Home buyers rarely consider sewer inspections before buying a home, though a problem sewer line can result in repairs just as expensive as problems with the home itself.
The time to find out if a sewer is faulty or needs replacement is before buying a home, not after the fact. I recommend to all my customers that they include a sewer inspection with their home inspection if the property is older than 20 years.
Although the sewer line may be fairly new as compared to homes built before the mid-1900s, for example, tree roots can still clog up a 20-year-old sewer line.
Kinds of sewer lines:
Cast-iron sewer pipe, like clay pipe, is commonly found in older homes, yet it is still installed today. One of the best things about cast iron pipe is that it is incredibly strong and durable. By contrast, clay, ABS, and PVC pipe are all subject to breakage. The downside of iron is that it is prone to rust. And, if it requires maintenance, you'll need a professional to cut and refit the pipe.
Vitrified clay sewer pipe is still used today, though it has its issues. Clay pipe is heavy and tricky to cut. Clay is also porous and susceptible to tree roots. And, the piping sections are a few feet in length, so every joint where the pipes connect is an invitation for tree roots to penetrate the line and even cause the pipe to crack.
Orangeburg sewer pipe is the least desirable pipe to find at a property. Orangeburg pipe was popular 60-70 years ago. Unfortunately, its life expectancy is about 50-60 years. The pipe was popular because it was lightweight and easy to cut - but it wasn't built to last. At this point, existing Orangeburg pipe is a sewer line failure waiting to happen.
Basically, Orangeburg is made of wood fibers (I think cardboard is more accurate), bound with a water-resistant adhesive and then impregnated with tar. Once it gets old, it begins to collapse and deform. I've seen rooter blades get lodged in Orangeburg pipe where the only option was to dig them out. You'll want to know if you have Orangeburg before you purchase a property. If you do, you'll want to renegotiate the price, because it won't be long before you'll need to replace it.
Plastic sewer pipe for underground installations is available in both ABS and PVC. Both types of pipe have smooth interiors for excellent carrying capacity of solid waste matter. The smooth exteriors also help resist root infiltration. Plastic sewer pipe can also be tied into clay and cast-iron pipe if necessary, though any connection joint will be more susceptible to root infiltration.
So be prudent and find out what kind of sewer line you have (and its condition), before you buy. You could avoid thousands of dollars in repair costs.
HTI Home Inspections now offers Sewer Pipe Video Camera inspections. Call us today at 301-461-5731 to schedule your inspection today!