4 Situations When Home Owner’s Need a Video Pipe Inspection

4 Situations When Home Owner’s Need a Video Pipe Inspection

sewer manhole cover - Pipe Spies

First, you may be wondering, “What is a video pipe inspection anyway?”

A video pipe inspection in its simplest form is moving a specialized video camera through a pipe and inspecting its integrity from an inside perspective.  The most common is referred to as a “sewer scope”, and is simply an inspection of a home’s sewer mainline (also known as the lateral main waste line, sanitary or sanitation mainline) from the house to the city sewer connection. The camera allows the technician to inspect the pipe live and record the video for the customer’s own record keeping.  This video will be used to show if the line is in need of maintenance, repair, replacement or if it’s in good working condition.

Other than buying a home, what are some other reasons or situations when a home owner would want their sewer pipes inspected?

1)  Sewer Problems – Okay, so you’ve been having problems with your sewer continually backing up (a stinky mess right!)…a drain company or plumber came out, presented an unfavorable report, and handed you a repair bill.  You have sticker shock and you’re thinking, “Now what?”  First, stop and take a deep breath (or maybe not — pee-uh-wee) and consider the following:

  • You may simply need proper maintenance on the line.  Oftentimes when the proper equipment is used by an experienced drain cleaner, cleaning the line is really all that is necessary to keep your sewer line in good working condition.  Proper and timely maintenance may also be required in the future. Maintenance includes:   keeping the lateral line flowing and free of debris such as excessive root infiltration as well as the build up of fats, oil and grease (FOG).
  • You may just have one bad spot in the line causing backups.  All that’s required is a spot repair as opposed to replacing the entire line.  However, it’s not necessary to give into the pressure to have the line repaired by that particular company.  More about this later…
  • You may in fact have a bad sewer line that needs to be fully replaced.  Bummer!  Make sure you get all the facts before moving forward.  Many companies will use “the presence of roots” as a reason for a full line replacement, which in our opinion is NOT necessarily always the case.  If the presence of roots is the reason to replace the sewer, then almost every sewer in the Denver area would need to be replaced. NOT SO!  Unfortunately some companies train their technicians to present a very convincing narrative during the inspection showing that an otherwise good sewer line needs replacement — even while the customer is watching the video screen with the technician.
  • You may actually have a good  line but an honest misdiagnosis of the problem.

After having completed over 10,000 independent sewer camera inspections, we have witnessed the above scenarios.  If you’ve been shown a low-quality video (by the way, not all camera equipment is the same) of your sewer line but don’t know what you’re seeing nor understand what the heck it means, and are being pressured to make a decision right away…our advice is to get a second opinion.

With more and more companies acquiring camera systems, we have seen an increased demand in providing second opinion scopes.  Approximately 80% (by far the majority) of our findings differ from the original scope.

Our best advice…Have a sewer scope completed by a company or individual with NO “skin in the game.”  Hire a reputable company or individual that will NOT directly or indirectly financially benefit from a negative diagnosis.  

What home owner’s may not know is that most drain cleaning, rooter type companies and even plumbing companies typically make additional revenue by finding or exaggerating problems as needing fixed, NOT by simply diagnosing the problem and recommending proper maintenance.

It’s unfortunate but true. Inconvenient and a stinky mess – absolutely!  But, our experience has also shown that people can be misled in these situations.

Savvy consumers are discovering the added layer of protection and value in obtaining an independent video inspection.  By finding an honest, reputable, experienced company consumers can obtain a truly unbiased expert opinion of their pipe’s condition — empowering THEM to be in the driver’s seat if a true issue needs to be addressed.

2)  A Notice from The City – You received a written notification from the city that your sewer connection (tap) to the city’s sewer mainline is broken and now you have 45 days to repair it.  Now what??

canva-city main break

As you can well image, sewage being released into the soil is an environmental hazard and can potentially undermine the city’s mainline causing it to be damaged as the sewage continues to move the soil.  The city, of course, does not take this lightly.  Due to many sewage systems aging, municipalities routinely check their sewage systems with large cameras (CCTV), which means they can also look at the property owner’s connection to that mainline.

If you’ve been served a notice, we recommend an independent sewer inspection be completed to:
  • verify that it is your disconnected tap (not a neighbor’s — this can occasionally happen),
  • identify the exact location and depth of that part of the line that will need to be excavated and repaired (usually the city does not provide the home owner this information).
  • mark the spot with a flag or paint so that bids can be obtained from more than one licensed, reputable plumbing company.
  • to verify that there are no other hidden problems in other areas that can be more easily repaired at the same time.

As a home owner, what part of the sewer system is your responsibility?

All property owners, not only home owners, connected to a municipal sanitary sewer system are responsible for the entire length of the sanitary sewer service line from their property and throughout their property to the city mainline. This includes the portion of the line under the sidewalk and street, landscaping, or nearby easement (where the line is deepest, and most expensive to repair, and where your sewer connects to the city’s mainline).


Image: LA Public Works

 3)  New Home Warranty is About to Expire – Scoping the main sewer line before you buy a house is always recommended, but what about before your new home warranty expires?  One of our customer’s who built a new home in Parker, Colorado recently reminded us of the importance of having such an inspection.

A Home Owner’s Story:   “I contacted Pipe Spies after purchase of my new home to ensure all was well before our warrhome warrantyanty ran out. The Pipe Spies’ technician thoroughly and efficiently checked our system. He explained what he was doing and the results as he progressed. His inspection found a minor low spot under our basement floor. Though I chose not to have this fixed, he described how best to keep materials from building up in the low spot. I was thankful to know we did not have a major problem since settling can easily occur with newly constructed homes and I wanted to know if that might have created an issue for us before our warranty had run out.”

Especially in areas with shifting soil, even new sewer lines can be broken during construction, go undetected, and cause plenty of headache for you in just a short period of time.  Before the warranty expires on a new home it’s always a good idea to add that extra peace of mind to your investment.


4) Prior to Selling a Home – Home owners don’t often think of this before placing their home on the market. First consult your REALTOR® and consider the following reasons for scheduling a pre-listing video pipe inspection of your sewer pipes before going on the market.

for sale

Image: tituslive.com

  • Head-off any potential hick-ups during the pre-close period that could save you time and aggravation.
  • Identify then determine severity of any problems in the main sewer line (if any).
  • Address any issues on your own time and budget terms; saving you money.
  • Choose not to fix the problem and disclose the issue to the buyer upfront.
  • Avoid negotiating with a buyer to fix problems; allowing negotiations to tear down your home price.
  • Eliminate surprises in the negotiation process.
  • Minimize the chances of your deal potentially falling through.
Treat the sale of your home like
a business and it will get you customers. 

When purchasing a home or property, we recommend scheduling a camera inspection of your pipes, however, as you can see there other situations that you may have not considered when home owner’s would need an independent video pipeline inspection.  By facing the good, bad, ugly and honest truth about their pipe work’s condition the unseen becomes the seen, empowering them to be in the driver’s seat if a true issue needs to be addressed.

Call to Discover What Sets Pipe Spies Apart 303-795-3630.


  • Lou Grounds says:

    we want you to scope our sewer line. House is on the SW corner of E. Mexico Ave and South Oneida St; 6840 E. Mexico Ave , 80224

    • Warren Rickford says:

      Hi Lou,
      We can certainly take care of your sewer scope needs. Our office is closed Sundays but you can reach me directly by calling 303-795-3630 and pressing 1, to get you scheduled. Please leave a message if I don’t answer right away and I will call you right back.

  • Maggie Allen says:

    Thanks so much for sharing! I had no idea that you could get a notice from the city to repair your sewer line! It sounds like they must inspect it quite frequently if they actually send out notices like that. It’s also really cool that the cameras used in the inspection are powerful enough for you to identify the exact problem that needs to be dealt with. I’m sure that plumbers are a lot more happy when they know the exact problem to be fixed, too. It lowers the chance that there will be surprises when they are making the repairs.

    • Warren Rickford says:

      Thank you for your comments and observations regarding the city main connections. Definitely check with your county sanitation department to verify what you as the property owner are responsible for. In the city and county of Denver, CO, the property owner is responsible for their main sanitation line to the city main connection. And yes, our experience after being in this industry for almost 10 years, is that both consumers and plumbers appreciate the unbiased information we provide especially if a legitimate problem is discovered. The consumer is then in the driver’s seat and can make an informed decision based on their timeline and budget instead of sitting through a high-pressure sales pitch. They also can find (and we can refer our customer’s) to a reputable plumber/excavation company to remedy their pipe’s condition. Again, any referral we make, we do not receive any kickbacks or referral fees. We simply want to refer our customer’s to reputable companies.

    • Warren Rickford says:

      You’re welcome! We’re glad this blog was helpful to you. If our field technician’s identify a problem, they may recommend a cleaning, jetting or repair by another company. However, any recommendations Pipe Spies provides, you can be assured, we do not receive financial kickbacks or referral fees. From our detailed PDF report (with the embedded video), you should be able to obtain an estimate from a reputable plumbing company as location services (marked on the surface terrain) are included with our initial inspection and also includes depth. After the problem is corrected, we recommend you schedule us to come back out at a discounted fee to scope the line again to ensure that the work was done properly and completely.

  • Bill Loftin says:

    I need the name of an inspection company “with no skin in the game” in Walnut Creek, CA. A buyer cancelled on the sale of my listing because of a reported negative grade on the lateral line in a condo (under the cement pad) but as selling agent i wasn’t provided a copy of the scope so all i have is a negative report saying there was a negative grade. Now i have to provide that to any perspective buyers. Plumbing company says they no longer have the video on their hard drive?
    I need a second opinion especially since the seller has lived there for 13 years and never had a sewer issue.
    Any help would be appreciated.


    • Warren Rickford says:

      Thank you for your comments, Bill. If we had a referral in your area, we would happily share, but unfortunately we do not. If you can’t find a company that does specifically what we do (completely unbiased), look to find an independent plumber with integrity, a good reputation and higher-quality camera equipment. And, yes, many companies do not keep the information for more than 30 days, some archive and charge a fee to retrieve the information after a period of time but most don’t archive the information. We hope all goes well!

    • Warren Rickford says:

      Thank you for your comments, all the way from California! Yes, we complete second opinion reviews by looking at the provided video and report.

  • I like that you said that not every problem needs video surveillance; many things can be fixed with simple maintenance and spot repair. I think that it is also very important to get the right company; many things can go wrong in this type of inspection, so, to be effective, it needs to be done right.

  • I can definitely see why you would need a pipeline inspection before selling your home. My wife and I have been planning on moving this upcoming month. I definitely think that we should read up on the inspection before we purchase a new home.

    • Warren Rickford says:

      Thank you for leaving a comment and understanding the reasons why a home seller would want to have an unbiased sewer scope inspection completed BEFORE putting their home on the market. We are finding more listing agent’s are recommending that their seller’s have this inspection to avoid any hidden surprises in the selling process. If a problem is discovered, the seller’s are in the driver’s seat and can remedying any problems ahead of time on their timeline and within their budget without pressure during the negotiating and selling process. Good-luck!

    • Warren Rickford says:

      Good-luck with your transaction. We’re pleased to know this information for selling your home was helpful.

  • Susan Jones says:

    Do you do second opinions using an existing sewer scope video footage? My buyers’ inspector did a scope and he stated that the root intrusions (which look minor to me) need to be cleaned and reinspected to verify that there is not a crack. I had a plumber watch the same video and he said he saw no problems; the intrusion was minor and not even a clean out would clear the roots.

    • Warren Rickford says:

      Yes, we do second opinion reviews from the video and report you provide. We would have a lead technician take a look and give you either a verbal report or a verbal and written report.

  • Derek Dewitt says:

    My wife and I think our sewer pipe might be backup because the toilet isn’t flushing right. I didn’t think about oil and grease building up could be the cause of it. We might have to have it inspected and see if they can remove any debris. Thanks for sharing!

  • I’ve recently been having a rather serious problem with my sewer and I haven’t been able to figure out what the full problem is. I like that you had recommended that proper maintenance is done and to make sure that the lines are getting fully cleaned out. Reaching out to a professional to do a video inspection of my line might have to be something that I do because I can’t find out what the problem is.

    • Warren Rickford says:

      Thank you for your comments and sorry to hear you’re having problems with your sewer line. Yes, proper maintenance is important, especially if there is a known problem with root infiltration (not always requiring a repair) or a sag or belly in the line. We will soon have a blog posted with tips for property owner’s on how to maintain drain lines and the mainline sewer. If you live in the Denver-metro area, we’d be happy to utlize our high-resolution camera’s to identify your mainline sewer problem/s. We’ve helped numerous home owner’s over the past 10 years as seen by our Google+ and Facebook reviews. We’ll provide a professional, unbiased opinion and identify the problem/s, but again, do not do repairs, cleaning or excavation. If you decide to first get your line professionally cleaned (you can contact our office for referrals), verify that they are utilizing a 3″ to 4″ blade and that they’re not just “clearing” the line, but truly “cleaning” the line.

  • Dan says:

    I have lived in my home for a few years now and haven’t had any sewer issues until a few months ago when it started backing up. I never thought that we may need a video pipe inspection, but I can see how this could find the cause of sewer problems like you mentioned here. Thanks for the tips in your article.

  • Phil says:

    Can a company do a jetting or tell you that you need to be Jetted out without taking pictures of the blockage????

    • Warren Rickford says:

      There are basically two methods of cleaning a sewer mainline: jetting with high pressure water or cabling with blades. If the line is currently backed up, there is little chance of getting a picture of the blockage because the sewage water is too murky/dirty to see through even with our high-resolution cameras. If the blockage is caused by roots, then cabling will clean the line with a 3″ to 4″ blade, although roots can be cut via jetting. If the blockage is caused by a cored condition, then usually jetting is required. So the answer to your question….Most of the time a drain cleaner will first get the line to drain by cleaning it out. If this has been a recurring problem, then once it is cleared it’s a good idea to send a camera down the line and see what’s causing the problem. Hope this helps.

  • Sam Solo says:

    Mainline damage in the oil industry could lead to serious oil contamination. I think having proper protections in place with a camera feed would be a good way to quickly identify any structural defects. I’ll have to remember your tips so that I can keep my own pipes intact.

    • Warren Rickford says:

      I can’t speak to the oil industry, but I do know that ground sewage contamination for both residential and commercial properties is a concern for most municipalities. The City and County of of Denver, Colorado, video inspects city main sewer lines on an ongoing basis. They are looking for cracks, breaks, and disconnected private lateral lines that may be leaking into the ground and possibly making its way to our rivers, streams, and lakes. If a broken, cracked, or disconnected sewer tap is found, the property owner is delivered a letter giving them 25 days to correct the problem.

  • Hey Warren, I find your post to be very enlightening and informative as I had no idea that homeowners can receive notices from the city council to have our sewer lines inspected. I can’t recall when was the last time my family and I had our sewer lines inspected, but after reading your article, I do believe scheduling a CCTV drain system would be best. In fact, I will ask my wife if she is agreeable to having our sewer lines every 6 months to identify and prevent any problems from occurring.

    • Warren Rickford says:

      We’re glad to hear that you found this blog informative and helpful, Kristofer! Six months would not be necessary. After you obtain a baseline sewer scope of the current condition of your line, our technicians can then make recommendations as to what maintenance and how often you would need to get the line re-scoped.

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