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The Septic Inspection

If you are doing the inspection as part of a home purchase, you’ll want to coordinate the timing of this test to coincide with your general property inspection. This way if there are any problems with the home’s plumbing systems, they can be brought to the home inspectors attention and noted in the inspection report. Additionally, batching these inspections together helps with the timing on any inspection contingency related deadlines you are up against.

The actual inspection of the septic system starts with gathering information, this is actually more of a pre-inspection. At this stage, you’ll be rounding up documents and getting questions answered prior to the actual inspection. This process will help the inspector understand what they need to look for.

Since the system is underground no inspection can find everything without excavating and this is impractical. So, at this stage the process you will be trying to find clues as to where potential problems might be based on installation and maintenance.

Here is a list of  questions you will want to answer before the inspection:

  • Has the system ever been pumped? This one is important because it's the only real maintenance item the seller would need to have performed.

  • Location of septic system-This one is important because if the seller doesn't know where the septic is located, it's unlikely they have provided ongoing maintenance.

  • Septic Location Map- Whatever entity is in charge of overseeing septic systems in your area should have a map of the septic location provided by the original home builder. this is an important document for the septic inspection. it should show not only where the tank is located but the location of leach field as well as the number of leaching Chambers.

  • Any available history on the maintenance of the system-Things like:

    • How often has the system been pumped

    • What contractor was used?

    • Obtain any maintenance records

    • Have there been any problems

    • Were they repaired

  • Where are the covers? - The tank itself should have manhole covers over the chambers of the tank. This is what the technician will use to access the tank in order to test and or clean.

Assembling this information will do two things, first it's going to help the technician that inspects the system to know what to look for secondly it's going to give you a sense of how the home seller maintained the system.

The On Site Inspection

Starting at the house the technician well first try to establish that the sanitary pipe used to deliver liquid to the system is functional an intact, this is done by performing a flow test.

This test involves turning on all the water in the house to add or charge the system with enough water to support the number of people the system was designed to support for 24 hours, this is generally a couple of hundred gallons.

If  little or no water flows into the tank there is a problem with the plumbing in the home or with the sanitary line. Much like the sanitary line on a traditional municipal sewer system, this pipe can become displaced or cracked creating an opportunity tree roots or other debris the clog the pipe and create flooding inside the house. If this is the case the line may require a sewer line inspection.

If this type of problem exists at the inlet pipe to the tank, the technician will most backtrack through the homes plumbing system testing each individual water source until the problem is found.

On the other hand, if the water in the tank rises quickly, there's most likely a problem downstream. What should happen during this test is the water entering the system should force the effluent out through the baffles and on into the leach field.

The flow test is the most substantial part of the septic test because it touches so many aspects of the system and verifies that the liquids are moving through the system in the correct manner.

The next test should be on the tank itself and the levels of accumulated scum, effluent, and sludge and solids. While the solids are intended to remain in the tank until they are pumped out a good amount of those solids will turn into sludge and move to the bottom of the tank.

The technician will start by measuring the depth of the top scum layer. Once this is done they begin to pump the tank until they reach the underlying sludge layer at which point they measure that as well. These two layers should be similar in depth each accounting for about 30% of the total tank volume, the rest of the space should be dedicated to effluent. If this is not the case the technician will be looking for bigger problems later on in the leach field.

The effluent area needs to account for a larger percentage of the system because the solids in the tank need time to settle. It is important to keep the solids and the scum out of the distribution area or leach field. These can cause the field to clog and fail, resulting in a very expensive repair.

The final area the technician will examine is the leach field. This is first done by performing a visual inspection. Looking for any wet areas where water might be resting, they will also be smelling for foul orders created by problems as well.

Finally, the technician will use a probe to test the leach field for hydraulic stress, this simply means is the leach field flooded. If the probe holes rapidly fill up with water there is most likely a problem with the system.

Another point of potential failure in a septic system is at the distribution box. As the name  suggests, the distribution box is responsible for distributing the effluent evenly throughout the leach field. Problems with the distribution box are usually due to settling or clogging. If this is the case, the technician will need to excavate the box in order to find out what the problem is.

As you can now see, there is a wide range of potential problems that can occur with a private residential septic system. While most systems continue to work just fine for years, inspection at the time of sale is a wise choice.

Sewer/Septic line scoping: (Separate fee and inspection but can be performed during the tank inspection process or separately)

What Is A Sewer Scope Inspection?

If you’re thinking about buying a home, you have a lot to think about – from putting in offers, to hiring home inspectors, negotiating the sale of your old home – we get it. There’s a lot on your plate.

But that doesn’t mean you should overlook one of the most commonly-ignored – yet most important – parts of inspecting a home that you’re interested in purchasing. A sewer scope inspection.

Sewer scope inspections are typically not included in a standard home inspection, but are just as important. Why? Let’s discuss the basics about sewer scope inspections and why they’re important now.

The Sewer Scope Inspection Process

Having a sewer scope inspection performed usually only takes a few minutes – and the inspection is just what it sounds like. A trained, professional inspector will run a specialized, flexible borescope camera, which feeds images and video to a monitor. Then, this camera is run through your home’s drainpipe, to examine the sewer lines and other underground pipes for any flaws, imperfections, or serious problems.

The entire process usually takes no more than an hour, altogether. After this, your inspector will tell you about their findings, and issue a report that’s given both to you and the home seller, with information about the condition of the sewer line.

Sewer Scope Inspection Cost

The cost of a sewer scope inspection will vary based on the area in which it’s performed, the specifics of the house, the inspector you use, and a number of other variables. However, it’s quite affordable, in most cases. The cost will tend to vary from $125-$300.

This may seem steep. However, consider this – the cost of repairing a broken sewer line costs around $250-$300 – per foot of repaired line. Repairing and replacing an entire sewer line or a line with major structural faults could easily run you thousands of dollars.

Should I Get A Sewer Scope Inspection?

Absolutely. As touched upon above, a sewer line is often one of the most costly things to repair in a home. Getting a sewer scope inspection can help you avoid investing in a home that has serious issues with the sewer/septic system.

You may even be able to save a bit of money on a sewer scope inspection if you’re able to find a home inspector who offers this service along with other traditional home inspection services, such as lead and asbestos inspections. Bundling these services usually will allow you to get a better deal.

Signs You Should Get A Sewer Scope Inspection For Home Purchase

Cracked Sewer Line

Before you go looking for a home, it’s a good idea to know what to look for, and what signs may indicate that you must get a sewer scope inspection before making an offer on a house. Here is a short list of some of the most common signs that something may be wrong with the sewer system, or that it’s at risk of being damaged.

  • Water backing up inside the house or crawlspace – This could indicate damage or breakage to the sewer line, or a significant clog.

  • Large trees in the yard – One of the most common causes of sewer pipe damage is the growth of roots around the pipe. Roots can grow around and constrict the pipe, breaking it, or grow into small cracks in the pipe, clogging it or causing leaks.

  • The house was built more than 25 years ago – Homes built before 1984 may have clay sewer pipes, which can be easily crushed or damaged. These typically must be replaced, or at least inspected to ensure that they are in good condition.

  • You notice shifting or movement of the ground around the home – If the soil around a house seems to have shifted, the pipe may have been affected. If it has moved, it could have broken or become bent and damaged, which may require a costly repair. |

    To identify this, look at things like the sidewalk and driveway. Are the surface soils level with the driveway or walkway? Do they seem to have sunk, or become piled higher than these concrete surfaces?

  • Extra-green or lush patches of grass – This is a common sign of a septic or sewer leak. Given its contents, sewer water is actually a powerful fertilizer that can help encourage plant growth. If you see a suspiciously healthy-looking area of the yard, especially if the rest of the lawn seems to be less lush or green, you should be suspicious.

Even if you don’t see any of these above issues, we would still recommend a sewer scope inspection. More minor issues with the sewer line may have few or no symptoms at all – but still cost thousands to repair.

*** There are stipulations as to the different situations/location and access to the septic tank.

Please reach out to your inspector and he/she can discuss pricing and the limitations of the septic services.

Sewer Line Scoping:


Sewer Drain Scope Inspections can save you thousands of dollars in possible unseen and unknown repairs!

If you are buying a new home, or own a home that is over 20 years old, there are many inspections to consider. One you should not skip is a sewer drain scope inspection. International Association of Certified Home Inspectors recommends these inspections be done whenever you are buying a new home, or every few years for home owners.

Small issues with piping can cause costly fixes if not caught and corrected quickly. These issues can be identified by having a sewer drain scope inspection performed. This inspection is done using a specialized flexible camera to inspect the sewer piping. Common causes of issues and damage to sewer piping include:

  1. Forceful or invasive tree roots – You should get a sewer drain scope inspection if you have large trees near your sewer system. This inspection will ensure that the roots are not pushing on, or pushing into your pipes.

  2. Older materials in older houses – If your house is over 20 years old, it may have clay or Orangeburg Pipe sewer piping which are brittle and prone to breaking and disintegrating.

  3. Broken pipes or misaligned joints – If you have lush patches of grass or constant wet spots in your yard, this is a common sign that your pipes have issues. This could be a break in your sewer piping, or a shifting in the joints which will misalign the connection.

  4. Clogged pipes – If there is water backing up into your house, or foul smells coming from your sewer line, it is possible that you have a clogged pipe.

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