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Robin Jade Conde

PODCAST: Sewer Inspections (with Istvan Zsako)

Founder of Zsako Home Inspections Inc., Istvan Zsako joins today’s show to talk about sewer inspections. 

Istvan is a fellow home inspector and entrepreneur from New Mexico, with over 22 years of experience in Home Building, Remodeling, and Home Maintenance. He shares how he got into sewer camera inspection and the training he underwent as well as the licensing requirements for home inspections. He highlights the necessary training required to effectively and efficiently inspect sewers.

Reuben asks about the worst stuff found during the sewer inspection. Istvan discusses the Orangeburg pipe and the use of wood pulp and tar that absorbs moisture and becomes distorted under pressure. He talks about the type of sewer pipes used in old and new homes and the common problems they see in the sewer lines. He discusses the right tools used in inspecting sewers such as the kind of camera and the length of cables. They also discuss pulling out and installing toilets when needed, changing gaskets, and caulking and sealing the toilet. 

Tessa inquires about the credentials that consumers have to look for when choosing a sewer inspector. Istvan shares that certification and mentorship with people who have the knowledge and experience is an advantage.

Istvan also talks about his book The Victory Mindset. He shares that he loves inspiring other people to develop their passion and drive to go after their dreams and live the lives they always wanted to live. To join Istvan’s sewer training, visit sewertraining.com

Send your questions and podcast topic request to podcast@structuretech.com.

 

TRANSCRIPTION

 

The following is a transcription from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it may be slightly incomplete or contain minor inaccuracies due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.

 

Bill Oelrich: Welcome, everyone, you’re listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich, alongside Tessa Murry, Reuben Saltzman, as always your three-legged stool coming to you from the Northland, talking all things houses, home inspections and anything else that’s rattling around in our brains. Welcome to today’s episode. Tessa, Reuben, good to see you.

 

Tessa Murry: Hello.

 

Reuben Saltzman: Good to see you, Bill.

 

BO: Yeah. Yeah.

 

RS: Welcome back.

 

BO: Yes, back in the hot seat.

 

RS: We had a shaky, shaky podcast last week.

 

TM: Our two-legged stool…

 

RS: Two-legged stool.

 

TM: Was a little rickety without you. [chuckle] The sign-off was not very smooth, I’ll just say that.

 

[chuckle]

 

BO: I imagine everything went just swimmingly, so you guys are hard critics. You’re tough on yourselves, I know. Yeah.

 

RS: Well, welcome back either way.

 

TM: Good to have you. Good to have you back.

 

BO: Alright. Alright. Well, let’s kinda get to the topic of the hour. And we have a guest today with us, a fellow home inspector, as I understand, entrepreneur, kind of serial entrepreneur, coming to us from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Is that correct? We have…

 

Istvan Zsako: Yeah, that’s right.

 

BO: Awesome. That voice you’re hearing in the background is Istvan Zsako, and Istvan owns a home inspection company, it’s Zsako Home Inspections. Is that correct? 

 

IZ: That is correct.

 

BO: Awesome, awesome. And I understand you and Reuben have recently met through IEB, Inspector Empire Builder, and you guys were at a conference together and got to know each other, and started spinning yarns about all the sewer inspecting that you do. And, Reuben, I’m gonna turn it over to you and kinda let you take it from here, but we’re gonna pick a brain today and learn a little bit about sewer inspecting.

 

RS: Yeah, well, Istvan and I were just talking about podcasts, and then he was saying, “Well, what do you use, have you ever tried Riverside?” And I said, “What’s Riverside?” And that’s what we are now using for our podcast, so if you notice a marked improvement in the audio quality, we can all thank Istvan for the suggestion. We’re using this instead of Zoom. And we’re still kind of trying it out, it’s… We’re having a little difficulty here and there getting our mics to work and our video to work. It seemed like Zoom just works. But we’re boring our audience with that. Istvan and I talked about…

 

BO: What’s different from any other podcasts we do? 

 

[chuckle]

 

RS: Right. But Istvan, I’m wondering if you could just start off. Tell us about your journey about starting off, you were a contractor, how did you get into home inspections, and what else are you doing besides home inspections? Give us a little bit of your timeline, your history.

 

IZ: Definitely, and thanks for having me, it’s such a pleasure to be able to be here with you guys and speak with your audience as well. I was doing construction for a long time, licensed contractor, and one day a buddy of mine came up to me and said, “Would you like to be a home inspector?” And I had no idea what that actually meant, but I said, “Yes.” [chuckle] It was a change, I’d been doing construction for a while, and construction… I was a trim carpenter, so I got to do some really specialty high-end stuff that was really cool, the things that we got to work with, working on multi-million dollar homes. And it was really rewarding and often very challenging, but I was looking for a change and wondering what would come after this. And it landed in my lap. I said, “Yes, what is it? What do I have to do?” He said, “Okay, I’ll train you. I just want you to go get a formal training, so that I don’t have to explain everything that we do, you have an idea of what we do, and then from there I’ll take over and keep training you.”

 

IZ: I was like, “Cool.” So I did a training with AHIT at that time, ’cause it was right up in Colorado, came back, and by the time I came back I had… Within less than 30 days, I had my license. Well, we’re not licensed here, but I had the training, I had my insurance, I had the business registered, I had bank accounts, emails, I was just ready to go and just hit the ground running. And so that’s what got me into it, and…

 

BO: Istvan, how many years ago was that? 

 

IZ: That was going on 12 years now.

 

RS: Okay, alright. And then what has been your journey with sewer inspections? 

 

IZ: Along the way, I saw that… I was at home inspections and there was this guy that I’d see often, he just did sewer, that’s all he did. He was a retired plumber, he just did sewer inspections. He didn’t even do repairs anymore, just inspections. And I always saw him around. People didn’t ask that much about it, but once a while I would get an inquiry, and I realized I could be doing that service. And why am I not doing that service? ‘Cause lots of times people think, “Well, people don’t want it.” And that’s not true. A lot of people want their sewers looked at. And I decided to get a training, which was okay. And I still had a lot of questions after my training. Got the camera, launched a service, and in the first year… I mean, I launched it like in April, so it took like a good month or two to get some traction, and by the end of the year I made over 40k with just doing that one service. And the thing that I realized in doing the service was, there’s a lot of sewer problems out there.

 

RS: Yeah.

 

IZ: And that’s where I was just surprised at how much there was. And talking with other people, a lot of people wanted to get into it and were curious about it, and they started flying out to go on ride-alongs with me. And that’s where I started to realize there is a need for a training, a really good training. ‘Cause the training I had, I was left with so much questions, I didn’t feel like I could even recommend it to somebody. And I decided to start putting something together. And the response has been really, really good. Last time I looked, I think I’ve already had somewhere about 150-160 home inspectors that I’ve gotten to train, and they’re out there doing sewer camera inspections.

 

TM: How long have you been doing this training, Istvan? 

 

IZ: Formally, sewer camera training, it’s been a year and a half.

 

TM: Okay. Do you have your own certification or do you offer certification? 

 

IZ: Yes, I do… It’s a certification, it’s not like a big educator, it’s a certification that they can carry for taking the class. Yes.

 

TM: Okay. What is that? I’m just curious. Like, are there certifications out there for people that do sewer inspections? 

 

IZ: There’s no licensing, there’s no regulation over it. There might be a rare area of a state or something that might have something written, but most of the time it’s not. I know Texas did require that it had to be a licensed plumber for a long time, and then where licensed home inspectors could start doing it. And I think it was about the license, they were a licensed industry, they were able to start doing it. So they were doing it.

 

TM: Okay.

 

BO: I thought Texas was one of those states where you could just do whatever you wanted? I mean, what are they regulating anything for? 

 

[laughter]

 

RS: Oh, I’ll tell you, Bill. I know a little bit about licensing in Texas and they are the worst. They’ve got the same type Texas real estate commission track, and they mandate what home inspectors reports need to look like. I mean, that’s the level of detail they go down to. I don’t think you’re gonna find a more heavily regulated state when it comes to home inspections outside of Texas. They are crazy.

 

TM: Surprisingly.

 

BO: Right. Sure is in conflict with the bravado of, “We’re an open and free to do whatever we want down here.”

 

TM: Well, certain things.

 

[chuckle]

 

RS: On the flip side of it, California is not a licensed state. So go figure.

 

TM: Yeah. Which just… That doesn’t make sense.

 

IZ: Yeah. We just became a licensed state, and just happened officially two years ago, but it just got enforced. It’s very new thing here.

 

BO: What do people need to do to get licensed? What are the licensing requirements? 

 

IZ: It was a lot of lobbying. They’ve been trying to do it for, I don’t know, last 12 years, something like that. And it would just… It would make it… It was… They showed interest. It would get to state when they were passing all the other stuff, but it just seemed to get dropped, never made it to the end. And then two years ago it finally made it, and then it took them an year and a half to get it actually enforced. So it’s here and it’s good. It stops your fly-by-night guys that are trying to do it on the side or people that are not really invested. So I think as a whole, it’s really good for the consumer to have people that are really invested in what they do, doing inspections.

 

BO: Sorry for taking us down that rabbit trail. But getting back to this concept of… Tessa and I were kinda going back and forth, what’s the housing stock like in Santa Fe, and are you seeing sewer lines that are a hundred-plus years old, all the way up to brand new or are most of the lines that you’re seeing kinda PVC and of the newer variety? 

 

IZ: That is a great question. Love the question. Because most people think it’s a brand new house. I don’t need the sewer line looked at. The reality is, every house should have a sewer camera inspection done. We’ve had brand new construction where house after house had damaged sewer lines. And I know of other stories where there was two repairs done at different times to a sewer line after somebody had just moved in because it got damaged during the construction. So they use backhoes to backfill and that can puncture or damage or crush a sewer line. With all the machinery that’s driving over the pipe after it’s been buried, depending on the depth, could easily be affected by that as well, settling because they didn’t compact the trench very well. Then you get settling and the pipes start pulling apart and separate. It’s been one thing after another, and that’s just new construction.

 

TM: Wow.

 

IZ: And as you get older, the chances do get higher. So when somebody’s looking at a home and they start looking at something that’s already 20 years old, they definitely should get it. The newer homes. Yeah. It’s less likely to have a problem, but once they start getting about 20 years, they’re looking at trees have grown. So there’s roots, homes have settled. Things have moved. There’s just gonna be more chance of a problem there. And maybe the pipe’s fine, but it didn’t have a joint glued completely, so it was leaking a little bit and it was just a matter of time roots found it and started growing in it. If they’re big enough, they start cracking the pipe and it just leads on, on, on. And then when you start getting about 40 years, that’s where you start getting to cast iron, clay…

 

BO: And presumably you have all of those products in the ground in your market? 

 

IZ: Yes. Yeah. Unless you are in a new city that just started building in the last 20 years, you’re gonna see all of this stuff, because you always have the downtown, you have the older neighborhoods. And those neighborhoods, if they haven’t had a problem with the sewer line or had it looked at or had any reason to replace it, it’s still gonna be the original material that was installed.

 

RS: Now you mentioned Orangeburg. Tell us about Orangeburg a little bit, ’cause we’ve talked about it. I don’t know if we’ve talked about it on the podcast though.

 

IZ: Yeah. Orangeburg is an interesting one. It was back… Well, like the ’20s, ’30s, they built this pipe, it’s during like there was the war and recession, materials were scarce, and all of a sudden they have to come up with an alternative to keep building sewer lines for these new homes. And they took wood pulp and tar. They don’t look that way. I’ve seen one that is… Actually, I have a piece of it in my studio that has never been used. And it looks like ABS, it looks like a thick, hard plastic. It’s super dense, but over time it didn’t take the moisture very well. It didn’t handle the way they thought it would actually handle. And it starts to delaminate. It starts to collapse.

 

IZ: So if you’re going through a pipe, and it kinda looks a little bit rigged and you start seeing this oval shape instead of round, it’s a good chance it’s Orangeburg. And most of the time you’ll start seeing bubbles. The lamination falls apart. Sometimes at the connection, it literally looks like it’s the end of like that. It looks like the end of like a cardboard tube that you’d find in a roll of toilet paper or paper towels, and it’s just disintegrating at the edge. It’s wild when you see it to imagine that they had built a sewer line that was gonna hold water, be wet all the time out of something that you would make paper out of.

 

RS: Yeah, yeah. Just enough tar and we should be good forever, right? That was the thought.

 

[laughter]

 

TM: Do you find a lot of that stuff out there, Istvan? I mean, like, out of… If you had a hundred houses, I mean, would you find it on one, two? 

 

IZ: In the older homes that are gonna be ’60s and older, we would expect to see it. We don’t see it every time. Sometimes it is just cast iron. Other times they did use clay, but we expect it. We have some neighborhoods that we go to, and this is something to look for if you’re about to buy a house, and it is an older neighborhood… When you’re driving down the street, see how many cuts are in the road. You’ll see these cuts coming from each house to the center of the road, kinda lining up with the manhole cover in the street. And that’s an indication that they’ve had to replace the sewer line, replace the sewer line, replace the sewer line. So when you’re in a neighborhood like that, you’re thinking about buying a house, you’d wanna have that sewer camera inspection to see if it’s been replaced or if it needs to be replaced.

 

RS: That’s a great tip. I’ve never thought about that. Love it. So what’s some of the worst stuff you’ve seen doing sewer inspections? 

 

IZ: Ah, some things are fun. Some things are really bad. [chuckle] We’ve seen a ground rod from the electrician rammed right through a sewer line.

 

TM: Oh, no.

 

IZ: So you see something in the pipe that’s going through the pipe and you’re wondering, what is that? And it’s all oxidized bluish-green from the copper. It’s like… And then you go locate it with your locator, and it’s near the electrical panel and there’s the ground rod…

 

TM: Wow.

 

IZ: Just rammed right through it. You’ve got scissors that get stuck in right in the connection and they’re even open. They’re just sprawled out, just waiting for paper and stuff to get stuck on it. I love one… I go and it’s on a septic tank and the cleanouts are probably about 10 or 12 feet away from the house. Usually they’re pretty close to the house, but those are further away. I’m running the camera, I go towards the tank, then I always go back towards the house, ’cause I wanna get as much of the sewer line as possible that I can access. And as I’m going back towards the house, I only go about eight feet, and all of a sudden I can’t go anymore. I’m like, “What the heck’s going on? It’s kinda dark in the tube and whatever is there, it seems black.” I can’t really see what it is, but my camera can’t get past it.

 

IZ: So, get out the locator, start walking around. And as I’m walking around, right as I’m coming close to where it is, the owner, she comes out and is wondering, “What are you doing?” ‘Cause she can hear… If you’ve ever heard a locator, it’s got this really whiny, high-pitched noise to it. And I’m just like, “Oh, well, my camera couldn’t go any further, so I’m trying to locate what it is, see if I can determine why it’s not going further and just find out where it is. So I’m locating it.” Finally go right up to her gate and right next to the gate, right below one of the post, that thing is just screaming high-pitch. And I’m like, “It looks like one of the fence posts,” and it’s this beautiful custom metal gate, one of the post, the metal post. I told her, “It looks like your metal post got installed and went through your sewer line and has damaged the sewer line.”

 

RS: Yikes.

 

IZ: You could see her just kinda turn red and just wanna explode and she goes, “I just had that installed.”

 

[laughter]

 

TM: Oh, no.

 

IZ: I know you can call about it. [laughter]

 

TM: That’s crazy. Well, Istvan, should you get a sewer inspection if you’re not connected to a city sewer, like if you have a septic system, is that still something you’d recommend doing? 

 

IZ: Excellent question. And a lot of people often feel if, like, my state is in New Mexico, they require the septic tank to be pumped and inspected for any real estate transaction. So that’s already occurring. And the answer is yes. And why I wanted to point that out is, lots of times, if you’re in a state where it needs to be pumped, people think, “Well, the tank is gonna be looked at, so we don’t need the sewer line looked at, it’s fine. And they don’t know that they’re… Most of those companies are just gonna pump the tank, look at the tank. And the sewer line from the tank to the house can have the same problems that a sewer line from a city main to the house can have. Now, sometimes those lines can be shorter, which a lot of people think also, “Well, most of the time they’re only 10 feet.” That’s not true. I’ve seen one to a septic tank that went 250 feet, had two sets of cleanouts along the way before I actually got to the tank. So there’s no truth that yes or no it does or doesn’t or they’re inspecting it.

 

IZ: The question is, if it’s going to be pumped, like somebody thinks, “Well, I know the seller is supposed to have the tank pumped, so I don’t need it.” Ask the company that’s pumping it, “Did you look at the sewer line?” Or if you can talk to them before, “Are you going to look at the sewer line?” Most of the time they’re gonna say, “No, we’re not.” Some might be able to add it on. And if they’re not, then you can find somebody else, maybe your home inspector or another company that come out and look at it. So just because it’s on a septic tank does not mean that you should not get a sewer camera inspection. You should always get one. It is a sewer line, it could have the same problems. I’ve seen an eight-foot section right before it got to the septic tank. They had put a new septic tank and when they backfilled around it, they had compressed so hard that the pipe actually pulled out. And so now there’s all these big dip right before where it was supposed to connect. So a lot of things can happen. Yeah, always look at the the sewer line, because if there is a problem, those kind of problems can be very expensive to fix.

 

RS: Yeah.

 

BO: Why wouldn’t you wanna know what’s there that you can’t see, but you can see if you use this one service? Just makes perfect sense.

 

IZ: It does, and from the consumers’ side, sometimes they feel like it’s an upsell. “Oh, they’re trying to get another $250 to $350 out of me.” No, that person’s actually trying to save you potential for a couple of thousand up to $15,000, $20,000 problem.

 

BO: Yeah.

 

IZ: So it actually is a really good thing. If somebody offers it, I would take it.

 

RS: Now, what do you do in situations where you can’t find a cleanout? 

 

IZ: Ah, that’s exciting. [chuckle] There’s so many things you can do and that’s a long conversation within my training as well, because that one’s tough. When you show up and you can’t find it and you don’t wanna look goofy walking around, not knowing what you’re doing, right? There’s alternatives, but I always recommend, take your time to find it first. A lot of people think, “Well, you just go up on the roof.” Yeah, you can, but you’re taking a camera up there, that some of these cameras can be $10,000, $12,000, and you’re taking it up on top of the roof. If that thing goes off the roof, I can tell you when it hits the ground, it’s probably gonna be worth $0, you know? [chuckle] And it’s not gonna be a good day.

 

IZ: So before you go up on the roof, I always like to walk around and there’s a couple of different things people do closest to the street or wherever it should be exiting, and you can usually by process elimination, start finding out where it is and actually locate it, which is really cool, because then you get to tell the buyer, this client that’s going to own the home, where it is and they don’t have to worry about when they have a backup, somebody having to go and pull their toilet. So if you can find it that way, that’s great. The other option is they may have to go through the roof, and some of these new homes, they don’t even have three or four-inch pipes up on the roof now. A lot of them are just two inch and one and one half inch. So you might come up with another problem where it’s like, well, now the roof isn’t there, and some plumbers and some companies will then resort to pulling your toilet.

 

RS: Okay.

 

TM: How big is the camera? What’s the minimum diameter size opening, you need to go through? 

 

IZ: They all vary, which is really cool, if you take the time to get a couple of pieces of equipment, you can go into a one and a half inch pipe with some cameras, which is gonna be your smallest pipe. So if you were in a bathroom, you could go through the little clean-out in the cabinet below the sink and find something that’s localized, which you would probably use it more for that than doing the whole sewer line, ’cause it’s a smaller camera harder to push farther. But if somebody’s having a problem just in one bathroom on one side of the house, that could be an option to go through a smaller clean-out. Otherwise, most of the time, people wanna access a 3 or 4-inch pipe, which is just a lot easier, and you can use a heavier cable and push that cable much further to go whatever distance they may have to go to get to the sewer main or septic tank.

 

RS: What length of cable do you use? 

 

IZ: That is a really good question. There’s so much out there. Anything under 100 feet, I don’t use it. I don’t recommend it unless it’s something for localized, like you’re getting some real small specialty camera. Sure, but otherwise, what I recommend is anything over 100 feet. So I use 115 because most states by code require a clean-out every 100 feet, and that’s so they can service the line if they have to run a cable or a hydro jetter they can go 100 feet with the snake and clean it out. So there should be a clean-out, so or you’re running a 115 foot, it shouldn’t be a problem. And a lot of guys, including my team, we like to have a 200-foot reel, which it is a little bit thicker ’cause on these older homes, it was before code, so they don’t have a clean-out every 100 feet. But if we wanna try to get to that city main or wherever it terminates, we want that 200 feet so we can push it a lot further.

 

RS: Sure, sure, makes sense. And then you talked about pulling toilets. When you have to do that, what does that involve? 

 

IZ: Pulling toilets. Fun conversation. Half the room is always like, “I would never do it. I’m not touching a toilet, no way,” and the other half is, “I’m open to it.” They really are. And when you get out in the market too, some people understand that you don’t wanna pull a toilet because you are disconnecting the water and you’re opening up the sewer line to get it from the toilet. But what’s involved is not that bad. And the way I teach it, it really should only add about 10 more minutes, tops 15, if you got a situation to actually getting the service done. And there’s some really cool stuff like Pick Up Stix, which if you ever look up a Pick Up Stix with an X, it’s a little like a spring-loaded rod that you can slip right into the bowl and just pick up a toilet one-handed. No problem.

 

TM: Wow! 

 

IZ: ‘Cause the biggest fear everybody has about a toilet is hugging somebody else’s bowl, like ugh. That doesn’t sound exciting, but if you have got the right tools, and I go over all that in the trainings, so that the people are prepared, it’s pretty easy and it’s pretty straightforward. There’s a lot of little tricks you can use, and once you’ve done a couple, yeah, it’s easy. And most people had at some point, probably had to pull or install a toilet. And lots of home inspectors come from trades background, so usually almost everybody in the room has raised their hand when I ask who’s pulled a toilet.

 

BO: Do you ever get called back ’cause one leaked or something after you put it back in place and had to sort of deal with that? 

 

IZ: That is a great question. And when we’ve had one leak, it usually is ’cause it was an older water line, so we’ve carried water lines to try to overcome that. If it’s the valve that’s an issue, that’s just an issue we found. That is not us. We didn’t cause that. We write it up in our report. And then the other one that a lot of people worry about that we’ve run into, so if you’ve got any questions that it does happen, is the flange that’s connected to the sewer line is all rusted out. So that’s what’s securing the toilet down, and we’ll pull it, and we’ll see it’s all rusted away, and we will just take a photo of it and document it ’cause it needs to be replaced.

 

IZ: We actually found out that the problem exists there ’cause if the toilet isn’t secured, there’s a chance that it can move and that can create a break of the seal and other problems, so finding that out, that’s a good thing. And if it’s rusted away, it’s probably because it’s been leaking, which means it could cause damage to sub-flooring, it could lead to mold, that’s category three water leak, that’s bacteria and all of that yucky stuff. So finding out that is not a bad thing.

 

RS: Now, what about the gasket? Do you put a new gasket in? 

 

IZ: Yes. Oh yeah, the wax bowl ring. Now, they have got these rubber gaskets, which are really cool as well, yes, and it’s pretty straightforward when you’re gonna go and replace it, you might have to scrape off the old wax ’cause it’s pretty sticky and it’s all yucky and you can just scrape it off, throw that aside. And when you’re ready to put the new one on, you just put the ring or the sleeve right on top of the flange, and then you just set the toilet.

 

RS: And then what about caulking it at the floor? 

 

IZ: Caulking at the floor. Did you recommend caulking at the floor? And yes, we do that. You don’t wanna caulk the back, but you just caulk along the edges, front, round the back. It’s pretty straightforward. If you got a clear caulking, that’s nice. A white usually works too, ’cause most toilets today are white, unless you get some vintage old home, which you might not match it if it’s a white line, but yeah, caulk it, seal it, but it’s not actually to close the whole thing off. Usually the back’s left open, and you’re done, it’s pretty straightforward.

 

BO: It sounds when you use a locator, that’s an extra additional one step beyond what most people are doing. Is that what you’re finding too, and do you teach people to use it because you may as well just find the problem right away instead of having somebody else come out and do the exact same thing? 

 

IZ: That is correct. Now, depending on the level of your locating, you could do it as a courtesy, you could sell it as a service. A lot of people don’t get it, they don’t see the need for it, ’cause it is an extra expense, it’s an extra tool that you have to purchase, and you’re probably using it only 25% to 50% of the time. Most of the time, you’re just going through clean-outs, you do the sewer scan, and then you’re done. So there’s really nothing to locate, but in cases where… If I go through the roof, sure, I can go down the roof, I can get through the sewer line, it drops in the city main. I saw what was there, what wasn’t there. But along the way, I noticed there was clean-outs, even though visually I can’t see into the yard. Now as a courtesy, I can pull the camera back to where I see the clean-outs, that way my camera’s sitting right below them, pull out my locator, and now I can identify where those are for the client. So it adds an extra level to your service of the things that you can do.

 

IZ: So if you’re pulling a toilet, once again, and they do have clean-outs, you can identify them while the camera’s in the sewer line going through the toilet. And then if you do have damage, I’ve been hired to locate a sewer line that went under the garage, ’cause they wanted to enclose part of the garage. It’s a fairly large garage. And they wanted to create another guest room. They said, “We know the sewer line goes through here, and we want to put another bathroom in this area. Could you come out and locate it?” And I was able to locate it, tell them where it is. I usually tell them that’s within 12 inches, so I kind of make it like a two-foot diameter circle. So it’s an area, it’s not precise. That thing could be three feet, five feet down, depending on the situation. But there are many ways, many cases where you can use that locator and sell other services.

 

BO: That’s just a great idea and it’s such good data and valuable data. And you save… You just paid for the cost of that service if you eliminated one hour of a plumbers time, fooling around trying to figure out where that line is.

 

IZ: I agree, and you’re already in there, if you had to go through the toilet, you could locate it and the next person doesn’t have to pull the toilet again. So these are things that, yes, it takes your service a step and above. And if you are somebody buying a house and that person is doing camera inspections, knowing they have a locator, it’s good to ask. That way they can locate anything that might need to be… As well as maybe they’re not giving estimates for repairs, but to know that the roots, ’cause they saw one area that there’s roots, they know it’s in the middle of the yard. That could be $1,000, $2,000 as opposed to they can tell you, “Hey, it’s underneath your concrete driveway,” or it’s in the street, in the asphalt, which is a whole another price once you get out into the street, they are like double some costs. So it really can help the home buyer understand what kind of repairs they’re looking at as they’re going out and start getting estimates to get that repair done.

 

TM: And along those lines, I guess I just have a more general question, Istvan is it sounds like most states don’t have any sort of licensing requirements for people doing sewer inspections except for we’ve talked about Texas. But if you’re a home buyer or you’re a real estate agent, you’re looking for someone to do a sewer inspection, what would be your recommendations for credentialing or experience? Because you said you had some minimum training, but then when you got out there you realized you needed a lot more. And so I’m just curious, what kind of training should someone have before they’re competent at doing this? And how long does it take? 

 

IZ: That’s a great question. Getting certified, there are a couple of options out there along with the class that I do, but getting a certification where you’re actually working with somebody who’s done it before, who can answer all the questions, show all the different types, what this common problems are, what kind of issues you’re looking for, getting that beforehand view of a lot of the stuff through a camera lens, because when you’re in there, you gotta think about it, it’s a camera, but it’s in a sewer line, so there’s sewage, there’s roots, there’s toilet paper. There’s all sorts of other things that get in the way and obstruct the view and make it hard to assess the pipe.

 

IZ: So get trained, really get trained and work with somebody if you need to as well. Mentorship is always a great way to get more experience, and then once you’re ready to dive into it, you’re gonna get that equipment, go out and do a couple with people that you know. Go and do a couple of homes for free, offer the service for a discount, whatever it is to get that experience, so that when you’re out there doing this for somebody who’s paying you, who needs to know that information before they make a purchase, you have the experience.

 

RS: I just wanna ask from Tessa’s standpoint, and I think she’s asking more on the side of the consumer. What would a consumer look for, like if they’re gonna hire a home inspector to do their sewer inspection, how do they know that they’re not learning how to do this on your house? 

 

[laughter]

 

IZ: That is perfect. Thank you for that. With the realtors and the home buyers or the consumers, ask what kind of training they have. Ask if they have a certification, ’cause maybe they don’t have a certification, but they came from a plumbing background where they did plumbing for 20 years. That’s a lot of experience. That’s a great thing. To ask any inspector or service provider what their credentials are, I think is a smart thing for any consumer to do. As a home inspector, I loved it when somebody would grill me on like, “What do you do? What do you know? What’s your background like?” It was an opportunity to share with them the knowledge that I have.

 

IZ: So if you’re the consumer, you want this service and the person is not willing to even answer those questions, you probably wouldn’t wanna work with them. Obviously, they’re not gonna be much help after the service is done, so ask the questions. Yeah, ask what kind of certifications they have and what kind of experience. I think those are great questions to ask anybody, especially if you’re gonna be referring them as a real estate agent, know who you’re referring.

 

TM: And if you were to talk to your former self before you had all of this knowledge and wisdom, what were some things that you wish you would have known going into it that you know now? 

 

IZ: Seeking out the experience, the knowledge, it really just comes down to that. You don’t know what you don’t know. So if we go into things, thinking that we know everything, we’re setting ourselves up for failure and we’re not protecting the people that we’re trying to help. So ask questions. I wish I’d spent more time seeking out somebody else who could have held my hand at the beginning and really set me up, and so I didn’t have to figure it all out on my own.

 

TM: Yeah.

 

RS: Sure.

 

IZ: So mentorship…

 

TM: Yeah, mentorship.

 

IZ: All about mentorships and working with other people that have the knowledge of experience that you’re looking to acquire.

 

TM: Gosh, 100%. At Structure Tech, we have an internal app and Facebook page that we use to inspect or to communicate with each other, and it’s amazing. Even inspectors who have been doing this for 10, 15 years, every once in a while, they’ll still have a question that they post, and it’s great to see people that are humble enough to be like, “I don’t know everything, and here’s a question for anyone,” and it usually… It helps educate all of us on the team. We learn from each other if we’re open enough and willing enough to ask those questions.

 

RS: Istvan, any other thoughts before we wrap up? I know we’re close at time here, but anything we didn’t touch on that you wanted to get to today? 

 

IZ: Not really, you mentioned about some of the other things that I do. One of the things that I really love is I love inspiring other people. I love inspiring people to step out and do the things that they’ve always dreamed of. So that’s one of the reasons that I wrote in my book, The Victory Mindset, and it was to share my story about the struggles that I went through just so that people could relate and find inspiration there to develop that passion and drive to go out after their dreams and start living the life that they’ve always wanted to live. And that’s something that’s on my heart that I always love to help other people find their passion. If they’re not sure where it is, love to talk with them, love to give inspiration. And yeah, I wanna see people living lives that are just passionately driven, making amazing things happen, whether it’s for themselves or for others. I’m not… But that’s up to them, but when it is for others, when they’re building things, creating things that are helping other people, I love it.

 

BO: Istvan, what was the process of writing a book like? 

 

IZ: It wasn’t as hard as I thought. I did have a little bit of help, I did most of the writing, but they kinda cleaned up my language because I needed help there. [laughter] It was my story. It was good because it really gave me opportunity to just reflect on these experiences in my life. I’m really at peace with them, but there are things at one point in my life that I really struggled with, and to be able to reflect on it, and see what I’ve overcome, and all the excitement for the things that I still wanna do, it was a great experience.

 

BO: It sounds very cathartic. It kinda cut away some of that baggage that may have lingered. It’s cool.

 

TM: Thanks for sharing that. You said it was called The Victory Mindset? 

 

IZ: The Victory Mindset.

 

TM: Where can we find it? 

 

IZ: You can find it on Amazon.

 

TM: Okay, cool.

 

IZ: Yeah.

 

BO: And just, I don’t wanna linger too long on this because I know you gotta go. But how long did it take you to do that? 

 

IZ: I had been writing it probably, I’d say by the time I really, really focused on getting it done, a year and a half, two years. There was a process, because as you start writing, you start realizing at a certain point you’re like, “I’m almost done,” and then you’re like, “I’m not done.” You wanna keep changing things, and at a certain point, you have to realize, you know what? I wanna get my message out and nothing is ever perfect. But the message was there. And that’s what was important, and I wanted to share that.

 

BO: Cool.

 

TM: That sounds like Reuben saying, done is better than perfect? 

 

RS: Right? Yeah. I’m fond of that.

 

BO: Yeah, well, Istvan, thanks for giving us some time today. I’m sure we should do a part two to dig into some other aspects of who you are and some of your entrepreneurial adventures. And so if you’re up for it, we’d love to have you back at some point here in the future.

 

IZ: Would love to, any time. It would be great to be here with you guys, it’s been a pleasure.

 

BO: Let’s put a close on this episode, but Istvan, can you tell everybody how they can get a hold of you if they wanna set up some training or talk a little bit more about your book? 

 

IZ: Yes. Awesome. Well, the book real quick, that’s Amazon.com, Istvan Zsako, Z-S-A-K-O, and The Victory Mindset. And for the sewer training, anybody that’s looking to get sewer training, they can go to sewertraining.com, and they can either do online at their own pace where they can join us for one of the live sessions, which I really recommend so you can get your hands on a live camera and actually leave with real experience, ready to start offering that service.

 

BO: Awesome. And Reuben, we don’t do this enough, but where can everybody send questions? 

 

RS: Send them to podcast@structuretech.com.

 

BO: Outstanding, thank you very much. You’ve been listening to Structure Talk, a Structure Tech presentation. My name is Bill Oelrich, alongside Tessa Murry and Reuben Saltzman. Thanks for listening, we’ll catch you next time.