Your sewer line is not only critical to your home's comfort, but its overall hygiene. And out of all the potential plumbing issues you could face, sewer line problems are among the most serious and tough to handle. Althoug your home has many drains, we are referring to the sewer line from your house to the street. Needless to say, the drain that guides liquid waste away from your house is arguably the last part of your home you want to experience issues, becuase of the mess it can potentially create. Regardless of your best efforts to keep your sewer system in tip-top condition at all times, sewer line issues will inevitably occur, sometimes without warning. Usually, the first things that spring to mind when it comes to broken sewer line problems are the level of damage and inconvenience they cause. However, with some types of problems such as leaks, there can be serious health concerns to contend with! If you are unlucky enough to experience a major sewage leak in your home, there can be significant health hazard risks, making the need to prompt and effective remedial action a necessity. If you didn't know, raw sewage produces numerous gases that can be harmful to your health. The most common gases emitted by sewage leaks are hydrogen sulfide and methane. Hydrogen sulfide can cause many health problems for those who come into contact with it, such as disorientation, sickness, or even death! What's more, a damaged main sewer line means numerous pathogens have a pathway into your home, when they ultimately come into contact with surfaces and food and are easily ingested and contracted by anyone in your home. The best way to prevent unexpected sewage problems such as a clogged sewer line, is to schedule routine professional sewer inspection and maintenance. Being proactive with your drainage maintenance means you can stay ahead of any lingering problems, identifying them before they worsen and subsequently fixing them before they become costly, or start wreaking havoc in your home.
How to know if you need a sewer line replacement or repair, or just a sewer clean out:
While it can be quite difficult to tell when a particular sewer line problem is developing, you can definitely tell when it finally becomes an issue. Common tell-tale signs that show your sewage system requires the attention of an emergency plumber near you
A) Presence of water in your yard: If there is a pile of water in your yard and you can't find any obvious reason for the cause, chances are that you may have a sewer line leak.
B) Unpleasant odor: That foul smell emanating from your bathroom may not be something you should ignore. A properly functioning sewer line should be air tight, implying that no odors should escape from the pipes. However, if some unpleasant odor is coming from your sewer line, it could mean there is a leak in your main sewer line and you'll need to act fast and schedule for a sewer inspection and repair.
C) Mold growth: While there could be other potential causes for mold growth in your home, a damaged or broken sewer line is among the main culprits. Wet spots on your home's walls, ceilings, or floors can all be signs of a damaged sewer pipe. And if left unchecked, water infiltration from a sewer line can cause mildew or mold to develop and grow very fast. It is imperative to note that the spores from these fungi can not only cause severe allergic reactions, but their ability to somehow eat through organic construction materials over time can result in significant damage to your home's exterior, interior, or even foundation.
D) Presence of wall cracks and broken slabs: Building structures will always develop cracks in the concrete slab as well as the supporting walls with time. But if your house is developing new cracks it could be because of a broken sewer line that is eroding the soil supporting the foundation. If the crack is a result of a leak, the problem may never improve over time. A thorough plumbing inspection is the ultimate way to determine whether a broken sewer line or another cause is causing your home to develop cracks.
E) Slow drains: A slow drain can be caused by a blockage in one of the pipes that service a particular toilet, sink, tub, or shower. However, when more than one of your plumbing fixtures is draining slowly, this could be an indication with an issue with you sewer system. It could be just a clogged sewer line that needs a sewer clean out or an issue be enough to warrant a complete sewer line replacement. A lot of times it could just be because tree roots have infiltrated your sewer line, causing an obstruction.
F) Backups and clogs: Clogs and backups that only affect a single part of your home may be due to a clog in the fixture that services that particular fixture. However, if more than one drain clogs and causing a spillage onto your floors, this could be a tell-tale sign of a sewer line issue. And if your efforts to unclog your drains are unsuccessful, you'll need the help of a local plumber to inspect your sewer lines and subsequently repair any visible damage to ensure water can flow freely.
G) Rodent and insect infestation: A notable increase in rodent and insect activity can be a clear indication of a damaged sewer line. If you didn't know, rodents make their homes in sewers and will try as much as possible to squeeze through the smallest openings to find their way into your house. Insects will also wriggle through cracked drain pipes, breed, and ultimately multiply rapidly. As you may already know, insects and rodents can both cause several health issues and must therefore be dealt with accordingly and as fast as possible.
H) Lush, extra green lawn patches: The presence of extra green and lush patch of lawn in your yard could be because of a sewer leak underneath. Because sewage acts as a fertilizer for plants, any leakage from your sewer line into your surrounding soil will ultimately offer your lawn the extra nutrients its needs to develop a healthy and extra green appearance.
So, what are the causes of sewer line damage?
A) Infiltration of tree roots: Did you know that tree roots are the most common cause of sewer line blockages and backups? According to the U.S Forest Service, it is estimated that at least half of all sewer backups in the U.S are caused by tree roots. All types of pipes are at risk of damage from tree roots, but others are relatively more vulnerable. Sewer pipes made of clay, concrete, or brick, in particular, are somewhat more susceptible to tree root invasion. These types of sewer pipe materials will deteriorate with time, forcing them to crack and separate with erosion and ground shifting. Tree roots are always constantly looking for water, and sewer lines are particularly attractive because they hold moisture, oxygen, and nutrients; nearly everything that trees roots crave. Generally, roots tend to grow towards these pipes, and when there is a leak or crack somewhere along the pipe, they will enter through these openings and expand inside the pipe. And with time, these tree roots will eventually clog up your pipes, compromising the flow of waste water into the sewer. What's more, the growing roots may increase the pressure within the pipe, causing it to break and cause significant damage.
B) Pouring grease and oil products down the toilet: Grease as well as other oily products are also known to cause significant damage to sewer lines. And homeowners are highly advised to not pour these products down the drain because while they may dissolve under high temperatures, they tend to harden and solidify under cool temperatures. For this particular reason, grease and oily products will quickly accumulate in sewer lines, eventually causing blockages.
C) Rodents: Rodents, including rats, can take up residence nearly anywhere, even in your drain systems. After all, drain pipes provide rodents such as rats with nearly everything they need to survive, ranging from warmth, protection, and food. What's more, most rodents are good swimmers and if your draining system features holes or cracks, they can easily find their way in and cause substantial damage. Rodents will not only loosen joints, turn small cracks into bigger ones, but will also use your sewer pipes to nest and multiply all while causing damage to them. It is never a good sign when rodents invade your sewer lines!
D) Normal wear and tear: Over time, your sewer lines will ultimately experience blockages and leaks because of general sediment build-up and corrosion. Naturally, soil movement will cause sewer lines to sag over time, and this can result in problems especially when the low spots create ruptures, leaks, or repeat blockages.
How are cameras used to detect sewer line issues?
A few decades ago, any type of sewer backup simply meant digging up and replacing your entire sewer line! This was not only a messy and tedious process, but quite costly as well. However, thanks to the advancement in technology, homeowners can today rely on high-end cameras to help them inspect and detect a range of sewer line problems. This latest technique is not only highly effective and accurate, but an equally relatively inexpensive way to handle sewer problems.
Today, most reputable sewer line repair plumbers use state-of-the-art camera devices to almost effortlessly inspect your entire sewer system and subsequently diagnose and mitigate any identified problems. The camera itself is usually a very small device at the end of a fairly long electronic cable. The cable is attached to a long, flexible wire that can easily bend around corners while at the same time retaining enough tension for the plumber to push it down the pipe from the installation point.
This cable is connected to a monitor that provides a high-definition real-time image of whatever the camera captures. The camera usually features a built-in light that effectively illuminates and scans the surrounding area for a few feet, allowing your plumber to precisely spot what clogs or obstructions are made from. Your plumber will then run down the entire sewer length to identify all problem areas and thereafter offer a full diagnosis of existing as well as looming sewer line issues. And finally, your plumber will provide the best possible solutions to your sewer line issues, ranging from repairing any damaged section of the pipe, pushing through a clog, eliminating rodent infestation to replacing your entire sewer line with a brand new pipe.
How are sewer lines repaired or replaced?
Generally, the decision to repair or replace your damaged sewer line will largely depend on the extent of the damage. If the camera inspection reveals that your sewer pipe is in relatively good overall condition, and the backups are due to minor build-up and clogs, then perhaps a thorough sewer line cleaning using high-powered jets should be enough to eliminate the muck and blockage. On the other hand, if tree roots have substantially infiltrated your pipe through cracks, the scale of corrosion is very thick, or there is any other significant damage, numerous repair and replacement options may be explored.
Generally, there are two basic types of sewer line repair. The conventional technique also referred to as a trenched sewer repair, usually involves digging up the surrounding area of the damaged section of your sewer line. And once the repair has been conducted, the area is backfilled by simply putting back the removed soil into the trench. This method is not only disruptive, but relatively expensive as well.
The other type of sewer repair is known as the trenchless sewer repair, and just as the name implies, it involves replacing or repairing a part or whole of the sewer pipe without trenching. Common types of trenchless sewer line repair techniques include:
1) Pipe bursting: This particular technique involves breaking apart the initial sewer line using a bursting head. It is conducted by creating two holes at the beginning as well as at the end of the pipe to access the existing sewer pipe. A unique type of drill commonly referred to as a bursting head is thereafter forced through the existing pipe and as it moves forward, it breaks the old sewer line apart, pushing the fragments far away from the section while pulling and fitting the new pipe into place.
2)Slip-lining: This involves slipping a liner into a pipe to help fix the leaks. The liner is commonly made from plastic materials, and just like its pipe bursting counterpart, slip lining needs two pits to be dug for the entry and exit of the pipe to be repaired.
3)CIPP (Cured-in-place pipelining: This method involves the use of epoxy to internally seal and also reinforce a broken sewer pipe. After expertly inserting a liner soaked with epoxy in the old, damaged pipe, your plumber then uses inflation equipment to expand the liner, so it dries in the shape of the walls of the pipe. And once cured, this liner will solve all the leakage issues caused by cracks and other damages to the pipe.
It is imperative to note that if there is significant damage to your sewer line, you may be forced to have an entire sewer line replacement! As already explained, this can be an extremely invasive and expensive method that demands that technicians dig up your compound to remove and replace your damaged lines. However, excavation is necessary, especially if your sewage system has extensive and irreparable damage.
What is the cost to repair or replace a sewer line:
If you suspect an issue with your main sewer line, replacing or repairing it would be an extremely important undertaking to prevent additional damage. Left unattended, sewage waste can potentially pile up either in your yard, or basement, and that would be a nightmare for any homeowner!
Generally, sewer line repair costs vary between $4,000 and $25,000! And on average, homeowners can expect to pay between $50 and $250 per foot as a sewer line replacement cost. Traditional or trenched sewer line replacement may cost anywhere between $5,000 and $7,500. On the other hand, trenchless sewer line repair or replacement cost may range between $6,500 and $12,000. If your sewer line is just clogged and needs to be cleaned, the cost ranges from $200 - $500
However, it is worth noting that the cost will largely depend on your unique situation. This is because lots of factors can impact the overall cost of your sewer line service. The major determinants of cost are arguably your location and the extent of the repairs required. For instance, replacing a sewer pipe from your home to the main will generally warrant more money compared to a smaller replacement project.
What's more, repair or replacement sewer line costs will also depend on whether you need to acquire permits, among other regulatory requirements. Also, excavation costs, as well as lawn repair, will impact the cost. To know and understand your potential repair cost, you must schedule an appointment with a licensed sewer line plumber, who will assess your specific needs and the level of damage before providing the exact dollar amount for the entire project.
How to prevent sewer line damages? Follow these tips:
While you can't completely prevent sewer line issues from occurring, there are some important steps you can take to prevent the frequency of backups, including.
A) Routinely remove tree roots: If you experience unending issues with tree roots in your sewer lines, it may be best to have those roots cut and eliminated by a professional.
B) Dispose of grease and other oil products properly: Never pour either grease or any other oil product into your drain. These products will eventually cool off and clog your sewer system.
C) Take note of paper products: Paper towels, diapers as well as other feminine products usually take somewhat longer to decompose and can clog your sewer line.
D) Consider a backwater prevention valve: Just as the name implies, a backwater prevention valve simply allows waste water to go out but prevents it from going back. And when properly installed and well-maintained, this vital device can serve as your best line of defense against sewer line problems.
E) Schedule routine sewer line inspection and maintenance: This is arguably your best bet toward preventing and mitigating sewer line damages. Routine inspection and maintenance by a professional will not only ensure your sewer line remains in tip-top condition at all times, but will also help spot any potential problems before they become larger and more expensive.