Caveat Emptor—That’s Our Specialty

By: Patrick Hooper

When it comes to making a buck, there are those who will say anything to take your money from you. While this exists in most all walks of life, the sewer line repair industry can be among the most costly when it does occur.

We often perform follow-up inspections for customers who have already received an assessment and  remediation quote from an estimator. Sometimes our inspections will validate those previous assessments, sometimes we validate while also offering additional and alternative—less-expensive options, and often times we expose unnecessary repair or replacement recommendations. Here are a few examples:

Just Say No To The Backhoe!I received a call earlier this month from a customer who experienced two backups within a week–the only occurrences  since her 5 year old house was built.  She called a company to come auger the line. The  company did so through a floor drain instead of a cleanout with a 1/2-inch cable instead of the larger, standard 3/4-inch cable. Within a week her line backed up a again, so the company came back out to video the line, as well as auger it again. This company determined that the line was bellied and recommended that the floor be busted up and the line replaced, quoting a price of more than $5,000.


When I arrived, I inspected the mainline through an outside cleanout and also through a pulled toilet. I tested the line by running water from the kitchen sink, bathroom sink and flushing the toilet. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the line. It was likely that the customer had what is known as a “soft clog” and because the company she called used a cable designed for 1- to 2-inch pipe rather than a cable designed for 4- to 6-inch sewer line, I suspect that the mainline was not completely cleared of all debris in the first attempt. No honest person who knew what they were doing would ever have recommended tearing up the floor to replace that mainline.

Another example is when I was contacted by a very frustrated homeowner who had a floor drain in his basement that backed up when it rained. He had three different companies out to take a look. Of the three companies, none of them even attempted to diagnose the problem—all three just offered estimates to tear up the floor and replace the line, with quotes ranging between $7,000 to $12,000.

Say No To The Backhoe #2I ran the camera through two different cleanout access points. Most of the line, though old and made of clay, looked to be in in good shape. The floor drain that was backing up was tied into a branch line that connected the outside downspout pipe to the interior mainline under the foundation (not unusual in older homes). The problem was a single ball of roots (between the mainline and the floor drain) that was causing the storm water to back up through the floor drain during heavy rain. The fix was easy and inexpensive, clear the line with an auger and follow up with a chemical treatment—a $300 to $400 remediation.

Finally, one of my biggest pet peeves with underground drain line has to do with contractors using inferior pipe material—especially flex pipewhich in my experience, is the most common pipe material used for footer drains in new(er) construction. A customer contacted me to inspect the perimeter drain of his 7 year old house. When I lifted the cover off of the sump pump pit, I was pleasantly surprised to see 4 inch SCH 40 PVC pipe sticking through each side of the pit wall–which in my experience, is very unusual. However, when I put my camera into the line, it immediately transitioned to flex pipe in less than 6 inches. I can only conclude that the builder used  two short sections of pipe to create the impression that the much more durable and appropriate SCH 40 PVC was used as footer drain. This also tells me that the builder knew that the flex pipe is inferior pipe material. And yes, as is all too common, the line was  collapsed or collapsing in multiple locations.

There are good, honest, hard-working contractors out there that do right by their customers. But as with all industries, you also have your bad players—and it can be difficult to weed out those bad players.

Mainline Inspection Services does not provide repair services. We objectively inspect, assess and consult—that’s it.

As the title says, Buyer Beware