The Quintessential Guide to a Sewer Line
One of the most essential parts of any plumbing system is the sewer line, whether it be residential or commercial. This vital pipeline transports “used” water away from the building and into the city’s sewer system so that it can be carried to a treatment facility.
However, while a sewer line may seem indestructible, it is possible that it may suffer damage and need to be repaired — all to prevent a larger problem from occurring down the road. If you feel as if your sewer line has seen better days, a few signs indicate a problem may be present.
Signs Your Sewer Line May Need Repair
Drains Will Run Slowly
The minute you shut a faucet off in your home, any water left behind will quickly exit down a drain’s opening and into the sewer line. However, if there happens to be a sewer line blockage or fracture, this will not be the case — H2O will linger around much longer than it should.
Now, in the event of a sewer line blockage, this could be caused by disposing of the wrong items down your drains over time — such as “flushable” wipes. Other times, this could indicate that tree roots may have grown into the sewer line and broke through it.
You Smell a Foul Odor
When you think of the word “sewer,” what comes to mind first? For many, it could be a lingering, foul odor. Unfortunately, that’s true — and when your sewer line sustains an injury, there’s a chance you’ll be smelling sewage around your property.
As mentioned earlier, your sewer line transports “used” water from your home or business to the sewer system. Many times, this water carries human waste and other unpleasant items within. When there’s a crack in your sewer line, no matter how big or small it may be, the “used” water will migrate to the surface, making its presence known in the most unflattering, odorous way.
That said, if you see or smell any of these signs, you may have a sewer line-based problem on your hands. However, it's also imperative to know what could have caused sewer line damage in the first place.
Things That Can Cause Sewer Line Damage
While they should be considered an oxymoron, “flushable” wipes are not exactly flushable. Whether they claim to be plumbing-friendly or not, they’re one of the leading causes of sewer line problems across the country. As it turns out, these sanitary wipes do not break down quickly when they come in contact with water, which can cause a plumbing nightmare.
Furthermore, over time, “flushable” wipes can get lodged within the heart of your sewer line, causing a severe obstruction that no toilet plunger can handle. Now, if the wipes are nestled within the pipe for quite some time, and the clog has been ignored for an extended period, a snaking service will not help remove the obstruction — ultimately, a sewer line replacement will be the solution.
One of the most common reasons why a sewer line needs to be repaired or replaced is tree roots. While this may sound outlandish, trees pose a significant threat to any underground plumbing — but how so?
When a tree is planted, it will begin to grow and sink its roots into the soil without a planned destination. When this happens, roots are strong enough to grow directly into the sewer line and crack it in the process. Ultimately, this can lead to bright, vibrant green patches on your lawn (due to sewage leaking out), as well as foul odors (as mentioned earlier).
But to get to the root of the problem, before jumping to conclusions, and see if your sewer line might need some TLC, it’s vital to schedule a sewer line inspection — here’s why.
Benefits of a Sewer Line Inspection
Examines the Sewer Line in Real-Time
Back in the early days of plumbing practices, it was nearly impossible to see what could be obstructing a sewer line — or any pipe, for that matter. Nowadays, with the advancement of technology, high-definition cameras can be snaked into the line and unveil the root of the problem on the big screen.
This is hugely beneficial — especially for those that are unsure what might be causing their plumbing-induced headaches — since a plumber will be able to examine every square inch of the pipe and create a resolution to repair the problem with little room for error.
Now, if your plumber sees that your sewer line may require a repair or replacement, they won’t have to rip up your property to get to the root of the problem. Instead, there’s a better, much more efficient solution — cue a trenchless sewer repair!
Perks of a Trenchless Sewer Repair
No Excavation Required
As mentioned above, a trenchless sewer repair does not require a property to be excavated by heavy-duty machinery. Instead, the process is minimally-invasive, and once it has been completed, your property will look as if nothing ever happened.
Unlike a traditional trench-based sewer repair, a trenchless service is completed entirely through the original pipe — meaning that you won’t have to worry about replanting your garden or contacting your local sod farm to replenish your lawn.
Much More Affordable
Another perk about trenchless sewer repair is that it tends to be a much more affordable option when a sewer line needs to be replaced. If a traditional method is used to extract and replace a broken line, it can become rather costly — especially since professional excavation equipment will be needed to get the job done.
Now, before your trenchless sewer repair is scheduled, there are two types of “procedures” to get the job done. While both are incredibly effective, one is chosen over the other — depending on the severity of your sewer line’s “injury.”
Common Types of Trenchless Sewer Repair Methods
If your sewer line still has structural integrity but sustained a crack or other form of a fracture, this repair method will be the best choice. Pipe relining works by pulling a new pipe liner into the preexisting sewer line, positioning it exactly where the brunt of the damage is (as previously discovered by the camera inspection), inflating the liner, and letting it dry in place.
Furthermore, pipe relining is typically a quick service to complete; homeowners won’t have to block out their calendar for a week or more — just like if they chose to have a trench-based repair completed on their property.
Now, if your sewer line’s structure is weak and could benefit from an entirely new pipe, then pipe bursting will be the perfect solution. Unlike pipe relining, pipe bursting uses a unique tool (called a bursting head) that is snaked into the line and rips apart the old pipe. However, as it starts to break apart the damaged sewer line, it gradually replaces it with a new line — a win-win.
Once you’ve had your sewer line repaired or replaced, it’s time to start reexamining your day-to-day plumbing practices so that you can avoid another potential problem down the road.
Ways to Help Prevent Sewer Line Issues
Be Cautious of What You Flush
While it may seem like a “given” to only flush human waste and toilet paper down your “throne,” there are some homeowners that might feel tempted to discard other objects as well.
When this happens, there’s a greater chance that not only will your toilet clog but a blockage in your sewer line — that could lead to a fracture if not taken care of in time. Some items that should be avoided at all costs include, but are not limited to:
Diapers, and more
Schedule a Professional Drain Cleaning
To ensure that your drains are in pristine condition, it’s vital to take early action and have them cleaned by a professional. This can help break down any debris that may be clinging to the walls of the drainpipe, as well as fish out anything that could potentially harm your sewer line.
Be Mindful When Planting
Are you thinking about planting a tree on your property? If so, consider calling 811 to see what lies below the surface before digging up the soil. As it turns out, if a tree grows in the wrong spot, it could eventually come face-to-face with your sewer line and create a problem down the line — something, as mentioned earlier, you’ll want to avoid at all costs.