How Sewer Line Pipe Scoping Works with Actual Video Footage

Today, we’re going to be talking about sewer line backups. I’m going to walk you through a job I did recently where there was a main line sewer backup in the front yard. There was a set of cleanouts readily available. When we took the cap off, we could see right away that the line was holding water.

We were there to clean the line out and run our camera through the sewer line to see what caused the plug. This gave us a better understanding of how to solve the problem. I’ll walk you through this procedure step by step. 

Checking the Pipe with the Sewer Cable

First, we ran our sewer cable down the line. My assistant pushed it in as far as he could then we hooked our machine up to the cable. This cable has 15-foot sections. Because the sewer cable would stop where the line was backed up, we’d know exactly how far from that cleanout the plugged area was. When we then ran the camera down the line, we’d know where to look for the problem.

Running the Camera Through the Pipe

Next, we ran the camera down the line. We could see on our display screen exactly what the camera was looking at and we also recorded it.  

We sent the camera down the cleanout and the plug was very close. We found an elbow in the line that had a bunch of stuff in it. There was some hair, and we could see some buildup on the right-hand side. That pipe was only about half open.

Because the plugged area was on an elbow, we weren’t sure if we could get our bigger sewer cable head (it’s bigger than our straight head) through it, but we thought we would try it again. Then we’d run the camera again and see if we made any progress.

Instead, we decided to leave the camera in place and run water down the sewer line to see if we got any improvement from running the water. We found that the line was still holding water because there was still a half-backup on the bottom of the pipe. 

So we went ahead with running the sewer cable again. After that, we would look and see if we made any more progress after running the sewer machine one more time.

Checking the Pipe with Sewer Cable Again

So on our second try, we did get past that point that we did not get past the first time. Actually, we got through it with a bigger head than the straight head. Next, we pulled the cable out and ran the camera one more time to see if it looked better. 

The next time we pulled the sewer cable out, we pulled out a lot of roots and that was the main plug right at that elbow. We were still going to see if we could get our camera past that blockage point but the roots were the problem.

Running the Camera Through the Pipe Again

For the second time, we ran the camera to see if we made any progress. At first we found the elbow that was holding water and it had a bunch of buildup on the side. Now that the buildup was gone, there were just a few roots showing at the very top of the pipe. All the roots that we pulled out seemed to be the cause of the plug.

We then ran the camera farther down the line. We got to another elbow that I didn’t see any problems with. 

The pipe was just a three-inch line. Four-inch lines are better than three-inch lines as far as having backup problems, but everything else in the line looked clear.

Because we cleared all those roots out, I didn’t recommend that we dig up and make a repair at that time. We decided to see how long it would take until it backed up again.

Then I got to a point where the pipe transitioned to what is called black ABS pipe. Then it transitioned again to cast iron. Now, that is a very old pipe and it looked pretty interesting, but I didn’t see any breaks, just a few cockroaches. We kept going. I saw a little something, but nothing much. Whatever it was, it was nothing to be concerned about.

We finally reached the drop. By this time, we were in the center of the street where that individual house line would drop down. Because it was a three-inch line, I didn’t think I could get past that point. But this line dropped straight down into the main sewer line. I didn’t see anything other than the fact that this is a very old pipe. I saw no reason to recommend doing any repairs at this time.

Basically, that’s the process we do on sewer line backups. It’s always wonderful for them to have cleanouts. If we have to go off a roof, it’s very hard to get the camera all the way down to the main line in the street. So if you don’t have cleanouts, we always recommend our customers put in cleanouts. But this line seemed to be in good shape and they probably won’t have any problems for quite a while.

We respond to calls like these quickly and always work to resolve a problem as economically as possible for our customer. If you have a sewer backup or other plumbing problem you need handled promptly, give us a call at (505) 243-1227.