Damaged blocked sewer pipe at a Seattle WA building (C) Daniel Friedman & Lee ShieldsDrain / Sewer Line Pipe Inspection Cameras

  • 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
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about discovering clogged septic or sewer piping during the purchase of a home

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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.

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Drain Piping, Septic or Sewer Line Inspection Cameras

Rigid SeeSnake video inspection camera used in sewer lines or septic drain lines or field lines - at 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.

Article Contents

Signs of Clogged Sewer or Septic Main Drain Lines

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:

Plumbing drain cleaning company truck  enroute to or from a job (C) Daniel Friedman

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.

Photograph of septic or sewer line piping clogs and failure. Septic piping failures - an expert can find clues and perform tests that reduce risk of a costly surprise

Preliminary Visual Inspection Can Show a History of Drain Problems

Clay sewer piping leak (C) Daniel FriedmanOur photo shows two concerns at a building main drain exit point:

  1. 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.
  2. 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

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.

Leak in a copper drain line (C) Daniel Friedman

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.

Leaky toilet seen from below (C) Daniel Friedman

Video Camera Drain Line or Sewer Line Inspection Finds These Problems

Breaking, deteriorating clay sewer line at a Seattle building (C) L Shields D FriedmanBut 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

Examples of Sewer Pipe Video Inspection Camera Findings

Dislocated sewer pipe joints & root intrusion in the sewer or septic line

Roots entering a clay sewer line in Seattle WA (C) D Friedman L Shields More root invasion in the sewer line found with sewer video camera (C) Daniel Friedman Lee Shields

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.

Here is a brief VIDEO of SEWER CAM in OPERATION examining the drain line above. [74 MB .mp4 file]

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.

Damaged blocked sewer pipe at a Seattle WA building (C) Daniel Friedman & Lee ShieldsRoots 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.

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.

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.

Where to Buy or Rent a Drain & Sewer Video Inspection Camera

RABCO sewer line inspecition camera with rollers - at

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.


Septic or Sewer Line Articles


Continue reading at SEWER LINE CLOGS & DAMAGE or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.





Or see PLANTS & TREES OVER SEPTIC SYSTEMS - a common cause of clogged or damaged sewer or septic piping failures


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