A young family called me nine months after moving into their home. Their finished basement had been ruined back a major sewer backup. Carpets, walls, everything that was stored near the pipe: all of it was ruined by sewage. Their pipe had clogged and, after normal use, flooded the basement. The crazy thing about this story: this house had just been built. Apparently, someone had crushed the waste pipe near the sidewalk while they were grading the property. The pipe was flattened enough to catch plenty of debris, but open just enough to pass the builder's quick check of the interior drains. A sewer scope before the new homeowners took possession would have saved the builder thousands of dollars worth of repairs, and saved the occupants the horrible experience of having sewage infiltrate their home.
A sewer scope can be performed by any qualified professional. As a home inspector, I can provide that service. What we do is open one of the cleanout caps either inside or outside the home, depending on how accessible it is, and run a special camera down through the pipe and out to the city sewer. This camera lets us see if there are cracks, holes, offset sections, roots from trees or bushes, or areas where water or debris is getting trapped in the pipe. It's gross work, but somebody has to do it. Repairing the later waste line can be very expensive, and that is something you want to know before you buy a new house.
Many people are interested in having their waste pipe inspected if it
is an older pipe. And that is a really good idea. The older the pipe, the more likely something has broken down. Older pipes are much more likely to have separated or had root intrusion from trees or large bushes. There are also some types of old pipes that are prone to breaking down over time. But as the story at the top of this post demonstrates, a new home isn't necessarily safe from problems. Fortunately for my client, the builder fixed everything at no cost to them, but they had to endure sewage being sprayed through their basement due to other defects in the property (which is why EVERY new construction home should be inspected by a third party). If they had known that a sewer scope was a good idea, they could have avoided the headache entirely. A friend of mine, for example, was performing a sewer scope on a brand-new home before the buyers took possession. The builder had a great reputation, everything seemed to be put together properly. Then he found a 2x4 inside the main waste line. The builder had to dig up the floor and replace the pipe, delaying closing but preventing those homeowners from enduring a sewage-soaked basement.
Regardless of the age of the home, it is always a good idea to get your waste line checked by a qualified professional. It just might save you a major headache.