Scary Cracks

It’s Halloween, so I want to talk about things that can be scary: cracks. We all know that houses move and produce cracks, even new houses, but I want to talk about cracks that are scary. The cracks that you’re looking at in the first picture were produced by moisture from a deteriorated waste pipe that caused expansive soils beneath a slab-on-grade house to swell and move the house—one might even say, naturally. However, this movement could have been predicted on the outside by fissures in the soil, shown below, that are typical of expansive soil. The moral of the story is this, make sure that you’re knowledgeable about the soils in the areas that you inspect, and if you see any evidence of movement—even repaired stress fractures, recommend a second opinion. In addition, ALWAYS recommend that sewer pipes be video-scanned. Happy Halloween everyone.

Always do–always have. Several have been found to have become completely separated under the house structure or in a difficult area in the yard. Gives the buyer something to think about!!

Do you have standard wording for your sewer pipe video-scan advice? Mine says the following but I’m open to suggestions:

I actually have a fairly long narrative that prints without being selected and describes the many different waste pipes relative to their age, and how my evaluation is confined to specific fixtures, sinks, toilets, etc. Then, I select from several other narratives that identify specific waste pipe materials–cast-iron, glavanized, ABS, etc. Following this selection, I have 12 different and specific waste pipe narratives that I can select from and edit as I see fit. The first, and most commonly used, appears with “ACTION REQUIRED,” in bold, red, capitals, and reads:
If the sewer pipe has not been replaced or recently video-scanned, I strongly recommend that you arrange to have it scanned. It cannot be seen and its condition can only be inferred, and all sewer pipes can be compromised by corrosion, roots, and soil movement, and blockages are not only common but sometimes cause sewage to back-up into residences."

The unspoken message being, of course: “Don’t call me when the sewage hits the fan.”

Excellent…thanks Keith.

Keith, this is what I have, is this adequate or should I use yours. ??

Waste and drainpipes pipes are equally varied, and range from modern acrylonitrile butadiene styrene [ABS] ones to older ones made of cast-iron, galvanized steel, clay, and even a cardboard-like material that is coated with tar. The condition of these pipes is usually directly related to their age. Older ones are subject to damage through decay and root movement, whereas the more modern ABS ones are virtually impervious to damage, although some rare batches have been alleged to be defective. However, inasmuch as significant portions of drainpipes are concealed, I can only infer their condition by observing the draw at drains. Nonetheless, blockages will occur in the life of any system, but blockages in drainpipes, and particularly in main drainpipes, which I recommend having video-scanned. This could also confirm that the house is connected to the public sewer system, which is important because all private systems must be evaluated by specialists.

Marcel :):smiley:

It’s been my experience that hydro-static testing of sanitary sewer lines is more reliable than video scans. HS testing can pick up on leaks that you cannot see with video. If I had to choose between the two I’d go with HS. Many companies that do this type of work will use both methods however.

John, a hydro-static test is usually done on new construction before it gets tied in to the service sewer main or manhole.

Not all sewer laterals are accessible via a manhole.

If private, the sewer main has to be accessible on both ends so one can install a balloon ball on one end and have a ten foot head pressure riser or introduce 5 lbs. of air pressure.

So, I would imagine that these scenarios are hard to come by in existing conditions, and a video scan would most likely be prudent at that point.


Marcel :):smiley:

This one works, if only because I recognize it as being close to one that I wrote as part of the InspectVue Residential narrative library many years ago. Of course, I’m no longer associated with InspectVue, or PVS.

Thank you for your informative post.

Best wishes to both of you.

:)Keith, I’ll be darn if I remember where I got it, but is it adequate?

Part of my Inspection template anyways. ha. ha.

Marcel :):smiley:

Yes, of course.
It comes down an individual decision as to what works best. I never used to recommend a sewer scan, but I recommend them almost exclusively. Why? I do business in an extremely litigious state, have been the victim of frivolous lawsuits, and am no longer naive enough to think that truth and justice will prevail. Consequently, I shoot first and ask questions later.

Might be a regional thing. Most homes around here have a cleanout that’s accessible outside, that’s where they put the balloon. Many of the older homes do not however.

Thanks Keith, If I used the narrative and it came from you, I made a good choice.


Marcel ;):):smiley:

Regional, ah yes, I forgot you were in Texas. ha. ha.

Our pipes are eight feet down at the house usually, minimum of five feet.

No cleanouts outside. One inside and hope the discharge is in a manhole.

Mine is not. Field connected wye in the street. 45 years old and knock on wood nothing happens. Cast iron.

Marcel :):smiley: