Monday, December 31, 2018

Check the Sewer Line Before You Buy the House

from Fairfax City

Replacing the sewer line running from your house to the sewer main in the street can end up costing from $3,000 to $25,000: $50 to $275 per foot for the pipe replacement and if you have to trench additional costs to repair damaged landscaping and any hardscapes (driveways, walkways, patios etc.) that were impacted. These costs are borne by the homeowner, not the sewer utility or county. So, before you consider buying an older home, have the sewer line inspected.

A sewer line inspection is not included as part of the home inspection. A sewer line can be inspected by inserting a special camera into the sewer line and viewing the viewing the resulting Closed Circuit Television Video (CCTV). This typically costs $300 to $400 and allows a plumber or rooter company to see the complete system. A trained professional will be able to identify any blockage within the pipe, tree root infiltration and broken pipes or joints and view the general condition of the pipe. Make sure that you get a copy of the video.

The sanitary sewer lateral is the pipe that carries waste water from the house to the public sanitary sewer main. The sanitary sewer lateral is located on private property and crosses the right of way, and its maintenance and repair is entirely the responsibility of the property owner. Sanitary sewer laterals are typically 4” in diameter. The public sewer mains are typically 8” and larger in diameter.

The building lateral is part of the home. Maintenance repair, and replacement of laterals is the responsibility of the owner and is enforceable by law in most jurisdictions, because a failed sewer lateral is a threat to public health. Many of the sewer laterals installed in this part of the country before the 1980’s were essentially made of cardboard and pitch a product known as Orangeburg pipe which was used for both water pipe and sewer pipes from the 1860's through the 1970's. After 1980 PVC was used for water pipes and ABS pipe for sewer pipes.

Some of the signs that a sewer lateral may require repair include: Frequently clogged drains, Odor of sewage, and basement sewer backups during rain. Sewer backups in the basement can be caused by a variety of factors including a blockage in the sewer lateral. Most sewer laterals can be cleaned by accessing the sanitary clean-
out and this is the service of the “rooter” companies and plumbers. If they occur during heavy rain storms, then it is likely due to the fact that sewer system is being inundated and indicates that rainwater is entering the sewer pipe.

There are three basic methods of repairing/replacing a sewer lateral; Excavating from sewer main to house and replacing the pipe, CIPP (Cured-in-place-pipe) lining of the pipe, and the pipe-bursting method. CIPP involves inserting a fiberglass or polyester sleeve that is saturated with an epoxy resin inside a pipe that has been cleaned out. The sleeve is then inflated and cured. This is typically done on Orangeburg pipe and when appropriate is very effective. Taking this route allows you to keep more of your property intact. The pipe-bursting method a pneumatic or hydraulic head is fed into the sewer pipe to break up existing brittle clay or iron piping. At the same time, a new, flexible line is drawn through the original space. CIPP and pipe bursting are not options for all repairs.

CIPP and Pipe Bursting can only be used on pipes where the tuberculation (mounding and corrosion) of the pipe inner surface is not too excessive to prevent a thorough cleaning and preparation. Joints of the pipe must not be offset and the pipe does not sag (this is seen during the inspection if the video camera goes underwater). The bottom of the pipe, the invert, must be round and straight and in Orangeburg pipe the bottom must not be raised in the middle of the pipe signifying that the pipe is failing. The pipe must not have already collapsed, and there are no turns greater than 15-degrees. If you repair the pipe before complete pipe failure, then these methods can be used.

In Northern Virginia, NOVAC and Dominion Power sell sewer line insurance, while not a perfect solution- they only pay to repair breaks not prevention or maintenance, the insurance is reasonably priced. In Fairfax City, there is a cost share program that will pay up to 75% of $5,000 to replace the entire lateral line.

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