Understanding Sewer Scope Inspections: Why You Should Recommend Them

Benjamin Hammond
Benjamin Hammond


Have you considered having a sewer scope inspection?

Understanding the condition of the underground sewer drain line and knowing the extent and location of a particular problem will be a key part of your decision in purchasing a home. A sewer scope is also helpful to current homeowners who suspect that they have a problem and need to be prepared before hiring a contractor for repairs.

What are common problems found from a Sewer Scope Inspection?

  • Low Areas: also known as a ‘belly’, these low areas can collect water and solid waste, causing poor flow through the pipe and can lead to back-up and damage to the pipe as it sags further.


  • Offsets: on some older piping, sections in the piping can separate, causing an offset in the piping to occur. Solid waste may not clear this offset, and waste water will seep into the surrounding soil, causing further settlement and eventual breakdown of the piping.


  • Tree Roots: small gaps in sections of piping can allow tree roots to enter the sewer line. As the roots grow, the pipe can break and crack, requiring repair. Minor tree root intrusion can be rooted and cleared on a regular basis, with minimal or no significant pipe damage. Assessing the amount of root intrusion is part of a sewer scope inspection.


  • Pipe Collapse: if extreme root intrusion has occurred or significant soil settlement has occurred around the area due to offsets or a low area, complete pipe collapse can occur, requiring full excavation and repair of the sewer line. While rare, this condition can be assessed as part of a sewer scope inspection.


  • Debris: Occasionally construction debris or other items can become lodged in the sewer line, preventing the flow of waste through the pipe.

In reality, there are two types of risky sewer lines, Clay (85+yrs old) and Cast Iron (50+yrs old). Clay collapses on its own after about 90 years and average cost to replace is upwards of $6,000 when using PVC. It can be much more costly depending on other factors. Cast Iron is considered better, however hair roots can enter the seams and clog the drain.

What about New Construction? Should I Still get a Sewer Scope?

As a contractor with over 10 years experience, I can tell you I’ve seen countless issues cause a blockage in the sewer line on new construction homes, including:

Hardened tile grout, a small block of wood dropped into the open toilet flange, and even latex paint that was unwisely discarded without the buyer’s knowledge. All these blockages occurred during the construction process and could not be identified for correction until a sewer scope was run through the line. With Nashville and Middle Tennessee experiencing explosive growth in new construction homes over the past 5 years, be sure to take no chances on your investment!

If buying new construction, Don’t underestimate the importance of having a sewer scope done as part of your home inspection. In most municipalities, homeowners are responsible for any problems in the sewer line that are on their property out to the street. Repairs can be messy and costly. Call Today!

About The Author Benjamin HammondBenjamin Hammond has been in the construction industry for over 20 years and has personally completed over 3,000 home inspections in Nashville & Middle Tennessee. His team at Magnolia Home Inspections, is a trusted local resource providing consulting services for new construction builders, remodel contractors and property managers today as well as residential home buyers.


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