What is the true condition of my sewer lines? Is this normal for this type of material and its age? Was the type of material used proper for this location? Are there aspects that are not proper such as incorrect access, improper size, etc.? How will I know if a serious problem will creep up at a later time?
In commercial sites, chemicals have often been poured down the lines that can cause deterioration at an advanced rate.
Problems can also arise when the building or site has been vacant for any length of time. This can be an issue due to the lack of flowing water. Sometimes the constant flow of water keeps things moving and no apparent issues surface. The lack of flowing water can allow sediment to solidify and cause backups. It also allows fine roots that may normally be knocked off by the flowing water to grow and become obstructions.
Just the change of use for a site can cause issues. The new owner is using the underground system in different ways than the old owner.
Here is an example that illustrates why, when we tell you to have a professional sewer line check done, we mean it:
I recently got a call from a client who is having extreme “issues” with his underground sewer line system. It was backing up into the interior courtyard of the complex of buildings he purchased. He had bought the property back in January but had just moved in. The past owner was slowly moving over into his new facility and had been using this one the last few months for storage only. The site was originally built in the early 1950’s. This means the sewer lines are almost 60 years old. The average useful life of cast iron sewer lines is roughly 40– 80 years depending on the material used, who made it and what has been poured down the lines.
He had experts come out to determine what the cause of the back up was. After extensive investigation it was determined that the system was improperly installed originally and it was going to cost 10’s of thousands of dollars to fix. The previous owner claims no knowledge of this problem. He may very well have not known of any problem or any unusual condition. The system apparently worked for many years.
I asked my client if he had the sewer-line internal camera work done as I had recommended in my original inspection report. He rather sheepishly said he had not.
Following our advice to do so would have been very cheap insurance. The risk/reward ratio is so high that these inspections are obviously money very well spent whether this is a commercial site or a multi-family site. The amount of potential grief and agony this can save you is amazing.
We may recommend this type of inspection even for new buildings. The reason is because many times there was an old building on the site that was torn down and the new hookups are put into the old lines, whether intentional or not.
Another reason we recommend new lines are looked at is because we, in California are in earthquake country and it does not take much movement to separate a line underground. Also new buildings settle and even a small amount of settlement can disrupt the connections underground. You won’t ever know this happened unless it gets checked out professionally.
At Commercial Real Estate Inspectors, our professionals and unique RISK Assessment℠ will help you understand the condition of your property BEFORE you purchase it.