Once upon a time the idea of having a sewer scope done in addition to a standard inspection before purchasing a home was not commonplace. However, as Seattle’s homes are aging, sewer scopes are becoming an important aspect of the home buying process. The side sewer line refers to the pipe that exits the house and joins with the city sewer main, which is usually in the middle of the street. The City of Seattle holds property owners responsible for these side sewer lines. You may actually share parts of this line with a neighbor, in which case you would share the responsibility for issues that occur within the shared length of piping. To verify the location of your side sewer and whether or not any portion is shared, search for your address here and take a look at the cards and maps.
The reason that side sewer issues are becoming more and more common is that the original pipes were made with clay, changing to concrete around mid-century, and then to plastic in the late 70’s/early 80’s. The clay and concrete pipes have surpassed (or are reaching) the ends of their life span and few have been replaced. Aging clay and concrete pipes are very susceptible to cracks, breaks and tree root infiltration, but even plastic pipes can be susceptible to cracks and pipe shifting.
In the long run, it can pay to know the condition of your side sewer before problems occur. Fixing the issues now will be less traumatic and cheaper than also having a major sewer back-up and clean-up on your hands. There are a number of companies in town that specialize in sewer scopes. Essentially the inspector sends a camera down the line and makes a video that notes damage, blockages and/or tree root infiltration. The inspector will then go over the video with you and make recommendations. It’s a smart investment for homeowners to be sure. But it’s a vital investment for a potential home buyer or even a seller who wants to have an understanding of how side sewer issues could potentially factor out in the sale of their home.