Safe Check Home Inspections wants to protect you from a disaster by stressing the importance of having a sewer scope performed before you buy your house. Learn from my mistakes by reading the following. We shall call it Up XXXX Creek!

I have bought several homes during my adult life. With each move came a sense of excitement; a new adventure. Old houses particularly peaked my interest. The older the house, the greater the history. Our current house is about fifty years old. We bought it from the second owner. The first owner built the house and only lived in it a short time before divorcing. The second owners had better luck. They were a young couple who made the house a home and raised a family there.

We met the owner the first time we saw the house. A kind, fragile woman in her mid-eighties who spoke about the house with great fondness. She pointed out the old pencil sharpener attached to a work bench in the garage and noted that she used to be a school teacher. I could imagine her kids slamming the kitchen door on their way out to sharpen their #2 pencils, in a rush to finish homework while it was still light outside. Her kids were now grown adults and she an aging woman. She lived alone in the quiet house. She took a fall down the stairs recently, leading to a decision to sell the house and move into a condo. The timing was perfect, as one family was aging out of the home, we were ready for a new adventure.

If walls could talk, they would tell you that my family brought new life to the house. Suddenly, empty bedrooms were filled with kids. So many, in fact, that some were doubled up. Teenagers were occupying the bathrooms and the kitchen a never ending flurry of activity. Piles of laundry found its way to the basement as our family of six settled in.

We bought the home with dreams of remodeling. While it was nicely kept, the décor was outdated. Little did we know, we would be remodeling much sooner than planned. After a few months of living in our new home we began to detect an odor. Not overly worried, we began to search for causes; half eaten sandwich dropped somewhere? Did someone leave a cup of milk out? Search as we might, but no cause found. It was strongest in our family room, then in the upstairs bedroom. The common denominator- the air vent. Sure enough, the odor was coming from within the air vent. Maybe a mouse died in the vent? We could only be so lucky. The scoping of the vents detected what could only be described as a nightmare!

Sewer Scope

I was both disgusted and dumbfounded. How did sewage get in the air vent?I was quickly informed that beneath the lower level slab ran concrete air vents that shared the space with the main sewer line running out to the septic tank. There was likely a crack in the sewer line subjecting the air vent to contamination. A crack would have been welcomed. Instead, a quick sewer scope revealed that an entire section of our cast iron sewer pipe was completely eroded. Our family room was essentially sitting on a lake of human waste.

Besides the noise level, one thing that increased dramatically when we moved in was the amount of water usage. Let’s be honest, the water and sewer an eighty-five-year-old woman uses is no comparison to a large family. Every thing that went down the toilet, garbage disposal, shower drain, bathroom sink was now pooling under our foundation.

The estimates came in at anywhere from 12 to 15 thousand. The repair included stripping the bathroom down to studs, taking out a wall, ripping up the flooring and sawing through nearly 25 feet of concrete. All this to expose the river of badness which flowed beneath us, clean it out, and replace old sewer pipe with new PVC piping. I now know that there are 3 types of sewer lines

  • Clay- oldest type, used for hundreds of years. Resistant to chemical degradation however, tree roots may easily invade.
  • Cast iron- Strong; more resistant to tree roots, however, metal can corrode over time making them vulnerable to erosion.
  • PVC- biggest advantage is they don’t rust and are low cost. May be prone to breaking or deflecting.

    18 inches wide, 6-8 inches deep, and nearly 25 feet long!

These are the things you learn when trying to make sense of your life as it unravels around you.

0ur house was in quarantine for several weeks. Our family stayed in a hotel, as it was not safe for us to be there with what the earth had exposed. We were not angry at the previous owner. We truly believed she had no idea what lied beneath. But we were angry with ourselves. When buying the house, a friend recommended that we purchase a sewer scope. The cost for the scope was less than three hundred dollars, yet seemed like a lot at the time. We were already spending money on the inspection, then there would be the move and remodeling… We decided to cut costs and skip the sewer inspection. Had we had opted to have the sewer line scoped, the hidden problem would have been exposed. Our house would’ve told its story before we were its owners. Instead, we bought the house, along with its hidden danger and now this story is one that we own. My advice, don’t find yourself up the creek without a paddle, if your buying a house older than twenty years, purchase a sewer line inspection. A little reassurance up front can save you a whole lot downstream.