Sewer Line Inspection

When it comes to your home’s sewer and drainage system, it’s usually out of sight and out of mind. But when something goes wrong down there, it can quickly become a smelly, messy, and expensive headache. The good news is that with regular inspections using a specialized Sewer Camera Inspection, you can spot issues early and avoid major problems.

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at sewer camera inspections – what they entail, their many benefits, and why they are so highly recommended for homeowners. By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of this useful inspection method that every home could benefit from.

What is a Sewer Camera Inspection?

A sewer camera inspection, also sometimes called a pipeline inspection or sewer line inspection, is a visual inspection of the interior of underground sewer pipes and main drain lines on a property. A specialized camera called a “drain cam” is lowered down into the sewer line via an exterior cleanout.

The small waterproof sewer camera is attached to the end of a flexible “push cable” that allows the camera to travel through the pipes while capturing video footage of the interior of the pipes. As the camera moves through the line, a trained technician carefully guides it and examines the pipe condition, looking for any issues or defects such as:

  • Cracks, damage, or misaligned pipes: Any openings or damage could allow roots and soil to infiltrate the lines.
  • Blockages: Buildups of grease, debris, mineral deposits, roots, etc can impede flow and cause backups.
  • Root intrusion: Roots getting in can break pipes, block flow, and infiltrate joints.
  • Settling or sagging pipes: If pipes have shifted, flow may be impacted. Sagging pipes can collect water and debris.

The video output allows the inspector to evaluate the integrity and function of the pipes and drainage system components. It also aids in identifying where any damages, defects, obstructions and root intrusions are occurring.

Key Benefits and Advantages

Sewer Camera Inspections provide many valuable benefits:

1. Identify and Locate Existing Issues

The #1 advantage of a sewer cam inspection is that it enables identification and location of any issues and damage within the pipes while they are still underground. Catching defects early on provides the opportunity for proactive repair before problems worsen or emergencies develop. For example, spotting minor root intrusion during an inspection allows you to schedule pipe cleaning or repairs before major blockages, backups or pipe breaks occur down the road.

2. Prevent Costly Emergency Repairs

By discovering issues proactively via regular video inspections, homeowners can avoid much costlier emergency repairs later on. Sewer repairs often involve excavation and property damage to access pipes underground. They can run over $3,000+ in many cases. Through timely inspections and preventative maintenance, repairs can be minimized or avoided altogether.

3. Evaluate Condition of Sewer Pipes

In addition to detecting existing problems, sewer camera inspections provide valuable information to evaluate current pipe condition. Factors inspected such as age, materials, joint integrity and overall wear help determine pipes’ expected useful life. Inspection data also aids in pipe maintenance and replacement planning decisions.

4. Ensure Proper Drainage Flow

Observing the drainage flow within your pipes is important for determining if clogs or other issues are beginning to obstruct proper flow to come. Catching minor flow issues early can allow you to restore full drainage capacity before backups occur, preventing damage or flooding in the property.

5. Record Footage for Future Reference

The video footage from your sewer inspection serves as a useful record of the interior condition of your pipes at the time. Having this baseline allows for comparison of pipe condition over future routine inspections to determine the rate of deterioration or issue progression. It also aids contractors in repair planning.

6. Peace of Mind

Perhaps most importantly, periodic sewer camera inspections provide invaluable peace of mind that your underground drainage system is functioning properly. The small cost of proactive inspections brings comfort in knowing issues are promptly identified and corrected before they ever affect your home or property.


When are Sewer Camera Inspections Recommended?

Now that you know the many advantages they offer, here’s 4 situations where sewer camera inspections are most recommended:

1. During Home Purchase

Sewer Camera Inspections during a home purchase enable the buyer to evaluate condition of the home’s drain and sewer lines before closing on the property. Discovering major issues ahead of time, such as damaged pipes needing full replacement, allows for negotiating repairs before purchase. Even if no problems are found, buyers benefit by having professional documentation of the pipes’ condition at time of purchase.

2. Upon Moving Into a Home

Existing homeowners can also gain useful intelligence from an inspection when first moving into a home. Determine the location, condition and expected life span of pipes, allowing you to budget/plan for future maintenance, repairs or replacement. A new home purchase often means taking ownership of aging pipes too – be proactive in getting a professional assessment early on.

3. During Home Upgrades or Remodeling

If you’ll be remodeling part of your home (like a bathroom addition), first use a sewer camera inspection to assess connecting pipes’ adequacy to handle any increased drainage capacity needs of the upgraded space. Likewise, evaluations of pipe condition and flow functionality are smart before adding additional plumbing fixtures.  Advance inspections minimize chances of needing expensive modifications later.

4. On a Regular Preventative Basis

Finally, periodic sewer camera inspections every few years are recommended for ALL homeowners as routine preventative maintenance. Much like you routinely service mechanical equipment like HVAC systems in your home to keep them running efficiently, think of drain line inspections as critical maintenance for your home’s “plumbing equipment”. Annual or bi-annual inspections enable catching small issues before they become huge headaches.

Sewer Camera Inspection Process

Now let’s walk briefly through what you can expect during the sewer camera inspection process when you hire a professional plumbing company:

Step 1) Set Up – The technician will discuss with you the parts of your line needing inspection. This may include inspecting the full main line from house to municipal sewer, or a portion like lines under an addition. The technician will then retrieve the camera equipment and place it near the agreed entry point (usually an outdoor sewer cleanout).

Step 2) Line Access & Camera Insertion – Access is most often gained via an exterior sewer line cleanout. This allows the camera to inspect pipes heading out from the home to the main line. The technician feeds the flexible cable and attached drainage camera down into the line.

Step 3) Interior Inspection & Pipe Condition Assessment – As the camera travels through the pipe, the technician will carefully guide it while examining video output, looking for previously discussed types of cracks, intrusions, obstructions and other defects needing attention. The inspection will assess pipe condition, functionality and drainage flow.

Step 4) Review of Findings – Once the inspection is complete, the technician reviews footage captured to summarize any problem areas or defects found. You discuss findings together and technician can provide repair or maintenance recommendations as needed. Video output creates a useful record of your pipes’ condition.

Overall the process is straight-forward and depends on complexity of your pipes, but typically takes 1-2 hours start to finish. Following some basic pre-inspection guidelines regarding site access and clearing any known obstructions from lines will allow for most efficient and effective camera inspection.

The Takeaway

We’ve covered quite a bit regarding sewer/drain camera line inspections – from key benefits like identifying hidden issues early and preventing costly emergency repairs down the road, to better understanding how and when professional video investigations are performed on residential properties.

While rarely top of mind, routinely inspecting and maintaining your underground sewer and drainage pipes is incredibly wise to avoid nasty and damaging failures in the long run. Much like caring for your home’s structure or appliances, dedicating attention to the “out of sight” systems like plumbing can pay off exponentially when problems are caught before becoming dire emergencies. Leverage the powerful preventative maintenance advantage that sewer camera line inspections offer!

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