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Finding blockages and problems in sewer pipes can be problematic. You might even be putting off calling the plumber about a possible leak or blockage because you don’t want them to dig up your whole yard looking for the source of the problem.
But don’t worry, this is 2020. Plumbers have far more sophisticated ways of finding problems in your sewer line than digging up your yard.
One such solution is the sewer camera inspection and it can do far more than simply find a blockage.
Wondering how it works? Keep reading to learn all about the process and what it can find.
What Is a Sewer Camera Inspection?
Back in the old days, finding sewer problems involved a lot of guesswork. Plumbers looked for wet areas of the yard, or places where the grass was greener (more well-fed) and started digging. They also used listening devices and other tools but they were still basically making educated guesses.
Nowadays cameras are small enough to fit in smartphones and other tiny devices. So somebody came up with the idea of putting one on the end of a long, flexible plumbing snake so it could be inserted into sewer pipes to aid in a visual inspection.
A sewer camera inspection allows the plumber to see inside the sewer pipes. This takes the plumber directly to the problem. It also allows them to inspect the pipes for areas that haven’t broken yet but are showing signs of aging and damage.
The camera uses a radio transmitter to record the location of the problem as well as the depth. By taking the guesswork out of sewer line repairs, sewer camera inspections can save homeowners hundreds of dollars.
Homebuyers looking to buy an older home can also benefit from a sewer camera inspection. The state of the sewer system can have an impact on their decision to purchase or request a lower sale price.
What Kinds of Problems Can the Camera Find?
There are several problems that can crop up with sewer lines that a sewer camera can find. These are a few of the most common ones.
Invasion of the Tree Roots
While it sounds like the title of a ‘B’ movie from the 80s, invading tree roots are a real problem with sewage lines. The roots are attracted to the water and the rich source of nutrients flowing through the sewer line.
Tree roots will grow close to the pipes, searching for a way in. If they can find the tiniest crack, the root will grow into it, forcing it open to get to the water inside and breaking the pipe.
This is a bigger problem with older pipes that were made from clay or other porous materials. Regardless, when planting near the sewer line, you should always choose trees with shallow root systems to avoid this problem as much as possible.
You know you’re not supposed to put grease or chunks of anything down the sink. Even so, little bits get washed down the drain every day. Over time, these bits can get stuck in the pipe and start building up until the pipe is blocked.
The camera can easily find these blockages for the plumber to clear them.
Sometimes a section of the pipe can begin to sag, creating a pocket of sorts for stuff to get stuck in. This can result in repeated blockages, which means calling the plumber more often than you would like.
The camera can find problem areas like this so the plumber can fix them once and for all.
Underground pipes are generally well protected by the earth around them. Even so, pipes can break, be crushed or even collapse.
As the camera travels along through the pipe, this type of damage is quite obvious in the display. Using this technique, plumbers can easily pinpoint the area that needs to be repaired.
When Is a Camera Inspection Needed?
If you have an older home, or are thinking of buying one, a sewer camera inspection is a good idea. Older sewage systems were made from materials that don’t hold up well over time. Some were even made from tar paper!
The only way to know for sure if the system needs repairs or has already been updated is to check it out with a sewer camera.
Call your plumber for slow drains, or backups that may indicate a blockage and they’ll probably pull out their camera. It is the best and most efficient way to pinpoint these problems.
One thing to note is that sewer cameras can’t detect leaks very well. The camera is looking at the inside of the pipe, and the evidence of leaks shows up more prominently on the outside.
If the pipe is badly damaged, the camera will pick that up. However, if the leak is caused by a small hole or crack, it’s nearly impossible to see from the camera.
Remember, these are your sewer pipes we’re talking about. They’re not exactly clean. Tiny holes and hairline cracks are virtually indistinguishable amongst the muck.
Ready to Get Started?
Whether you suspect problems with your system or are considering buying an older home, a sewer camera inspection can save you a lot of money.
For the homeowner who needs their system repaired, the camera helps the plumber find the source of the problem quickly — without tearing up the yard.
For the homebuyer, this technique will tell you if the system is in good shape, needs small repairs, or needs to be replaced. Doing this before closing may save you thousands of dollars off the purchase price — or be a dealbreaker depending on your circumstances.