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A: Yes…To help understand I will break this answer into a couple sections:

Building Drains: All dwellings built with indoor plumbing facilities that include toilet(s) have a drain system to allow effluent from the fixtures to combine into one single and larger pipe (typically 4″ diameter) called a building drain. The job of the building drain is to get the wastewater out of the dwelling and into the yard piping. Building drains in older dwellings were constructed by highly skilled tradesmen using hub and spigot cast iron pipe and fittings caulked with oakum (hemp twine) packed joints and sealed with pure lead. Building drains in newer dwellings are being constructed using solvent weld plastic pipe and fittings such as ABS or DWV PVC. All building drains installed under dwellings have 1/8″ to 1/4″ of fall per linear foot until it reaches the exterior side of the parameter foundation.

Sewer Lines aka/Yard Piping: Building drains are usually stubbed out past the foundation by about 2′ feet then transition to yard piping, at this point the pipe should be referred to as the sewer line. The sewer line diameter is consistent with the building drain diameter (or larger, but never smaller.) The length of the sewer line depends on wether the destination is an onsite private sewage disposal system (shorter lengths), or the line connects directly to a public sewer system (longer lengths). In older dwellings yard piping materials are the primary source of sewer line failure. Since cast iron was at a premium in the era when these older dwellings were constructed, it became standard practice to utilize substandard alternative materials such as: Asbestos Cement (AC), Orangeburg (OB), and Vitrified Clay (VCP) for construction of sewer lines. The aforementioned alternative pipe types were given a 30-50 year service life expectancy by the officials who approved them for use back then and I think it’s safe to say that they were only guessing. In newer dwellings with plastic sewer lines there is less problems with leakage due to the superiority of the solvent weld joint system. But beware, newer isn’t always better! In the past five years our company has responded to dozens of failed sewer lines in which the connection between the plastic upper lateral to the VCP lower lateral piping has suffered either a complete separation, offset, and/or shear breakage. We have also discovered many of the same type of failures at the connections where the cast iron no-hub two-way cleanout fitting (certain jurisdictions only) connect to the plastic upper lateral.

A: That all depends on the age of your home and the condition of the sewer line. As a rule of thumb, homes built before 1975 should be inspected. Substandard building materials were used to construct sewer lines starting back in the early 1900′s all the way up until as late as the 1980′s. Substandard materials have a shorter life expectancy and thus all the sewer lines constructed using these materials are likely to have quality concerns.
A: It is best if the owner (or potential owner) is present to view the monitor during the inspection to get an explanation from the technician. However, as long as a sewer cleanout is accessible nobody is required to be present. In an attempt to better serve our customers we offer a virtual meeting and or phone conference to go over the finding of the report at the customers convenience.
A: No, our cameras are small and are pushed down the pipe by hand so no loud equipment or mess is created.
A: If the property is up to code and the sewer line has a cleanout access then 40 minutes should be adequate to complete a thorough inspection, if access is through roof vent then expect us to be there for an hour. If we need to remove a toilet to access the sewer line then the inspection should take approximately an hour and a half.
A: Yes!, We definitely prefer  a cleanout to access the pipes but there are other methods of access we can attempt. All plumbing fixtures when properly plumbed will have an “Air Vent” which is typically extended above the roof. As long as the roof is safe to access and your have agreed to the damage waiver assuming liability we will attempt to access the pipes from the vent with our small camera. Alternately we can remove a toilet from it’s drain pipe and attempt to access the pipes from there also. Please not that in any case where a normal full size cleanout is not able to be located visually the base fee still applies as is described in our Work Authorization Agreement.  Also, there is an added fee for alternative access such as a roof vent or pulling and re-setting a toilet.
A: Yes, As long as the work site is located within our normal service area (see map here) if you know what the problem is and we do not need to perform any diagnostic or labor in order to provide an accurate cost estimate then we will come to your site and perform visual inspection of the work site, measure length of pipes if needed, then provide a written estimate typically within 24-48 hours and transmit via email. Adobe Reader will be required to open our estimates. The program can be downloaded for free here: link  (Note: Our estimators will not crawl under house or enter an attic unless you agree to pay us an access surcharge. Access fee is refunded back to customer if scope of work proposed is commenced upon within 30 days of estimate).