Common Issues


The sewer drain line connects a structure containing plumbing fixtures such as a toilet, sink, shower, bathtub, etcetera to the city sewer connection in the street or a private septic system. These lines are underground and therefore not visible. The materials are not meant to last forever and have a limited life expectancy. Over time, pipes deteriorate and become brittle. They may be damaged, cracked or disconnected or offset by wear or ground movement. Blockages by tree roots are the most common cause of sewer line problems. Repairs to sewer line issues can range from $500 to $25,000 and up depending on the degree of damage to the sewer and damage to the structure due to back up. A video inspection is the only way to detect potential problems in the line before they become a disaster.



Yard drains are installed around a structure in a system designed to carry excess water away from the structure. These types of drains are also subject to the same types of damage and blockages as those sewer lines.

Tree Roots

The most common cause of blockages in sewer lines are tree roots. The tree roots are seeking water and the drains provide the perfect condition for their growth. The necessary oxygen, water and nutrients are present for the roots to grow and fill the full extent of the pipes, causing damage and blockage, which if gone unnoticed, can lead to extensive destruction of the structure above.

Other Blockages

Dirt and debris are also a potential source of blockage to sewer lines and yard drains. Objects such as balls, water bottles, toys, etcetera can often find their way into yard drains when covers are not present or appropriately installed.

Wear and Tear

The materials used to construct the sewer lines do have a limited life expectancy. The pipes will become weak and brittle as the years pass. They can crack, break, develop offsets or disconnected joints due to ground movement, roots and other miscellaneous factors.

Seismic Activity / Ground Movement

Living in Southern California, earthquakes and ground movement are a common reoccurrence. These conditions affect structures and their components. The integrity of the sewer lines is affected by any type of ground movement, causing cracks, breaks or disconnected joints.

Orangeburg pipe (also known as “fiber conduit”)

Orangeburg pipe is bitumenized fiber pipe made from layers of wood pulp and pitch pressed together. It was used from the 1860s through the 1970s, when it was replaced by PVC pipe for water delivery and ABS pipe for drain-waste-vent (DWV) applications. Persons purchasing buildings should also be prudent in their pre-purchase investigations so that unexpected and unwanted expenses do not occur due to the presence of “Orangeburg” pipe. In the event the piping material within your prospective property is bituminous fiber pipe, commonly referred to as “Orangeburg”, the complete removal and replacement of all or part of the piping may be the only solution. Bituminous fiber piping systems have experienced numerous and continual failures over the years, and many systems have needed complete piping replacement. A camera scope inspection can assist in identifying the type of pipes that are currently in use for the structure, which will help to educate the buyer who can then make an informed decision.