When purchasing a home, there are literally hundreds of details you need to check to ensure you are paying the right price for the home. While some repairs are not necessarily a bad thing, you should still know about them so you can factor into the cost of the home. While the condition of the sewer line is not something that will likely pop to the top of your list, it can cost you dearly if you end up having to replace not only the line, but also the landscaping around it.
Large Trees Close To The Line
The most common cause for blockages in sewer lines is tree roots. They can tell that there is water and nutrients nearby and they will do anything to get to them. The fact that the line is full of these things only make the situation worse. Once the roots make their way into the line, they will continue to grow and expand to soak up the moisture and nutrients until the line is completely blocked.
While a large tree near the line doesn't guarantee that there are already sewer line problems, it does mean that they will be in your future. It is best to assume that the cost of removing the tree, and possibly repairing the damaged line, will be part of the costs of owning that home within the next few years.
Extra Green Grass In Patches Near The Line
As mentioned, sewer lines, while unpleasant, contain lots of water and tasty nutrients that plants love to sink their roots into. While a tree has a root system deep enough to tap into the line directly, other plants have to wait for opportunity to take advantage of this bounty. When that opportunity knocks, the grass and surrounding plants get a chance to grow like crazy.
It is unlikely that the whole line will go at once, but it is entirely possible for it to start leaking without any obvious symptoms inside the house. When this happens, the grass above the leak is going to get extra green and lucious. If there are patches of grass above the line that can't be explained by shade trees or activity, there is a good chance that the line is leaking and you'll need to replace it once you get moved in.
Older Plumbing That Hasn't Been Replaced
Older homes used cast iron plumbing that just doesn't hold up with age. In fact, most cast iron plumbing has already been replaced as the pipes start to deform and leak. If the home you are looking at hasn't had it's plumbing updated in a few decades, than the job is likely going to fall on you next time you want to do a remodel.
There are two sections of pipe that will need to be replaced as soon as possible. The hot water lines will degrade more quickly because of the heating and cooling action of the pipes. The second is the sewer line. The chemicals in the sewage are rough on the pipes, and this will cause them to break down more quickly than in other areas. Fortunately, the PVC pipe you are replacing the cast iron with doesn't have this issue, so you shouldn't have to go through this process again as long as you own the home.
Hopefully you have invested in an inspection of your new home and are aware of all the current issues with the home. If not, it is up to you to ask about things like the condition of the sewer line. There is nothing worse than going through the stress of moving into a new home only to find sewage backing up into your new basement.