Every pipe in your home eventually leads down to a large pipe called a lateral connection. Your lateral connection is buried under your home and runs at an angle down into the municipal sewer system. While you’re not under any obligation to make sure the city sewer runs properly, the lateral connection is another story.
Unfortunately, lateral connections 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 strange wet spots, smells, or soggy, sunken areas in your lawn recently, your lateral connection could have sprung a leak. Here’s what that means, and what you can do about it.
How It Happened
Sewer lines can spring leaks for a couple reasons. Most commonly, these leaks happen because the lateral connection is simply old or made of outdated materials like clay. Lateral connections work hard and process a lot of water every day, so over time all that work will wear them down. It’s also possible that something inside the sewer line obstructed the water flow and put undue pressure on a certain part of the piping. If an obstruction lasts long enough, that pressure will burst out of the pipe, rupturing it.
Sewer line breaks may also occasionally happen for more… dramatic reasons. Ground tremors like those caused by earthquakes or nearby major construction could crack a sewer line, causing significant leaking at all once. Tree roots looking for water might try to find it in your sewer line, breaking into the walls of the pipe as they grow down into it.
How You Can Tell
Wet or sunken places on your lawn don’t necessarily mean you have a sewer line leak, but they are one of the most reliable signs. When you notice wet spots on your lawn, you should 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 it seems like your water isn’t running as forcefully as it should, it could be because you’re losing pressure to a leak.
Depending on how far down the leak is, you may also be able to smell or even hear it. Sewer line leaks might smell like sewage, but they can also smell like mold or mildew. When sewer leaks happen, they create a great environment for mold to grow in: dark, wet, and warm. Along with the sunken or wet areas, you may even see unusually lush or thick lawn growth, for similar reasons. If your lawn or the plants around it aren’t adapted to excess water, however, you may see plant death instead.
Problems It Can Cause
Raw sewage is full of harmful bacteria. Over time, this bacteria will kill your lawn and any plants on it. It can even seep up onto the surface, becoming a health hazard for you and your family. Water under your home can also warp or damage your foundation faster than your normal drainage systems can process and mitigate it. 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 whole home’s structural integrity!
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 all the time. Not only is this gross and unhealthy, it will attract all kinds of pests, including insects, rodents, weeds, mildew, and mold. Lowered water pressure caused by a leaking sewer line may also result in more frequent drain clogs–in all of your water fixtures at once. 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
As you may have noticed, every one of the costly problems leaking sewers cause get exponentially worse the longer they go on. The best thing you can do about a sewer line leak–even if you’re not totally sure you have one–is call a professional right away. We can use specialized camera equipment to confirm your leaking problem, or at least figure out what the problem is.
We have a couple different ways to handle sewer leaks. Depending on the extent and nature of the problem, we may be able to effectively 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. As bad as you think the problems are, they’re nothing compared to the kind of damage you could do to your sewer if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing down there.
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, you should give us a call right away. The faster we can get to the source of the problem, the better the chance that we can fix it before it becomes a big deal. Don’t panic, we’ll get through this together!