What to Know About Seattle’s Sewer Lines When Buying a Home

Most of Seattle’s homes are served by old sewer lines. With time the sewer lines start to experience issues, anything from tree roots growing into them to cracks and holes that let debris in to cause back-ups, worst case filling your basement in sewage.

When purchasing a home in Seattle I recommend a sewer scope. The inspection costs about $225 – $250 and is well worth the money. The inspector sends special equipment down the sewer main and makes a video of the sewer line. As he is making the video he can view it instantly and note any issues. My preferred company for this inspection is Hydrophysics, they do a great job and even give you microwave popcorn to enjoy while you watch your video.

A common element in the report is tree roots growing into the line. This is not always a problem, usually comes with a recommendation of using a regular treatment to kill the roots. Sometimes larger problems are found, cracks or holes from larger roots, general failure of the line due to it’s age or recently I had a buyer find that the home’s shallow sewer line ran into the neighbor’s yard and the neighbor had likely made a hole while gardening.

How Much Does it Cost to Fix a Broken Sewer Line in Seattle?

The first reason this inspection is so important is that you likely will not know you have a problem until there is a major back-up. Way cheaper to fix the problem now than also have a clean up issue on your hand if sewage backs up into your home. The problem can be minor, like the shallow sewer line broken by the neighbor – about $1,000 to $2,000 to repair because there was very little labor for digging required. The worst case, so far, that I have experienced in my business was a home in West Seattle that my clients were buying that ended up with about $36K in work. We negotiated the seller to pay for this. The reason the bill was so much is because the break was in the street where it had to be closed off and bus traffic had to be re-routed, the street also had to be restored. The point being, it all depends on where the problem is located, what street the home is located on, how deep the sewer line is and of course the extent of the work needed.

What Part of My Seattle Sewer Line is the City’s Responsibility?

Hydrophysics also provides you with a map of the street’s sewer line system. You can find it yourself on the City’s side sewer maps. First, take a look and see if you share a sewer line with your neighbor, this is very common. You are responsible for the line up to the connection with your neighbor. From the connection out to the street you are both responsible. Where the City takes over is at the connection with the City sewer line. Even though your sewer line reaches into the street, you are responsible for the entire line all the way up to the connection. You can read the City’s side sewer line brochure for homeowners for more information. You may ask, what if a problem is found right at the connection? I just had this happen, it still stands unresolved but I’ll fill you in on the details in couple days. In the meantime, if you have any questions about sewer scopes or sewer lines in Seattle you can always call me (206) 412 4663 and I’ll do my best to get you answers.