Water, Sewer, and Drainage Plumbing

Clogged Pipes

Plugged Pipes = Pricey Problem!

While spending a beautiful afternoon in my garden, I was watching EPCOR (City of Edmonton Drainage Branch) dig up the road in front of my house. Hard water deposits over the years had almost completely blocked the existing water pipe.

The EPCOR guys said that in older neighbourhoods, you also have to watch for plugged sewer/drainage pipes and constricted water pipes, . Those pipes leak and tree roots love to find a leak and grow into the pipe, sometimes resulting in a total blockage.

EPCOR takes responsibility for replacement of the water pipe and clearing out the roots or installing a new sewer/drainage pipe at their cost. However, they only replace the pipes that run from their main pipe to the property line. Blockages don’t stop at the property line. Not surprisingly, you are responsible for blockages from your property line to your home (the homeowner’s portion). Big ticket items like this could be very, very expensive!

Consider exploring the issue of blocked or constricted water and sewage pipes before agreeing to purchase any property, especially in older areas. Why? Because the seller has no responsibility for replacing or repairing these pipes unless you discover that there is an issue and you make/negotiate for the seller to repair these pipes prior to going unconditional on your purchase.

What can you do about constricted, leaky, or blocked pipes when buying a house?

I checked with the City of Edmonton’s Drainage Branch, and members of the public can do a search of EPCOR records. That free search will tell you whether or not the Drainage Branch has ever repaired or replaced their pipes. The Drainage Branch doesn’t know whether the homeowner has replaced pipes from the property line into the property. However, if the Drainage Branch has ever done any work on their portion of the pipes, there’s a good chance that the same kind of work would need to be done on the homeowner’s portion.

This would be a great search to do in any older area of Edmonton. The same principles would apply in other municipalities. Contact your local municipality for the process.

Be careful. If your search reveals that no work has ever been done on water, sewer, or drainage lines, that doesn’t mean there are no problems. If you want better certainty, there are companies who specialize in this type of inspection. They can run a video camera through water, sewer, and drainage pipes to check for blockages.

Discuss this potential problem with your home inspector. Has s/he checked for blockages? Does s/he think it’s an issue? What does s/he recommend?

Conclusion: Be aware of this potential problem. Explore the possibilities. Satisfy yourself as part of any home inspection before you remove contractual ‘subject to’ conditions, with respect to the status of the water, sewer, and drainage pipes in your new home or investment property.


If you’re buying property in Alberta, get yourself a lawyer who understands the ins and outs of municipal services vs. homeowner responsibility. Contact Barry now!

“Clogged Piped” image by UuMUfQ used under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0.