You have found the perfect home, you are ready to write the offer and now all the questions start to come up. What happens next and how much time do you have? In California the standard purchase contract defaults to a 17 day contingency period for inspections. It is pretty much understood by most buyers to hire a Home Inspector, however what does a home inspector check or more importantly what does the inspector not check. They do not do a visual inspection of the sewer main. Especially on older homes this is becoming a mandatory item.
The main sewer line on most homes runs from the front of the house to the street and connects to the city main. Every house is different so the location coming out the front of the house is different. On older homes the main is typically made out of clay pipe and sometimes a product called orangeburg. Clay sewer line is sturdy but the connection points for each section of pipe is vulnerable to roots and even the pipe itself is porous and susceptible for roots to attach. Clay sewer line can function for decades without any root problems, it all depends on what trees and shrubs homeowners have planted on that property over the years. Orangeburg is a nightmare and will need to be replaced. Orangeburg is a product made from wood pulp and tar. I have actually seen orangeburg on a sewer inspection and when the camera went down the line, the pipe was no longer round, it was flattening out. The good news is that orangeburg was used up through the 1970s and was not all that common. It can be found in Simi Valley and the west San Fernando Valley and just about anywhere homes were built in the 1970s and before, but again not all that common. The best pipe is ABS plastic pipe and if you have your sewer main replaced this is what the plumbing contractors will put in. Older homes did not have a clean out placed in the front yard, so when the sewer is being replaced it is a good idea to add the clean out for future maintenance.
If you are considering purchasing a home you need a seasoned advocate in your corner who understands these issues and has experience with these issues. This is where I excel over other Real Estate Agents. When buying an older home it’s better to know the condition of the sewer so you don’t get stuck with sewer repairs by missing this important inspection.