SEWER / SEPTIC PIPE CAMERAS - CONTENTS: video and camera systems used to diagnose & repair clogged drains, clogged septic or sewer piping, along with advice for buyers or owners of a home when a septic system clog or backup is suspected or discovered
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Cameras & video systems used to inspect slow, clogged,or damaged drains, sewer pipes or septic piping:
Discovering clogged plumbing or sewer drain, waste vent piping and finding the nature of the trouble as well as its exact location is a valuable diagnostic tool. Page top photo: the presence of soil and broken segments of terra-cotta piping mark both the location of a recurrent clog in this Seattle Washington buried sewer line and also the location of breaks in the sewer piping that mean we can expect blockages to recur.
This article series discusses how to diagnose and repair clogged sewer lines, drain lines, septic systems or drain, waste or vent piping.
Drain Piping, Septic or Sewer Line Inspection Cameras
There can be several reasons to rent a drain line or sewer pipe video inspection camera system or to hire a plumber or other expert to perform that service for you. Buying a home whose sewer piping condition is unknown or in question, maintaining a home with clogged or slow drain lines, or diagnosing drain odors and noises may require an inspection of the drain interior. Push cameras used to inspect the interior of piping systems are used in various industries including oil and gas, HVAC, sewer and drain systems, food production, and other applications.
A drain inspection video camera like Rigid's SeeSnake® can perform these tasks and if there is a problem it can tell you just where the problem is along the length of the sewer pipe.
Plumbing drains in a building, in the building's vent piping, and in sewer pipes or private septic system pipes can become clogged, damaged, or just slow to drain for a variety of reasons.
Even when there is no evidence of a current slow or blocked building drain or sewer line, there may be clues suggesting a history of drain clogging that presage future trouble and costly repairs. These include:
Age of the building and its plumbing: older buildings may be connected to buried drain lines constructed of orangeburg pipe or terra-cotta pipe. Both of these materials are at extra risk of collapse or breakage when they age.
See PLUMBING MATERIALS & FIXTURES AGE, TYPES such as lead and clay pipes, orangeburg pipe, cast iron, galvanized iron, PVC and ABS plastics
Drain cleaners: reports of periodic use of drain cleaner chemicals or drain de-cloggers, or visual evidence: bottles of drain cleaner in the building or in its trash bins.
See DRAIN CLEANER CHEMICALS
Drain pipe cleared by power auger: reports of periodic use of drain cleaners, power augers to clear drain lines, or "roto rooter" services.
An experienced plumber can often find the distance to a drain blockage using a simple plumbing snake. But she won't know the overall condition of the drain line nor if there are further blockages or points of damage further along the drain pipe.
See FIND DISTANCE to DRAIN BLOCKAGE
While "Roto-Rooter" or similar names (see photo below) are often used as a generic term for the use of a power-auger to clear clogged drain lines, Rotor-Rooter® is the registered trademark of a specific plumbing and drain service franchise cited below. Plumbing and septic contractors offer a variety of services to inspect and repair clogged or damaged drain, waste or vent piping including use of a video camera to inspect the drain line interior.
See USE a POWER SNAKE to CLEAR a BLOCKED DRAIN
Slow building drains at all fixtures usually means a main drain blockage or possibly a main plumbing vent defect. Individual fixtures that drain slowly while others drain rapidly point instead to a local drain blockage or even a clogged trap.
See CLOGGED DRAIN DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
Plumbing drain noises such as gurgling and bubbling when wastewater is flushed down toilets, sinks, tubs or other fixture drains.
See PLUMBING DRAIN NOISE DIAGNOSIS
Sewage backups into the building including reports of prior plumbing backups or the possibly the presence of newly-remodeled basements where water entry or a sewage backup may have occurred.
See SEWAGE BACKUP, WHAT TO DO
If a drain or sewer pipe is actually broken or has become totally clogged, it's likely that excavation and repair or replacement of the drain line will be needed - usually a significant expense.
Even then, knowing exactly where the blockage is located can both speed the repair and significantly reduce the repair cost by avoiding digging willy-nilly along an entire drain line route to find the trouble.
Preliminary Visual Inspection Can Show a History of Drain Problems
Our photo shows two concerns at a building main drain exit point:
A connection between the cast-iron building drain and a terra-cotta sewer pipe was made as a simple slip-together joint. It's leaking. The excavation hole filled with sewage effluent.
The old terra-cotta sewer pipe is at risk of breakage and blockage along its route, from vehicle traffic, frost heaves, improper backfill that included rocks rather than sand, or root intrusion.
Inspection of the exterior of a drain line in a building, where accessible, can often find signs of trouble such as
Leaks in drain piping, corrosion, leak stains on pipes, leak stains below pipes on ceilings, walls, floors
Physical damage to exposed section of drain piping visible along piping runs
Inadequate support of drain piping creating low spots likely to clog
Evidence of repeated repairs to the drain piping: glued-in or soldered-in new segments along older drain pipes
Below our photo shows active leaking at a main copper drain line in a New Jersey medical center. By removing sections of a water-stained suspended ceiling tile one could ultimately find this active sewage leak into an office space.
Below we see the traditional "jackleg" plumber repair of a leaky toilet seal: stuffing rags and insulation around a toilet leak allows the worker to guarantee her work until her truck reaches the end of the driveway.
Video Camera Drain Line or Sewer Line Inspection Finds These Problems
But often what's needed is an inspection of the pipe interior to find damage or blockage points. A sewer line or drain line inspection camera uses a video camera attached to a flexible rod or line that is pushed into and through a drain line from a convenient point of entry (such as a main building drain cleanout).
The video inspection camera is pushed along the course of the main drain line until it reaches a destination such as a main public sewer pipe, a septic tank, or a septic distribution box or the end of a leach field drain line. Pipes ranging from two inches to 36 inches in diameter are inspected by this method. Smaller drain line video inspection cameras are available to inspect the interior of in-building plumbing systems.
Below: like our page top photo, in the sewer line video image captured here we see pieces of broken terra cotta pipe as well as a bit of soil inside the sewer line. Notice that the image includes the distance from the point of entry into the sewer pipe to this point of damage (44 ft.).
A both with live video and with camera-captured snapshots, a sewer line inspection camera can show the overall condition of a buried drain line including indicating defects in the sewer or septic piping such as
Animals or objects trapped in sewer piping. Sewer line and plumbing pipe video inspection camera systems have also been used to find jewelry or other valuable items lost down drains or into wells. Similar cameras are also used to inspect chimneys. (CHIMNEY FLUE INSPECTION CAMERA)
Blockages or clogs in the sewer line from any source or cause
Broken sewer or drain or septic piping sections, connections, components
Slope defects in the drain routing: humps, depressions in the sewer line. Both humps and depressions in the sewer line form points of recurrent accumulation of solid waste and thus sewer or drain line blockages. Normal drain line slope is 1/8" to 1/4" per foot. Steep slope septics may require special measures including routing the line along rather than straight down the slope.
See SEWER / SEPTIC LINES at STEEP SITES
Examples of Sewer Pipe Video Inspection Camera Findings
Dislocated sewer pipe joints & root intrusion in the sewer or septic line
Above: the video camera line inspection shows a modest dislocation in a sewer line pipe joint through which roots are growing. Even a small root intrusion or pipe joint dislocation can accumulate or block the flow of solid waste leading to slow gurgling drains and ultimately to a complete drain blockage. Our photos above show root invasion at 27 feet and at 83 feet in this buried sewer line in Seattle, WA.
Watch out: particularly at older properties the planting of trees and other shrubs, even some grasses risks root-clogging of older sewer or drain piping, particularly when the drain pipes are constructed of hub-joined terra cotta (photo above) or of orangeburg.
Roots find any leak or break in a sewer line. Using a rotary power snake can temporarily clear the clogged drain line if it is not severely broken or collapsed, but the roots will return unless the source-plant is removed or the cracked, leaky line replaced.
See PLANTS & TREES OVER SEPTIC SYSTEMS
Simply using a "root killer" chemical is not a repair for root-invaded sewer or septic piping, it won't unblock a root-clogged line quickly, and it may contaminate nearby wells or waterways.
See ROOT KILLERS in SEWER LINES or SEPTIC PIPES
In our photo above, we see an accumulation of many pieces of broken terra cotta pipe as well as quite a bit of soil inside the sewer line.
This point in the sewer pipe (40 ft.) is at or just past a point of significant damage to the drain line.
Watch out: when we see broken pieces of piping inside the sewer line we know this line is in poor condition and will need to be replaced or perhaps re-lined using a trenchless sewer line repair method.
See TRENCHLESS SEWER REPLACEMENT
Where to Buy or Rent a Drain & Sewer Video Inspection Camera
Pipe inspection video camera systems are available in a wide range of capacity including cable length, camera quality, image quality, pipe diameter size capacity, and other features. Prices range from a small hand-held borescope pipe inspection camera for less than $40. U.S. (From DBPower) to camera systems in the $8000. and up price range.
Building maintenance & repair rental centers near your home may have a video camera system you can rent. Keep in mind that you will be required to handle heavy equipment and you'll need to protect yourself and the camera usage location from sewage contaminants.
DBPower short-cable video inspection endoscope camera provides a video inspection system that connects to a laptop computer's USB bus. The company describes its camera as suitable for automotive applications as well as pipe inspection.
Gen-Eye Pipe Inspection / Location System, provided by General Wire Spring Co., includes both inspection and pipe location equipment. General Pipe Cleaners
Division of General Wire Spring Company
1101 Thompson Avenue McKees Rocks, PA 15136 USA
800-245-6200 Tel: 412-771-6300
Plumbing contractors near your home often own and are experienced in using a video camera system to inspect sewer or drain lines. We recommend this approach to investigate sewer and drain piping condition and location.
Fiberscope produces a range of push cameras including video camera systems designed for 2" and 3" drain pipe or sewer piping system inspections. This company also produces video inspection camera systems capable of inspecting small diameter pipes with their smallest cam at 0.67" in diameter. Website: http://www.fiberscope.net/push-cameras.html Tel: 1-877-839-0540 Good luck finding the actual physical address of this company.
Forbest portable color sewer/drain camera systems, sold by third party vendors such as globalindustrial.com This product line includes a small suitcase sized portable video camera system for sewer lines up to 100 feet in length.
Insight Vision is a sewer camera manufacturer producing a range of 200 foot capacity sewer and drain line inspection cameras. Insight | Vision
600 N. Dekora Woods Blvd.
Saukville, WI 53080, USA
Rigid Corporation makes a wide range of drain and sewer video inspection reels and cameras including the company's SeeSnake® video inspection camera shown at the start of this article.
Contact: Ridge Tool Company
400 Clark St
Elyria, OH 44035
US Website: https://www.ridgid.com Tel: 1-800-4-RIDGID (1-800-474-3443)
Also see Rigid's SeeSnake CS1000 quick start guide [PDF] https://www.ridgid.com/Download/cs1000_Quick_Start_verOB_revA_12-13-10.pdf
RABCO's Mini Roller Sewer Camera Skid systems are used in 4" to 6" sewer lines and include rollers to keep the camera centered. The company produces other roller-supported cameras used in larger pipelines including a skid for 6" to 18" diameter lines. Sold or rented by third party vendors. Difficult to find the company's home page or contact information for this product.
Viztrac Sewer Cameras offer sewer & drain line video inspection systems. Viztrac sewer cameras are distributed by plumbing suppliers. I found it difficult to find the company's own contact information other than that they're located in Cleveland OH.
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Builder's Guide to Wells and Septic Systems, Woodson, R. Dodge: $ 24.95; MCGRAW HILL B; TP;
Quoting from Amazon's description: For the homebuilder, one mistake in estimating or installing wells and septic systems can cost thousands of dollars. This comprehensive guide filled with case studies can prevent that. Master plumber R. Dodge Woodson packs this reader-friendly guide with guidance and information, including details on new techniques and materials that can economize and expedite jobs and advice on how to avoid mistakes in both estimating and construction. Chapters cover virtually every aspect of wells and septic systems, including on-site evaluations; site limitations; bidding; soil studies, septic designs, and code-related issues; drilled and dug wells, gravel and pipe, chamber-type, and gravity septic systems; pump stations; common problems with well installation; and remedies for poor septic situations. Woodson also discusses ways to increase profits by avoiding cost overruns.
Country Plumbing: Living with a Septic System, Hartigan, Gerry: $ 9.95; ALAN C HOOD & TP;
Quoting an Amazon reviewer's comment, with which we agree--DF:This book is informative as far as it goes and might be most useful for someone with an older system. But it was written in the early 1980s. A lot has changed since then. In particular, the book doesn't cover any of the newer systems that are used more and more nowadays in some parts of the country -- sand mounds, aeration systems, lagoons, etc.
Water Wells and Septic Systems Handbook, R. Dodge Woodson. This book is in the upper price range, but is worth the cost for serious septic installers and designers.
Quoting Amazon: Each year, thousands upon thousands of Americans install water wells and septic systems on their properties. But with a maze of codes governing their use along with a host of design requirements that ensure their functionality where can someone turn for comprehensive, one-stop guidance? Enter the Water Wells and Septic Systems Handbook from McGraw-Hill.
Written in language any property owner can understand yet detailed enough for professionals and technical students this easy-to-use volume delivers the latest techniques and code requirements for designing, building, rehabilitating, and maintaining private water wells and septic systems. Bolstered by a wealth of informative charts, tables, and illustrations, this book delivers:
* Current construction, maintenance, and repair methods
* New International Private Sewage Disposal Code
* Up-to-date standards from the American Water Works Association
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The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
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