Very few first-time home buyers ask for a sewer inspection before buying a home. Sewer inspections are not something most buyers think about. They know to get a home inspection, but sewer lines are almost an after thought, if it crosses a buyer's mind at all. Yet it's one of the most important inspections a buyer of older homes should conduct. 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 buyers that they obtain a sewer inspection if the home is older than 20 years. Although the sewer line may be fairly new as compared to homes built before 1950, for example, tree roots can still clog up a 20-year-old sewer line.
Reasons to Inspect the Sewer Line
Tree roots growing into sewer lines is a common problem. Roots crawl into tiny openings and expand in the sewer line, latching on to other debris that typically cause backups such as grease or eggshell waste. Sometimes chemicals can kill the trees roots but if the roots reappear, the pipe may be damaged and require excavation to fix the problem.
Homes that were constructed prior to city sewers often relied on cesspools. After cities installed public septic systems, sometimes the cesspools were left intact and connected to the sewer line. You won't know unless you inspect the sewer.
Many homes built in the 1950s have sewer lines made from tar paper called Orangeburg pipes. These disintegrate and collapse over time. If a home has Orangeburg, the sewer line definitely needs to be replaced.