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Sewer Line Inspection – What You Need To Know


A proper sewer line inspection helps to maintain sewer and sewer drain lines, and requires several methods and a sewer pipe cleaning schedule to keep the pipe system structurally sound and functional. The first line of defense is a sewer line inspection using a sewer inspection camera.

Here are a series of events and actions that can help you maintain a healthy sewer drain line.



Sewer RoddingRodding is commonly used to open a stopped or clogged sewer drain line.


Metro Rooter Sewer RodderMetro Rooter Sewer Rodder

The rodding equipment comprises of rodding machine, cutting head and cables. Depending on the application different cutting heads address different types of drain lines and types of sewers. A cutting head is attached to the end of the cable that is inserted into the sewer or the drain line. The cables are sectional and come in a variety of lengths and diameters for different types of blocked sewer. The rodding machine has a motor and clutch that spin the cables and cutting head at low speed and but high torque.


Sewer Rodder Cutting HeadThe cutter head is fed by cable through the sewer line and the cable spins and snares the debris.



Sewer Jetter

Sewer Jetter at WorkJetting is high-pressure water that is used to scour and open clogged sewer drain lines.

The water jetter hose delivers pressurized water between 2000 to 6000 PSI, cutting through dirt, organic debris, oil, grease and small root  fibers. A water jetter is used to service restaurants and auto garages, where grease from kitchens and oil from cars cakes the inner drain line. Rodding can open up a grease coated sewer line through an augering motion but cannot entirely wash away the grease as well as a high pressure sewer jetter. Another sewer line inspection may be required after each operation.

Sewer Line Inspection Via Camera

Ridgid SeeSnake microReel® Sewer Line Inspection CameraRidgid SeeSnake® microReel Sewer Line Inspection Camera

Sewer inspection cameras are used to find and locate problem areas in the sewer line. They typically inspect sewer lines 4 to 8 inches in diameter. A camera head is attached to a fiber optic line that is pushed through the sewer line. The head of the camera has an illuminated LED light source for the camera lens. A sewer inspection camera is unable to see underwater due to limited visibility. The camera operator locates the problem area in the sewer pipe and a transmitter embedded in the head of the sewer camera sends a signal to the operator, locating the area above ground. Locates are not always possible due to underground cable, gas, sprinkler, electric, telephone, and other systems that throw off the sewer depth sensor and accuracy.


Avoid using chemicals that contains acid or a base such as Liquid Plumber or Drano causing pipe damage and making your job more difficult, time-consuming and more expensive. Only professionals have access to the best and most appropriate chemicals for each type of blocked sewer.

There are four main types of chemicals for each application:

1Bathroom and tub drains
Bathroom drains are clogged by soap scum and hair especially gel type soaps should be avoided because of the greater buildup of scum. A chemical called Rossite creates heat that melts the soap scum and releases the stuck hair down the drain line. Openwide breaks down the proteins in hair. These two chemicals are used for preventive maintenance for sewer drain cleaning.

2Roots in sewer line

Rootx Sewer CleaningRoot-x is a two-part chemical comprised of a nonsystemic root killer and a delivery system. The nonsystemic root killer kills the roots and not the tree or shrub. The delivery system is a foaming agent that carries the root killer through the whole interior of the pipe and to the roots.

Copper sulphate is also used however it will only kill roots that extend to the bottom of the sewer line leaving the mass of root untreated. Copper sulphate also kills bacteria, molds and fungus that decay the dead roots in a sewer line but still leaves the dead roots behind causing another blocked sewer requiring another sewer line inspection.

Copper sulphate is used as a wood preservative for fence posts and telephone poles therefore treating roots only makes them stay longer

3Kitchen sinks
Most clogged kitchen lines are caused by a buildup of grease and incorrect use of a garbage disposer. Grease builds up along the walls of the drain lines and eventually cause the stoppage. Grease is one of the most difficult elements to remove and may require several rodding operations to be successful. However chemicals are the most successful grease removers especially Bio Clean and PT4 that liquefies grease.

4Septic and sewer lines
Sewer drain cleaning chemicals such as Bio waste eats up any buildup of sewage waste and keep roots clear from accumulating in the debris.

Most chemicals are combined with power rodding for preventative maintenance.

Sewer Line Inspection via Sewer Clean Out

A sewer clean out is an access point installed in the waste piping system allowing access for rodding maintenance. Homes built after 1980 all have a sewer clean out installed in the home. Most homes have a 4 inch diameter sewer line exiting the house that transitions to a 6 inch diameter line outside underground which makes this transition point the best sewer cleanout location. The 6 inch diameter access point allows a 6 inch diameter cutter to clean the 6 inch diameter sewer line.

Sewer Line Inspection via Sewer CleanoutSewer Line Inspection via Sewer Cleanout

The main benefits of having a sewer cleanout outside are:

  • Rodding work does not require protective tarps outside
  • Rodding operations are easier and quicker to perform outside because equipment does not have to be brought into the home.
  • In the case that the home has an overhead sewer, it must be slowly drained before removing the cleanout cap.


Rodding maintenance

Preventative rodding maintenance schedule is usually determined by past information. If there is a clogged sewer once a year, then rodding every 7 to 9 months may help. However if continuous sewer blockages happen there is a more serious problem that needs to be addressed.

Sewer Line Inspection Reveals That Trenching and Excavation is Required

As a last resort, excavation may have to be performed when:

  • Rodding does not open the sewer line
  • Rodding cables or a sewer inspection camera have become ensnared in the sewer line due to excessive debris
  • Sewer clean out is installed to allow for more safer, effective and less liability for personal property damage during rodding
  • To repair a sewer line break
  • To replace a broken sewer line

During the sewer line inspection with a camera accurate locations of underground utilities must be determined prior to any digging. Trenching and excavation can be performed either by hand or by hydraulic excavation equipment. New hydro excavator  or  vacuum excavation technology that is non-destructive can now access crowded underground utilities quickly, efficiently without damaging the utilities.


Related article: Tree Roots in Sewer Line - How Professionals Kill Roots In Sewer Lines

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