Sewer line repair or replacement is one of the bigger home issues new owners can face. A broken or clogged sewer line means there is nowhere for water to go when you turn on the faucet or flush your toilet. Your entire plumbing system becomes frozen in place.
The cost and scope of sewer line work can be intimidating when you’ve just moved in. We’ll explain what causes sewer line problems, how sewer line repair works and how to prevent main drain problems in the future.
What is a Sewer Line?
Let’s start with the basics, since this is an introduction for many new homeowners.
When you flush your toilet or wash something down a drain, that wastewater needs to go somewhere. Since it often smells and contains bacteria, solids or chemicals, the water that leaves your home needs to be treated before it can be reused or returned to the ecosystem.
Your sewer line is an underground pipe beneath your home that channels wastewater from all the drains in your home to the municipal sewer line under the street. Using gravity, this conduit then transports the used water to your local water treatment facility.
Like any piece of plumbing, sewer lines require care and maintenance. Eventually they will wear out and need to be replaced. As a new homeowner you want to know where your sewer line is in its life and how well it will function in the future.
How to Avoid Sewer Line Issues Before You Buy a Home
Buying a home involves a lot of considerations. You weigh the value of the home against the things that need work. Rarely do new owners get a home that doesn’t require upgrades or maintenance of some kind.
Third party home inspections are a valuable way to gauge the condition of a home before you close. Based on the inspector’s findings, you can negotiate with the seller to either make needed repairs or reduce the price so you can.
We highly recommend including a sewer line inspection as part of your home inspection. It may be an additional cost or service but it’s well worth the peace of mind when you consider the cost of sewer line replacement. An inspector will use a sewer line camera, snaked through your drainpipe, to assess the interior condition of your sewer line. They can identify clogs, tree roots, cracks and other problems. If the line does need repairs, they can pinpoint the location to expedite the process.
At a minimum, you’ll know the condition of your new home’s sewer line and you can anticipate future maintenance and repairs.
Why Sewer Lines Break or Clog
Sewer lines are built to last – on average they’ll survive 50-100 years. But outside factors can damage or deteriorate a pipe that’s buried in the ground that long. The state of your new sewer line may depend on how old it is and how well it’s been maintained. For older homes, sewer lines can be a bigger issue.
Other factors that cause sewer lines to clog, leak or break include:
- Soil weight
- Soil acidity
- Temperature changes
- Tree roots
- Ground vibration/shift
- Items flushed down toilet
As the ground around your sewer line changes, it can accelerate your sewer line’s demise. Shifting, vibrations and corrosive minerals can all take their toll.
Tree roots invade sewer lines over time. The roots seek out the moisture within and tiny tendrils enter via small cracks or gaps. As those roots grow, they clog the inside of the pipe and expand to crack the outside.
Items you flush like wipes, facial tissue or other trash can also clog up your line over time. The increased pressure within strains the pipe and weakens it.
Signs Your Sewer Line is Clogged
If your plumbing begins to behave oddly, it could mean a sewer line clog in the making. Signs to watch for:
- Gurgling sounds in pipes
- Toilet not properly flushing
- Waste backup around your basement drain
- Slow draining water in all areas of home
- Bad stench coming from plumbing
- Flooded yard
When water can’t exit to the sewer, it has to go somewhere else. Watch for backed up drains, especially in the basement. You may even see water come out your shower head during laundry. If your line bursts or has a leak, you may see water pool up in your yard.
How Sewer Repair or Replacement Works
There are two ways we can repair or replace your sewer line:
- Excavate your yard and dig up the old line.
- Trenchless sewer line repair.
A plumbing technician will have to assess the damage to your line to determine which method is appropriate.
Digging up your yard to replace a damaged sewer line is costly and invasive procedure. It involves heavy machinery and a larger crew that can damage lawns.
Trenchless repair involves either lining your existing pipe or injecting a new pipe inside of it. A plumber can insert or spray a lining inside of your existing pipe if it is in good enough condition to continue servicing your needs.
If your pipe needs to be replaced, a plumber can perform pipe bursting from within. Pipe bursting works by running a cable with a new pipe through the old pipe and connecting it at both ends. A plumbing technician will dig a hole next to your existing drain and another at the street where your sewer line ends. They then run a cable with a new pipe attached to it and a wedge at the front. This wedge breaks up the existing pipe as it travels and deposits the new pipe in its place. Trenchless repairs are more economical, less invasive and faster.
How to Prevent Sewer Line Clogs in Your New Home
Now that you know what’s at stake, it’s valuable to know how you can avoid the headache of having to repair or replace the sewer line in your new home. The preventatives come down to two simple practices:
- Keep your drains clean. Be especially careful with what you flush down the toilet. Wipes, facial tissue, food and even toys can cause your system to clog and back up. In the kitchen, avoid excess food waste and grease. Liquid grease that you pour down the drain will coagulate and eventually gum things up. Use your garbage disposal and cold water to grind up and remove grease or dispose of it in your trash. Avoid rinsing food down your drain.
- Schedule annual drain maintenance. Your drain will inevitably experience some clogging. Tree roots will find their way in, and waste, hair and grime build up over time. A certified drain cleaning pro can run a snake or rooter (to cut tree roots) through your line to clean it out. They can also perform a camera inspection to make sure you don’t have any new damage or leaks. By having this performed yearly, you extend your sewer line’s life and improve its functionality.
Your Dallas Home Sewer Line Experts
If you’re concerned about your new home’s sewer line and would like us to look, schedule an appointment today. One of our punctual plumbers will happily look at your line, answer your questions and recommend any action you need to take. We look forward to helping you take care of your new investment for years to come.