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Hydrostatic Plumbing Test

Testing the integrity of your sewage line is an important component to home inspections since sewer line repairs can be very costly.  Most municipalities will only accept responsibility of repair for the portion of the sewer line that is between the “cleanout hole” and where the line connects to the main sewer line at the street.

There may be multiple steps in the process, but PrimeFirst Inspections specializes in the very first step: identifying if there is a problem requiring additional investment by you.  If you are a homeowner having this performed as part of a pre-listing inspection, this is critical since this will undoubtedly be an issue raised during future inspections prior to close.

cast iron pipes in home

If you are considering purchasing the home being inspected, you obviously will need to know if this issue exists.  And it may be a deal-breaker for your lender without proper remediation by the seller.

The Process

The process for testing the effectiveness and integrity of your sewage pipes is called a Hydrostatic Pressure Test.  Essentially, we are putting a stopper in your sewer line, filling the pipes with water, and then monitoring for any change in the water level.

Here’s how this works . . .

An inflatable rubber ball is placed at the cleanout hole for your main sewer line.  You can identify this point in your sewer line because of the round, white plug coming out of the ground a couple of inches.

If you do not know where this is, usually the cleanout is somewhere near the property line and extending from the corner of your house to the street.  In some neighborhoods, the sewage line may actually be in the rear of your home due to slope of the land.  Remember, waste exiting your property must run downhill.

Once this rubber ball is in place, the sewage line is filled with water up to the level of the foundation.  And then we wait . . . about 15 minutes is all it takes to determine if the water level is staying constant or if it is dropping.

Homes with cast iron sewage lines are more likely to have this type of problem due to the corrosion that has eaten away at the walls of the pipe.  If the water level does not fall, then you are good to go.  But if the water level does fall, then this is just the beginning of your journey.

What if the Water Drops?

Quite frankly, this is not good.

At this point, we can recommend a reputable local plumbing company to perform a more thorough inspection of your plumbing.  They will insert the inflatable stopper at various points in the pipe and repeat this process of filling with water and then monitoring the pressure of the water.

This process is repeated multiple times, each time further narrowing the area of the pipe where the leak is occurring.

Once they have sufficiently narrowed down the section of pipe that is losing pressure, they will then use a video camera to go into the pipe and review the extent of the damage.  There are certainly varying degrees of degradation, and the damage to your pipe may not require emergency fixing due to the placement and magnitude of damage.  However, the plumbing company is in the most experienced position to provide you with a range of options and educate you about the repair process so that you can make the wisest decision for this major investment.

corroded cast iron sewer pipes

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