Every pipe in your home leads to a large pipe called a lateral connection or sewer line. Your lateral connection is buried under your home and runs at an angle down into the municipal sewer system. You’re not obligated to make sure the city sewer runs properly, but you are responsible for your personal sewer line. If it breaks or starts leaking, it’s on you to fix it.
Unfortunately, sewer lines can leak or rupture just like any other plumbing pipe. It doesn’t happen too often, but when it does the consequences can be severe. If you’ve noticed wet spots, smells, or soggy, sunken areas in your lawn recently, your lateral connection may be leaking. Here’s what that means, and what you can do about it.
How It Happened
Sewer line leaks usually start leaking when they get old, especially if they’re made of outdated materials like clay. Over time, the water moving through the lateral connection wears away at its inner components. When the pipe wears down enough, it starts leaking. Clogs in your lateral connection can also lead to leaking or more serious damage. As water struggles to move past clog in your connection, pressure starts building up. Eventually, that pressure could burst through the pipe, rupturing it.
Sewer line breaks can also happen for more… dramatic reasons. Ground tremors from earthquakes or construction could crack a sewer line, causing significant leaking at all once. Always figure out exactly where your lateral connection is before you perform any excavation projects on your property. Digging without knowing what’s underground is dangerous! Tree roots also occasionally break into sewer lines by growing down into and through the pipe walls.
How You Can Tell
Wet stretches of lawn don’t necessarily mean you have a sewer line leak, but they’re definitely a symptom. When you notice wet spots, start looking for other signs of sewer line damage. If you find any, you’ll know that’s what you’re dealing with. The easiest way to tell you’ve got a sewer line problem is to check your home’s water pressure. If you’re not getting enough pressure, you could be losing some of it to a leak.
If you don’t see any wet areas on your lawn, look for patches of grass that are unusually lush. Those patches may be absorbing excess water from an underground sewer line leak. You may even be able to smell or hear the leak if you get close enough to its source. Sewer line leaks might smell like sewage, but they can also smell like mold or mildew. When sewer leaks happen, they create the perfect environment for mold: open spaces that are dark, wet, and warm.
Problems Sewer Leaks Cause
The raw sewage in your sewer line is full of harmful bacteria. That bacteria will harm your lawn as it seeps into your soil. If sewage rises to the surface of your lawn as wet spots, it’s a serious health hazard. Any sewage that leaks under your home can also warp, damage, and compromise its structural integrity. Enough water over a long enough period of could buckle your driveway, sidewalk, patio, or deck. It could even do permanent, irreversible damage to your foundation!
Then there’s the smell. If your leak problem gets bad enough, your basement, yard, or whole home could end up smelling like raw sewage. That sewage will attract all kinds of pests and also helps foster mold and mildew. The water pressure problems imposed by leaking sewer lines could also force your plumbing fixtures to clog more frequently. Finally, all that wasted water will make your water bill skyrocket. You’ll have to deal with all these problems, and you’ll get billed for it, to boot!
What You Can Do
Every one of the problems leaking sewer lines cause get exponentially worse the longer they go on. The best thing you can do about a sewer line leak is call a professional right away. We can use specialized camera equipment to figure out what your problem is and fix it fast. The sooner we get there, the sooner we can stop the damage from getting worse.
We have a couple different ways to handle sewer leaks. Depending on the extent and nature of the problem, we may even fix your line without digging anything up! We’ll remove tree roots and other obstructions, blast your pipe’s walls clean, and seal up any leaks we find. There are plenty of plumbing projects you can do yourself, but sewer line repair really isn’t one of them. Digging up sewer lines is very dangerous (and potentially expensive), unless you know exactly what you’re doing.
Sewer line leaks are no joke. They could ruin your lawn, endanger your health, or even permanently damage your home’s structure.
If you think you’ve got sewer line damage, give us a call right away. The faster we figure out the problem, the better our chance of fixing it before it does serious damage. Don’t panic, we’ll get through this together!