Should I pay $365 for a camera inspection?


Old 08-19-16, 09:40 AM
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Should I pay $365 for a camera inspection?

We moved into a 13-year old house last October. In the first week we were there, we had a plumbing disaster. Everything backed up into the house on a weekend and I called the only plumber I could get hold of. He turned out to be a shady character (confirmed by others after the fact -- his license wasn't even current). Long story short -- a tree root had managed to compromise the sewer line just outside the house, had nearly completely blocked it, and eventually caused it to break apart -- right after we took possession. I made an impulsive decision to let him fix it, for which he (over)charged me $3,000. The previous owners claim to have had no indication that anything was amiss.

Flash forward to the present. In the time we have been in the house, two minor but worrisome issues have surfaced. First, we have frequent issues with the commodes not always flushing completely when there is solid waste present. It happens maybe 25% of the time when you try to flush solid waste. 2 of the 3 commodes in the house do this more frequently than the 3rd in the mater bath. When this happens, it sometimes goes away if you let it sit a few minute ans then flush again. Other times, it has to be plunged.

The other issue is that we occasionally smell just a light whiff of sewer odor in the master bath. Also, we occasionally detect a stronger odor in the basement bathroom and adjacent utility room where the below-grade ejector is located. It seems to be properly sealed as far as I can tell.

So, this week I called in a reputable plumbing company (top scores on Angie's list) to check it out. My theory was that one of the vent stacks was obstructed. They guy they sent out was just there to do an estimate. But he did go up on the roof and took a look at the vents and pronounced them in good working order.

Then he told me that the course of action he recommended was to have a crew come out and pull each commode and inspect the entire system with a camera. For this diagnostic, my cost will be $365 for about an hour's work and use of the camera. That's not to fix anything -- just to (maybe) figure out what the problem is.

So I guess I have two questions: 1) is this a fair price and 2) is this a good idea?

I think if not for the earlier incident, I would just choose to live with the slight inconvenience. But in light of what happened before I'm worried that the first guy missed something or maybe even screwed something up.

Any ideas and suggestions would be much appreciated.
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Old 08-19-16, 10:00 AM
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What did the first guy do to fix the problem?

Considering that a service call alone is usually $75-$100. Then they have the work of pulling and reinstalling the toilets and the camera work I'd say that's a fair price.

If you already know where the problem is then a camera inspection is wasted money. After all if you are pretty certain that tree roots are getting into your main drain you don't need a camera to tell you. But if you have no idea what the problem is or where it might be then the cost of a camera inspection is much less than digging up the yard especially if the problem is not where they dig.
Old 08-19-16, 10:25 AM
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I think camera inspections are quite useful, especially for 'odd' problems.

It will help you determine whether you can get away with a snake with a root cutter, or if your main sewer line needs to be replaced. Also, the whole line, or just a section.

I highly doubt it's a vent issue (as your plumber mentioned). Almost definitely a clog in some fashion or another.
Old 08-19-16, 10:50 AM
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Thanks for the replies above.

I know for a fact that the first guy replaced the sewer pipe at at the location of the clog / breakage. I saw it right after he dug it up and I insisted on seeing it after his repair and before he covered it back up. Also, it was inspected. So that much should be fine. And since we have since had it landscaped, I sure hope it doesn't have to be dug back up again!

What I don't know is whether there was another issue that he missed. Or something that he did wrong.

I guess I already knew that I need to go ahead with this. But it's nice to get other opinions. I'm starting to second guess my own decisions after making a lot of bad decisions with the first guy.

Thanks for the advice!
Old 08-19-16, 11:00 AM
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When my sister bought her house she had a camera inspection performed. The plumber was not willing to go into the crawlspace looking for a clean-out fitting but was going to pull a toilet for the entry point.

Pulling the toilet was free but re-setting it would be a $125 fee! She relayed this information to me over the telephone. I told her that I would reset the toilet as all it took was a $2.00 wax gasket.

If this guy is going to pull multiple toilets AND reset them after doing the camera run, all for $365.00 then I strongly urge you to accept the price. This will give you a video record of not only the piping out of the house but INSIDE the house as well. As I recall the inspection that my sister had done was $300.00 and it ONLY went from the ground floor toilet, through the exit piping to the city sewer.

Also, what make and model are your poor flushing toilets? Some builder grade toilets are barely adequate and don't flush well from the first day of installation, even in the best piped systems.

In my opinion, any sewer job that entails digging and inspections is likely to cost far more than the owner wants to pay. That is just a fact. From your limited description I doubt that you were severely gouged with that price.
Old 08-19-16, 12:14 PM
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a tree root had managed to compromise the sewer line
two minor but worrisome issues have surfaced.
Your new problem is the same as the old.
Main sewer line is most likely severely clogged by a belly in the pipe or roots.

Some fixtures will drain almost normally and others will back up. It can lead to severe back ups with actual black sewer water.

Usually the drain guys will try to pass a cutter through and see what diameter can pass. That might only be a temporary fix.

If a belly is suspected it's best to get a camera in there so you know how many feet of pipe needs replaced.

$360.00 is almost exactly what I would expect here.
Old 08-22-16, 08:43 AM
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Your new problem is the same as the old.
Main sewer line is most likely severely clogged by a belly in the pipe or roots.
Yikes. Now I'm worried. Going to call the plumber back today.
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