5 Different Types of Pipe Inspection

Pipe inspection is an essential step for many home and property owners, whether they are trying to get to the root of a plumbing problem or just treating it as a standard procedure step for a larger process (selling a home, etc).

However, different buildings have different structures and pipe locations. This means that you can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to assessing and inspecting them. Here’s a closer look at the different types of pipe inspection that various contractors use to examine pipe systems.

The Types Of Pipe Inspection You Need To Know

So, with this said, what are some of the main types of pipe inspection procedure that you have on the table?

Visual Inspection:

In many ways, this is a stroke of luck for both the client and the plumber if a visual inspection is all that’s needed to get the job done. The process is just what the name implies: the plumber takes a visual look at the piping to see if there are any outstanding issues or problems that could become outstanding issues (small blockages, deteriorating pipe sections, etc). Of course, this only really works if the piping is clearly exposed and accessible (like in a basement, for example). As a result, this is the first choice for inspection if  possible, but that’s likely not the case.

types of pipe inspection
Photo By Phovoir

Push Cameras:

Where visual inspection isn’t possible, the next easiest option for a pipe inspection is using a push camera. A push camera, or pushcam, is essentially a camera attached to the end of a long cord. The camera is then pushed through the pipe being inspected, and a live video feed is streamed through the cord to the plumber. What this allows the plumber to do is get a visual look inside a pipe that they wouldn’t be able to access otherwise. However, there are some limitations. For example, you can’t manipulate or do complicated movements inside the pipe. So, say there’s a branch line in the pipe section that needs to be inspected. A push camera can’t do that.

Lateral Launch Cameras:

Push cameras may be limited, but that doesn’t mean these more in-depth/complex pipe systems don’t need inspections. If that applies to you and you need to go beyond the mainline pipe to branching lines, lateral launch cameras are what you need. Lateral launch systems start by inserting a camera into the main line, similar to a push camera. Where it differs is when that camera reaches the branching line. At this point, it adjusts its position, then launches a camera into the branching line. The plumber then has a look into the secondary area.

Robotic Crawlers:

Modern problems require modern solutions, and solo robotic crawlers are the next stage of pipe inspection. To give you an idea, unlike the cameras, the plumber doesn’t physically manipulate anything during inspection. Instead, all the work is done before anything goes inside the pipe. A crawler is programmed with the parameters for the inspected pipe, then acts on its own. The plumber doesn’t need to provide any instructions; they just look at the video feed. When the inspection is over, the crawler takes itself back to the end of the pipe for retrieval.

Sonic Location Tests:

While this option isn’t as applicable to most situations as the other four on this list, it does bear mentioning. In some cases, the wall thickness may mean that a plumber would potentially have to tear down an entire wall just to determine the source of a leak. Sonic location testing provides a method to at least avoid this unless it is absolutely necessary. This is accomplished by using specialized machinery to detect the ultrasonic sounds associated with a leak. If done correctly, this allows the plumber to do as minimally invasive a job as possible to fix the leak. However, you want to make sure you invest in the best machinery possible if you want to go this route. Some have reported substandard results from cheaper machines.

With all of these options in mind, it is important to note that the main priorities that a lot of your clients will have when it comes to a pipe inspection are:

  1. Speed
  2. Effectiveness in providing a visual inspection for pipe areas.
  3. Non-destructiveness. In some cases, the affected piping may be behind a wall or other structure, and clients would rather not have that taken down for an inspection.
types of pipe inspection
Photo By Parilov

Signs of Trouble

Many property owners that call for a pipe inspection aren’t necessarily doing it because there’s an acute issue that needs fixing. Many, instead, are having this done as a preventative service on a recurring basis.

In this case, it falls on you as a plumbing contractor to know the potential signs of trouble and communicate them. Even if it doesn’t affect their plumbing now, it may later, and the better you communicate this, the more trustworthy you will be.

So, what are some of the common issues?


Roots are some of the biggest problems when it comes to the main sewer lines. While residents with large trees nearby will likely be a bit more proactive here, a pipe can be infested with roots even if there aren’t any trees around. This is due to the combination of moisture and nutrients in a lot of drain lines.


Sometimes, though, there are blockages from non-plant matter, like something being disposed of incorrectly.

General deterioration: 

To give you an idea, cast iron has a lifespan of around 50 to 60 years. This means that an older home that never had a piping replacement may be pushing that number. Old pipes mean more risk for cracks and leaks.

types of pipe inspection
Photo By IanRedding

Incident-related damage:

Sometimes, after an accident or natural disaster event, people may want a pipe inspection to determine the scale of damage to their plumbing, if any.

Ultimately, the more types of pipe inspection tests that you can provide, the more clients you can service. As a result, any plumbing contractor business should work to make sure they have all the tools necessary to properly service their client base.

How eSUB Can Help

eSUB is a cloud-based project management platform built especially for subcontractors. It seamlessly integrates with leading construction software systems so you can easily switch from your current document process to a cloud-based system to upgrade your construction project management process.

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