer pipes with complicated configurations), and if there are significant issues to record, then the inspection will take longer. The same thing goes with how much an inspection will cost you. Most sites are in the $100-175 range

The Most Common Problems with Sewer Systems

Unfortunately, sometimes the sewer inspection reveals some significant issues with your sewer lines.

Here are the most common issues we come across: (read above additions and insert here)

  1. Tree roots break into the pipes
    1. As we talked about above, roots are going to grow towards moisture and can, over time, break into pipes.
  2. Older pipes are falling apart
    1. Older pipes can deteriorate and collapse over time. This is why we recommend checking a sewer line that is 20 years old. Even if everything else is fine, there is a chance the older pipes will start falling apart on their own.
  3. Clogged pipes
    1. If one toilet is acting up, it’s probably just that specific drain. But if every toilet and faucet is giving you a problem, that’s a signal that your main sewer line is clogged.
    2. Clogs usually happen due to user error. To reduce the risk of a clog, don’t use your toilet like a trash can (toilet paper and human waste only). Don’t use your garbage disposal for big chunks of food (use it mostly for scraps or cleaning off the plate after you’ve dumped most of the food into the garbage or trash compactor).
    3. Putting the wrong things down a drain is the number one cause of clogged pipes or drain lines


We use them daily but often forget about our sewer lines. Getting your sewer inspected is a prudent way to prevent future issues whether you’re purchasing or already own a home. While you’ll have to pay for the inspection itself, it’s worth it in terms of peace of mind and may save you thousands of dollars in the long run. 

Ready to get your sewer line inspected? Contact Alpha Environmental for thorough sewer inspection in Portland, Oregon. 

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David D.
Lake Oswego, OR
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Beaverton, OR
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