||02-01-2011 12:10 PM
How to avoid sewer problems or gain the upper hand in a home purchase
Before you buy a property …
Get to know what’s underground
- Sewer laterals are the pipe that connects a building’s plumbing to the city-maintained sanitary sewer main. The sewer main carries wastewater from your lateral to the city’s treatment facilities.
- In most cities, property owners are responsible for repair and maintenance of their private sewer laterals (the sewer line between the house and the street)
- Buildings constructed prior to 1980 are likely to have laterals made of clay or bituminous fiber (tar paper, aka Orangeburg) pipes. These can crack, break, collapse, shift out of place, and be subject to root intrusions or low spots causing leakage or blockage in the pipe.
- When your sewer lateral has a blockage, sewage from your home can back-up in your pipes and surface through your sinks, toilets, bathtubs and other building drains, causing serious health issues and a potentially expensive mess. Sewer lateral blockages are typically caused by failures in the pipe. Failures can be easily detected by a simple video inspection of the lateral before they cause a serious problem.
- Rainwater and groundwater that gets into the sanitary sewer system from leaky sewer laterals, and roof and foundation drains can cause overflows of untreated or partially treated wastewater (sewage or effluent) into streets, homes, businesses and local lakes, rivers, streams, and the aquifer. This rainwater and groundwater should be directed to the public storm water system.
- Just as rainwater or groundwater can leak into a sewer lateral, sewage can also leak out of the sewer lateral polluting our lakes, streams, and aquifer, becoming a public health hazard.
Do your part to avoid these
- If you know the condition of your property’s sewer lateral, you can better prepare for repair, replacement, or maintenance, make a more educated buying decision, or gain valuable negotiation room in a purchase contract.
problems and prevent pollution
of our lakes, streams, and
Steps you can take
- Ask the current property owner if they have had any issues with slow draining plumbing fixtures, toilets, sewage backups, or have ever performed any inspections or repairs.
- Look for clues as to whether a back-up has occurred in the past.
- Look for stains or water marks around basement floor drains
- Look for plastic caps on cast iron clean outs
- Look for stickers from rooter companies around the house
- Look for damage to sidewalks and driveways from trees
- Look for darker patches or discolored grass, or places that appear to have been excavated
- Look for damage to sidewalks from tree roots
But Can I afford a sewer
- Hire an unbiased sewer lateral inspection company to perform a video inspection of the sewer lateral
The truth is... you can't afford NOT to!
Sewer lateral repairs or replacement can be extremely expensive averaging $5,000 to $15,000. Typically it will come as a surprise to property owners when sewage starts coming out of sinks, toilets, bathtubs and other drains. Property owners should plan for sewer lateral maintenance and repair just as they do for other major working systems of the building or residence.
To protect the value of your investment and avoid the surprises associated with costly repairs; we recommend inspecting a building's sewer lateral every 3-5 years, and/or prior to purchasing the property. Even a sewer lateral in new construction can be prone to breaks or problems if proper care to bed the pipe was not taken during installation. Finding these problems before the warranty expires may save you thousands of dollars in repairs or maintenance.