This is a question that always gets answered during a home inspection. If it can’t be answered, further evaluation is recommended.
This is especially important on older homes, because with older homes sewer scoping is going to be recommended and access to the drain is important for this special inspection. Sometimes the clean-outs are so inaccessible the sewer scoping company will simply remove a toilet to scope the lines. This usually results in an up-charge for the inspection, so having an accessible clean-out is a good idea.
As part of the initial-contact phone call, I will always want to know the age of the home. For me, any home built prior to 1960 is going to get an automatic recommendation for a sewer scope. Homes that were built prior to 1960 have a pretty high percentage of problems in my area. In light of this I will make this recommendation right on the phone to the buyer and then they will usually try to schedule the sewer scope for the same time I am going to be there. This kills two birds with one stone so to speak and prevents delays in the inspection contingency period.
Houses on steep inclines also get this recommendation, as do houses built in areas of known geological settlement/shifting.
Clean-out caps come in all shapes and sizes from wood, to cast iron, to brass, to plastic.
They can be missing or damaged.
They can be “capped” creatively.
When they are missing they are obvious egress locations for rodents in and out of the sewer.
Because people find them unsightly they often get walled-over, or made inaccessible in a variety of other ways—even buried in dirt.
This one is perhaps the most “interesting” inaccessible clean-out I have found.
Of course the concrete can be chipped away—but most likely the sewer scoping company will opt for removal of the toilet.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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