What is a Sewer Camera Inspection?

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What is a Sewer Camera Inspection?

by | Mar 9, 2018 | DIY Guides, Plumbing Help, Service Information, Sewer and Drain Cleaning Help |

A sewer inspection camera changes the game for even the most experienced plumber. This diagnostic sewer and drain tool give the plumber and the homeowner a clear picture of what is happening inside a sewer line.

A sewer line inspection is useful in many different instances. Common uses include during a home buying inspection period, to discover the cause of ongoing sewer backup problems, to diagnose a break in a sewer line, to discover the route of sewer lines, and to locate a septic tank. We will get into each one of these soon, but one thing is for certain – never endure the expense of replacing a sewer line without asking for a sewer camera inspection first!

sewer camera inspection

The top three reasons to request a sewer line inspection

The reasons a plumber would perform a sewer line inspection are numerous but there are three big-picture reasons common to them all:

  1. No guessing games. Regardless of how experienced a plumber is, she can’t see underground. The pipes that are typically inspected using a sewer camera are buried four-six feet (or more) underground. There is no other way to see inside these pipes.
  2. Picture and depth. Camera inspection equipment provides a clear video of your sewer lines in colored detail. Don’t worry, it usually isn’t as gross as it sounds. Better than that, there is a depth and distance tracker on the camera, letting the plumber know where in the sewer line any issue they locate may be.
  3. Peace of mind. Don’t take the plumbers word for it that your sewer line needs replacing or guess where your septic tank is located. There is no doubt when you can see with your own eyes.

sewer camera inspection peace of mind

What to expect during a sewer camera inspection

After you schedule an appointment for a sewer line inspection or receive the recommendation from the plumber, the appointment is painless. The equipment is lightweight and portable and typically does not have to enter your home. The plumber enters your main sewer line from the clean-out beside your home.

A clean-out is the four-inch piece of pipe that sticks up, typically on the side or front of your home, with a cap on the top. Not every home has a clean-out, which can create extra expense during an inspection. There are solutions for this, so don’t fret. The plumber can install a clean-out for an extra charge, a great idea for sewer line access. If you are having problems with your line or expect complications, a clean-out install is a good investment.

sewer camera inspection services

Once the inspection camera has entered your sewer line, the picture will be available via a portable screen instantly and in color. At the top corner, you will see the depth and distance markers. The plumber typically follows the line to where it meets the sewer main until they find the problem, or until they see the baffle for the septic tank.

What happens from here depends on the unique sewer line problem you are experiencing. The plumber will likely have recommendations based on what they see.

How a sewer camera works

Sewer cameras are a neat piece of technology. They work as a CCTV or closed-circuit TV and use fiber optic technology. Although the wire is relatively thin, there are limitations to the technology and concerns to consider.

A sewer camera isn’t useful when there is standing water in the pipe. This is why a sewer camera inspection is typically recommended after the line has been cleared by either a hydro-jet or a drain cleaning machine. The camera itself can not clean a pipe. Just like your eyes don’t see very clearly in murky water, the camera can’t either. Running a camera in sewer water accomplishes nothing.

sewer line inspection

A minimum pipe diameter of three inches is required for our camera to pass through safely. This means that two-inch drain lines, common to most inside plumbing fixtures like tub drains and kitchen sinks aren’t an option. Additionally, our camera isn’t much use on lines bigger than six inches. There are solutions available for both smaller and larger pipes but All Clear has invested in the technology useful for the majority of our customer’s needs.

What does a sewer inspection tell me about my sewer lines?

There are a lot of things that a visual inspection can tell the plumber, and you, about your sewer lines. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • The type of material your pipe is made of.
  • The depth and length of your sewer line.
  • The approximate path your sewer line takes to meet the main.
  • Any root intrusions in the pipe.
  • Breaks in the pipe.
  • Failed connections in the pipe.
  • Sludge or mineral deposit build-up in the pipe.
  • The existence of a belly, or dip, in the pipe that could catch solid material.
  • The overall condition of the pipe.

Can I, the property owner, review the sewer camera footage?

Of course! It’s your movie, we just shot the footage. Don’t hesitate to ask for a copy of the sewer camera inspection. Copies are available either digitally, on a USB memory stick, or on a DVD disc. Often, the plumber will encourage you to look at what they have found on the screen, in real time. Remember, part of the advantage of getting a sewer line inspection is the peace of mind. Seeing is believing.

sewer camera inspection

Can a sewer camera detect a leak?

Sewer and water lines are completely separate plumbing systems. This is how we protect clean water and safely dispose of waste. Water lines are typically very small and pressurized. Simply put, water leaks are not what camera inspections are designed for. There are other methods for detecting water leaks, either in a wall, under a house, or in a slab.

Sewer line leaks do exist though the camera doesn’t show us what is happening outside of a pipe. We can’t necessarily see if a pipe is leaking into the ground unless there is an obvious break or root intrusion. Tiny cracks or loose connections won’t always be visible with a sewer camera inspection.

sewer camera inspection services to find roots in pipe

Can a sewer camera find a leak under my house?

If you have a crawl space or basement, the sewer lines that run under your house are sometimes too small for the sewer inspection camera. There are exceptions to this rule, but it is important to remember that the primary advantage of a sewer line inspection is viewing the inside of pipes that are buried underground. If there is damage to a pipe which is causing sewage to leak it is likely visible with the naked eye. In this case, we would recommend saving you the money of a sewer line inspection and instead look for the obvious issue.

sewer camera inspection and visual inspection

How can a sewer camera inspection help during a tank locate?

A tank locate starts out much like a regular camera inspection, with one key difference. Near the camera, the plumber attaches a locator beacon. Once the camera is fed into the sewer line, the plumber watches the screen for the septic tanks baffle. The baffle is like a wall that helps separate material as it enters the tank. Because the baffle is part of the main tank, it signals that the plumber has reached the tank.

septic tank location services with sewer camera inspection

Armed with a sci-fi space gun looking device, the plumber than searches above ground for that homing beacon. Once they find it, the plumber can either dig up the lid to the septic tank or mark the spot for the pumping team.

How much does a sewer camera inspection typically cost?

Every vendor has their own pricing for a sewer line inspection. The cost can be determined by the size of the line, the quality of the equipment used, and additional services offered. A normal industry price is between $100 and $300. For detailed pricing about All Clear Plumbing’s sewer line camera inspection services just call us at 864-979-7059.

All Clear offers a discount on camera inspections when bundled with other services. This is naturally occurring because it’s a diagnostic tool. For instance, if you call us for drain cleaning and we recommend a sewer camera inspection, the cost of that inspection is considerably discounted.

Remember, All Clear plumbers don’t work on commission – they aren’t selling you anything you don’t need. If our experienced plumbers recommend a sewer camera inspection, they are concerned that you have an ongoing issue which may need addressing. We want to save you money in the long-run by fixing it right the right the first time!

Can I make a DIY sewer inspection camera?

Professional grade sewer camera equipment costs tens of thousands of dollars. The quality of the camera is likely much higher than anything a DIY-er would have available. While there are inspection camera’s available online at the consumer level, these won’t give you a very clear picture. Not to mention that you may not know what you are looking at.

Don’t underestimate the value of depth and distance indicators on professional grade equipment. Often this is where the real value of the service is demonstrated. Here’s why …

How does paying for a sewer camera inspection save me money?

Before sewer line inspections, plumbers had to guess what was causing continuous or ongoing sewer problems. Many times an issue like root intrusions are obvious because the cable drain cleaning machine will pull back bits of wood. That’s straight-forward enough. But what about a dip in the line that causes toilet paper and other solids to build-up over time? That common problem would be a guessing game at best.

sewer camera inspection underground vision

Let’s assume the plumber is able to correctly diagnose the problem. Most properties have anywhere from 20-100 ft of sewer line between the clean-out and the sewer main connection. Without an inspection camera, the location of the issue is anyone’s guess. The plumber would have to dig up the entire line and replace it or start digging and hope for the best.

Even with the camera inspection, replacement of an entire sewer line is often recommended due to the age or condition of the pipe. But other times, a spot repair is possible. Without a sewer line inspection to pinpoint the cause of the issue, a spot repair is impossible.

During a real estate transaction, a sewer line inspection represents the difference between blindly inheriting sewer line repair problems or understanding the condition of a sewer line before you buy.

As you can tell, a sewer line inspection may cost you a few hundred dollars but it can save you thousands.


If you would like to know more about sewer camera inspection services provided by All Clear Plumbing give us a call at 864-979-7059. Our friendly and experienced staff is happy to help. You can speak to a live staff member 24/7/365.

Article Author: Anja Smith

Managing Partner

Anja Smith is the author behind the All Clear Plumbing blog. She also writes regularly for Plumber Magazine, TradeBizToolbox.com, and on Medium

All clear is great and very professional. I use them at my residence and I use them at my commercial property as well. I suggest if you have any plumbing issues give these guys a call because they are professional and the most reasonably priced around town by far.

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