Sewer Scope Inspections for Home Inspectors

by Nick Gromicko, Jim Krumm, Katie McBride and Kate Tarasenko
 
 

Although performing a sewer scope inspection is not required by InterNACHI’s Home Inspection Standards of Practice, many home inspectors offer it as an additional or ancillary service.  The information it yields can be very helpful to homeowners, as well as prospective home buyers. Home inspectors should familiarize themselves with the components, benefits, and practices of a sewer scope inspection when considering whether to offer this service.

 

What Is a Sewer Scope?

A sewer scope is a video inspection of the lateral sewer line leading from the house at/near the foundation and connecting to the city or HOA tap or septic tank. A lateral sewer line is the privately-owned pipeline connecting the property to the publicly-owned main sewer line, HOA tap, or septic tank.  

Sewer-scoping the line can reveal blockages, damage to the pipe system, and other problems, which are vital for homeowners and home buyers to be aware of.  For example, if there is a damp depression in the lawn above the sewer line, or if there is backflow into the home, or if contaminants have been discovered in the potable water supply, a sewer scope inspection can be critical to identifying and confirming these problems, which must be addressed immediately.

Pre-Scope Procedures

Before performing the sewer scope inspection, the home inspector should notify the homeowner in writing of his/her intent to scope the sewer, along with his inspection protocol, so that the property owner knows what to expect.  

A seller’s notice describes the practices and procedures of the sewer scope that will be performed (i.e., a request to access the cleanout, a notice that you will/will not pull toilets, etc.). 

Once you arrive at the property, you should walk the grounds and locate the manhole cover(s) to determine the direction of the lateral sewer line's run. You should also determine the location of the scope access (interior or exterior), as well as the tools that you'll need. Before beginning the inspection, you should advise the owners/occupants not to run the water (sinks, showers, tubs, washing machine, dishwasher or toilets) during your sewer scope inspection.

Camera equipment used to see inside the pipelines

Sewer Scope Protocol

In order to perform a sewer scope inspection smoothly and effectively, certain protocols should be followed. To begin, run water in all locations to flush out the sewer lines. This will ensure that your camera equipment will have lubrication and will not catch on any debris. Additionally, the water will float the camera, which will allow it to be pushed through the line more easily. If you haven’t already, be sure to establish the location of the access point and check for leaks at the access/cleanout.

Before inserting the scope into the sewer line, there are a few essential steps that must be taken:

  1. Drop cloths should be placed in the work area to prevent dirtying the property or contaminating the surrounding soil.
  2. All camera equipment should be set up near the access location. 
  3. Photos and/or video of the cleanout and camera's location and setup should be taken.  
  4. The camera equipment should be inspected for damage (loose camera head, cracked components, etc.). 
  5. Remove the cleanout and turn on the camera, reset the counter, insert the USB drive and begin to record. 
  6. Before inserting the camera into the line, scan around the room or area. It's important to confirm and record the location of the sewer line so that the property owner can be assured that the sewer line is actually theirs (and that there was no mixup between video recordings, etc.).

At this point, you may begin the scope.  During this process, do the following:

  1. While pushing the scope through the sewer line, make sure to pause at defects for at least five to 10 seconds so that you can document them. 
  2. CAUTION:  Do not force the camera through any obstruction.
  3. When the camera reaches the tap (the end of the section of the pipe that the property owner owns), turn off the water.
  4. IMPORTANT:  While conducting the sewer scope, do not enter the backflow device, city tap, or septic tank. 
  5. Begin to pull the camera back while it is still recording. 
  6. Once the camera is pulled out completely, scan the room or area again. 
  7. Re-install the cleanout.
  8. Turn the water back on to check for leaks.

Be sure to check the camera head and clean your equipment before and after every scope.

 

Interior view of SDR (standard dimension ratio) pipe

 

Financial Rewards

Although the initial purchase of sewer scope equipment can be pricey—a good camera system ranges from $5,000 to $10,000—the financial benefits of this ancillary service will quickly pay for this, and more. Depending on the area, fees for a sewer scope inspection can range from $100 to $250. If an average of 300 sewer scope inspections are requested per year, the annual revenue generated can be between $30,000 and $75,000.

Summary

Adding sewer scope inspections to your list of ancillary services can be financially beneficial for you as a home inspector, and it can also be very beneficial for the property owner and prospective home buyer. It's important for inspectors to remember to implement the appropriate protocols before, during and after the sewer scope to prevent causing damage, as well as to avoid liability.  A sewer scope can identify any potential defects within the property's pipelines, but be sure not to enter the backflow device, city tap, or septic tank. If any defects are discovered, the home inspector should advise the homeowner to consult or hire a professional.

Certification

To become an InterNACHI Certified Sewer Scope Inspector, visit www.nachi.org/certified-sewer-scope-inspector.

Join the Discussion

Join the discussion about sewer scope inspections.

 

This article was sourced from InterNACHI® and information provided by Certifed Master Inspector® Jim Krumm.

 

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