Wednesday, July 14, 2010


With all of the older homes in the Denver metro area that have turned over in the past few years, one recurring point of caution for buyers is checking the condition of the sewer line.  For any older home, I will almost always recommend that this service be performed during the inspection period to ensure there are no costly breaks or "bellies" (sags) in the line that could lead to a sewage backup.

Sewer scopes are not glamorous events.  And not all companies are reputable.  Here are a few tips for protecting yourself from sewer scams.

* Check references and obtain price quotes from several different companies before contracting with a plumber or drain cleaning company

* Find out what warranties, if any, are offered with the service

* If your line needs to be cleaned, make sure the plumber or drain cleaning service uses a three or four inch cutting blade, as most residential sewer lines are four inches in diameter.  A small blade may be easier for the technician to use, but it may not effectively cut the roots and the line will clog again in a shorter period of time.

* If your sewer line is scoped (inspected with a video camera), make sure you get a copy of the DVD showing the camera's journey through the line, and that the DVD you receive is actually for your sewer line and not someone else's.

Finally, realize that there is no such thing as a "perfect" sewer line, and that different inspectors may have slightly different opinions about the severity of a situation.  By all means, if you are concerned, get a second opinion or make sure that the inspector has adaquately explained his findings. 

Sewer line repairs and replacements are costly... and I am stunned at how often buyers (and sellers) of older homes don't even know that they should be inspected and cleaned.

One last thing... some local municipalities (like Arvada) will actually volunteer wastewater division staff members to review your sewer line DVD with you to help you assess the condition of your pipe.  Check with your city or municipality to see if they provide any similar service.

Sewer line repair scams are costly.  The best protection against scams is a solid education, so make sure you understand the situation precisely before making any major decisions.