What You Need to Know About Sewer Line Repairs
Problems with your main sewer line can be an overwhelming, expensive, life-disrupting hassle. Sometimes the stress this creates can stop people from taking the time to look into the options available to them. It’s important to approach this issue with as much knowledge as possible to minimize unnecessary inconvenience or expense. With that in mind, we’ve compiled some key information about sewer line repairs and replacement. If you think you may have a problem – or want to know what to do should that ever be the case – see below.
The Source of the Damage
First of all, you should know the possible causes of damaged sewer pipes. Some can be avoided, and some just come with the territory of owning a home or business over time.
- Shifting Soil
Underground pipes are subject to the pressures of their surroundings, which include drastic changes in temperature, frozen ground, resettling, heaving, traffic/activity aboveground, etc. Over time, these pressures can eventually cause pipes to rupture, crack, or collapse.
- Tree Roots
Another environmental pressure is tree roots, which can invade and obstruct the water flow within the pipes. This can present a vicious cycle if they crack the pipes and produce a leak, as the resultant water leakage will only encourage the activity of the roots. Avoid planting trees near your sewer line – the septic tank is a good indicator of where the sewer line is located.
A buildup of hair, grease, dirt, soap scum, etc. can bind together and restrict the flow of water through your plumbing, causing pipes to back up and potentially produce leaks. Disposing of grease and coffee grounds in the trash (rather than down the drain) and using a drain grate in the shower is a good way to avoid this problem.
- Deterioration Over Time
Years of wear and tear can lead to corrosion and deposits of waste that prevent water from flowing properly. Seals between pipe joints can become corrupted and produce leaks.
- Improper Installation / Maintenance
Unfortunately, sometimes contractors use cheaper, inferior materials or out-of-date practices (or just make mistakes) that can cause problems down the line.
Warning Signs for Sewer Line Repairs
If your main sewer line needs to be repaired or replaced, you need to hire a plumber. Problems with the flow of water and waste from your drain lines – to your main sewer line – to the sewer system beyond your home – are beyond the realm of DIY. They can cause structural damage to your home and property. This issue also poses a health risk for your family, ranging from bacteria, viruses, parasites, and toxic mold that could result from prolonged exposure to wastewater.
- Water Damage / Appearance of Cracks
- Slow Draining of Sinks/Bathtubs
- Strange Sounds Coming from Pipes
- Frequent Need to Plunge / Problems Flushing
- Sewer Odor in the House
- Water Bill Goes Way Up
It Looks Like We Have a Problem – What Happens Next?
Typically, the first thing that comes to mind at this moment is, “What will sewer line replacement cost?” A few variables are factored into this figure. These include the source of the problem, the extent of the issue, the condition of the existing pipes, where the problem area is located on your property, and more.
A plumber will need to do some investigating before an estimate can be determined. It’s possible that the sewer line will not need to be replaced and will only require some relatively simple repairs. At this point, you should contact a plumber to request a quote to get the ball rolling. Your plumber will figure out what kinds of sewer line repairs you may need.
In-Pipe Video Camera Inspection
The first step the plumber is likely to take is running a camera through the main sewer line. This provides the camera technician with a comprehensive look at the inner workings of your system. The imaging shows your plumber what is going wrong, and allows them to target the exact depth, location, and scope of the problems. This is an important step to take in determining whether or not you need to replace your sewer line. Getting a specific, pinpointed visualization of the issue means your plumber can employ the most appropriate and cost-effective solution.
To get a sense of how this process works, take a look at this video to see some sample footage from inside a sewer pipe. A plumber explains the footage to a customer as the camera finds its way to the source of the problem.
The Traditional Method for Sewer Line Repairs
Sewer Line Repairs / Replacement
Traditionally, repair and replacement of a sewer line will require a process called “trenching.” It’s exactly what it sounds like; digging trenches to get at the main sewer line. Sometimes this is the approach that makes the most sense, depending on the details of the problem.
However, there are fewer intrusive methods available. While the technology involved can be more costly than simply digging up your yard, this is not always the case. The toll taken on your landscaping can add up. In some worst-case scenarios, trenching can involve the temporary destruction of your driveway, patio, sidewalk, or even your garage if the line runs beneath. Thankfully, there is also the option of trenchless sewer line repair.
Trenchless Sewer Line Repairs / Replacement
You’ve located the problem, discussed it with the plumber, and want to keep your property as intact as possible. It’s time to start talking about trenchless sewer line repair and replacement. This can be a much simpler, faster, and more efficient approach to accessing your main sewer line.
- Cured-In-Place Pipe (CIPP)
Using CIPP, also known as a “pipe liner,” involves minimal excavation, usually requiring only one access hole. A flexible liner, coated with an epoxy resin, is pulled through your existing pipes and inflated by applied air pressure. Any blockage must be cleared out before this process, as it is forming a new pipe within the pipe. The inflated liner outwardly applies the resin to the pipe, holding it in place until it has hardened.
This option is not always available. It depends on the structural soundness of the existing pipes. The video inspection will determine whether this is a possibility. If so, careful measurements are taken to calculate the exact length of the pipe liner, and an access hole is dug to get the CIPP into place. This is something to discuss with your plumber.
- Pipe Bursting
Another trenchless method to consider is pipe bursting. This requires two access holes, one at each end of the pipe that needs to be replaced. A wire is strung through from one end to the other. One end is connected to a pulling machine powered by a hydraulic generator, while the other is attached to a “bursting head.”
The bursting head is pulled through the pipe to burst and displace the pipe from within. It then trails a new pipe behind it, also attached to the wire. It plows through the wreckage of the previous pipe and slides into the very space it no longer occupies.
This is another method that minimizes destruction to your yard but may or may not be appropriate, depending on the specifics involved. As always, consult with your plumber about what’s right for you.
Remember, You Have Options if You Need Sewer Line Repairs
When you’re faced with a sewer line-related crisis in your home, remember that you have options available to you. Trenchless sewer line repair could end up saving you time, money, and stress. The most important thing to keep in mind is that any problem with your main sewer line needs to be addressed by a professional, as soon as possible.
If you’re located in South Jersey, you can count on the experts at Laury Heating Cooling & Plumbing Services for a swift, comprehensive response – to get you back to your life as quickly, and as satisfied, as possible.