Water Main and Sewer Inspections for New Homeowners

You recently purchased a house and have become aware that the sewer or water main is not functioning properly. This seems to have become more of a common issue as many realtors are not bringing these items to the closing table.

Recently in Brooklyn a family of four moved into a newly renovated brownstone. Within 48 hrs. they have become aware that the main sewer line was not functioning properly. They had not become aware of the issue during the renovation because the water usage was at a minimum.

Now that four people were utilizing the showers, washing machine, sinks etc., the sewer line could not handle this amount of flow and resulted in a sewage backup in their basement. First it is important to understand what is causing the issue and hire someone for a camera inspection. A camera inspection should be part of standard inspection process when purchasing a home and every realtor should insist this is completed before closing.

Sewer camera inspection Queens

Video inspection

Sewer camera inspection Manhattan

The findings of the broken sewer line included a broken pipe under the sidewalk and under the roadway. These two obstructions were not allowing sewage to flow as needed and resulted in the sewer backups. Due to multiple breaks throughout the pipe, it made most sense for the new homeowner to replace the pipe from the street, to the building.

Sewer installation in progress

Sewer installation in progress

In Manhattan a couple purchased their first piece of property and were sure to have done their due diligence before closing on the house. In this case the new homeowners were smart enough to have built in a contingency to their agreement, for any broken pipes within their first month of living.

What they didn’t realize was that their neighbor’s house shared a block and lot with them many years ago and they never had their own sewer installed when the property was sub- divided. 

The couple was now responsible for having a new sewer line installed from inside their house, out to the street. This ends up being a more detailed and costly job than replacing an existing sewer, there is a great deal of internal plumbing work and inspections to be completed along with the routine piping. 

Unfortunately the contingency did not cover the homeowners in this case and they had to come out of pocket for the new sewer connection.

Digging for new sewer connection

Digging for new sewer connection

Inspecting for a lead pipe seems to be part of the routine process these days and is a common factor leading to a delay in closings. The realtor and inspector for this Queens house had not worked in NYC and were used to all of their homes being built with PVC pipe. For this reason they never thought to inspect the water line and allowed their client to close on the new property with a lead pipe.

The interesting part is that the new owners only became aware of the lead water main after receiving a 3 day notice from the DEP, due to their water main leaking in the roadway.

Preparing tunnels for water main

Preparing tunnels for water main

The new pipe is installed

The new pipe is installed

The water main now had to be replaced on an emergency basis and at the cost of the new Queens homeowners. The work was completed in a timely fashion, within the three day period required by DEP.


If you have recently purchased a home or are considering purchasing a new home, it is important to consult with a licensed plumber who has experience with all potential water main or sewer problems. We at Harris understand the expense associated with purchasing a new home as well as the shock of having to spend thousands of dollars shortly after moving in. Contact Harris Water Main & Sewer Contractors with any questions or concerns.

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