Tips & AdviceShould I Get a Sewer Scope Inspection

Should I Get a Sewer Scope Inspection


When purchasing a home, homebuyers rely on home inspections to find potential issues with a property. While home inspections thoroughly go around the property and comb through various areas of the home, they do not inspect sewer lines. However, replacing or repairing sewer lines can be costly due to backups and breakage, running into hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Sewer issues can also lead to health and environmental hazards in your home and surrounding community. For these reasons, buyers should consider acquiring an additional sewer scope inspection before closing.

What Does a Sewer Scope Do?

During a sewer scope inspection, a plumber or trained inspector runs a camera from the sewer pipes inside the house, through the yard, and out to the main sewer line.

To take care of any potential issues before move-in, a sewer scope inspector searches for cracks in the pipes or damage caused by overgrown tree roots. The inspection may also raise issues like a potentially expensive sewer pipe repair, which means a professional will need to dig up the yard, or even the floor of your home, to access broken pipes.

The inspector may also find blockages caused by dirt, cooking grease, baby wipes, or other non-flushable materials. They will then report if the homeowners need to repair underground sewer pipes between the house and the main line. At this point, the potential buyer can accept the repair cost or attempt to negotiate with the seller to have them accept the financial responsibility.

Where do Sewer Backups Occur?

Wastewater can back up through toilets or drains in the house. Sewer backups often occur at the lowest points in the house, so pay particular attention to the drains in those areas. Wastewater may backflow through a washing machine in the basement.

What Factors Can Influence Your Decision to Get a Sewer Scope Inspection?

Due to the high cost of sewer line repairs, plus the associated health and environmental impacts, homebuyers should consider adding this inspection to their list of things to do before settlement. Certain factors may increase the need for a sewer scope inspection, such as the age of the home or noticeable signs of past sewer backups.

City or Township Requirements

As the age of local sewer systems increases, cities or towns may begin to ask for a sewer scope inspection before closing a real estate transaction. Check for local ordinances or ask your real estate agent about sewer inspection requirements. A seller might need to show proof of a sewer scope before issuing a use and occupancy permit (U&O) in conjunction with a transfer of ownership.

Older Homes

As sewer pipes age along with a home, they may become compromised and more prone to failure. Before you schedule an inspection, try to find out the age of the home and the type of sewer pipes, if possible, to determine their susceptibility to breakage.

It is important to note that newer homes can also have sewer problems. While sewer pipes can grow weaker with age, newer pipes may also experience breakages. Homebuyers looking to purchase a newly constructed property should not write off the importance of a sewer scope inspection.

Large Trees in the Yard

During the homebuilding process, landscapers may plant small trees, bushes, and other plants to increase a home’s curb appeal. However, as those small plants grow larger, their roots grow deeper and stronger, potentially interfering with underground pipes. Roots can tangle around the pipes, causing them to break or become inaccessible.

Certain pipes are more susceptible to breakage from roots than others. Older homes that use clay pipes can suffer more damage from strong roots.

Noticeable Signs of Sewer Issues

If the seller discloses a past issue with a sewer backup, buyers should take heed and schedule an inspection. Buyers should also make a note of the following during a final walkthrough

  • A foul odor caused by sewer gasses,
  • Signs of backup, such as discoloration or mold on walls or floors,
  • Gurgling in pipes or toilets,
  • Slow-running drains or drains that back up after toilet flushes,
  • The presence of rodents or insects,
  • Uneven lawn growth, including patches of thicker grass or areas with standing water.

When looking over the home’s front yard, you may also want to check for a sewer cap and make sure it’s properly secured. Over the years, lawnmowers or grass trimmers may come in contact with the caps. The caps could fall off or become damaged, which can, in turn, allow dirt, sticks, or rocks to enter your sewer line.

How Much Does a Sewer Scope Inspection Cost?

Ask your primary home inspector about adding on a sewer scope inspection. If they are certified for this service, they may give you a price break to complete both services on your behalf.

HomeAdvisor reports that homeowners spend an average of $850 for a sewer scope inspection, but prices can range anywhere from $250 to $1,500. Camera inspection costs may vary based on location and the size or complexity of sewer lines. Buyers should contact several potential companies to find the best rate that aligns with the service they require.

While the price of a sewer scope may seem high, the average cost to repair or replace a sewer pipe runs even higher. According to Forbes, repairing a cracked or broken sewer pipe could cost between $1,100 and $4,000. If you need to replace a pipe, or remove a part of your floor slab, expect to pay even more. Keep in mind that in addition to fixing the problem, you will also need to clean up after a sewer backup, and you may lose personal items due to contamination.

Is Getting a Sewer Scope Inspection Worth It?

Closing costs can run high for homebuyers, especially when considering that many homebuyers now face high-interest rates on their mortgages. While it may not seem necessary to purchase a sewer scope inspection, homebuyers should consider adding this service if they can afford the upfront cost. Just like with a home inspection, acquiring this additional inspection can save thousands of dollars down the line.

Those purchasing older homes should more heavily consider getting a sewer scope inspection. Their pipes are at greater risk of breakage, and this step can save them hassle in the near future.

Protecting Against Future Sewer Issues

Once you get the all-clear from your sewer inspector, you may still want to take steps to limit your risk related to future issues with the sewer line. After all, owning a home comes with a wide assortment of hidden costs, such as HOA fees, property taxes, and general maintenance costs. You’ll need to ensure you have an emergency fund to help you weather any unexpected issues, including a possible sewer backup.

Talk to your insurance agent about coverage. You should review your homeowner’s policy to determine if and when you can file a claim related to a sewer backup. Most general policies don’t cover sewer pipe damage, but you can pay to add on this type of coverage. You may also want to look into a separate insurance policy, especially if you live in an older home. Some insurance companies offer sewer line insurance to help defray the costs of any repairs and replacement.


As a homebuyer, you have a lot to think about and a limited budget to pay for closing costs and other home-buying expenses, such as inspections. Sewer pipes might not immediately come to mind as a high priority. However, the expense of this repair and the related health and environmental issues associated with sewer backups may concern new homeowners. Adding this inspection to your to-do list helps to provide you with important information that can ease your mind and also enable you to avoid large future repair expenses.

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