Having to repair a sewer line can be a major headache. In many cases, the only way to access the sewer line is to dig up the yard, as the pipe is typically at least 4 feet underground to help prevent it from freezing during the winter. Trenchless sewer repair may allow the line to be replaced without any major digging, but this isn’t always an option.
If your sewer line is broken or damaged, it may start to flood your yard with sewage. All of the water coming out of the line also has the potential to cause major damage to your home’s foundation. Unfortunately, the entire sewer line is solely the homeowner’s responsibility, and it will be up to you to repair or replace it if the line breaks anywhere between your home and where it meets the main municipal sewer line out in the street.
While a broken sewer line is obviously a serious issue, a blocked or clogged line can also create many problems. If you do suspect your sewer line has any issues, it is vital that you hire a professional plumber to inspect it with a camera as soon as possible as the problem will typically only continue to worsen. It is also important that you know what signs to look for to help you determine when you have a sewer line issue, and here is a quick overview of the signs of a blocked or broken sewer line and also the most common causes of these issues.
How to Know If Your Sewer Line Is Blocked
Although it is possible for a sewer line to suddenly become blocked if you put too many solids down the drain or toilet, most sewer line blockages slowly develop over time. The most common cause of a clogged sewer line is putting fat, oil, and grease down the drain. When these substances make their way down into your plumbing, they will typically start to solidify and harden as they flow through your sewer system. The fats can then cling to the insides of your sewer line and create a sticky blob that traps any other solids and slowly begins to clog the pipe.
The fact that sewer line clogs slowly develop over time means that there are usually some pretty obvious signs that you’ll notice before the line becomes fully clogged and sewage starts backing up inside your home. Nonetheless, if the clog has progressed to the point where you have sewage backing up and overflowing out of your drains or toilet, you should immediately stop using your plumbing until you have your sewer line inspected. Any water or waste that you continue to put down the drain or toilet will end up coming right back up because it has nowhere else to go.
Sinks, showers, bathtubs, and other fixtures that drain much more slowly than normal are an obvious indicator that your sewer line is partially blocked. If only one fixture or only the fixtures in one part of the home drain slowly, it usually means the blockage is in a drain line somewhere inside your home. However, if all of your fixtures start draining slowly, you can be fairly certain that the problem is with your main sewer line. Along with slow drains, you will also often hear a gurgling noise coming from your pipes or toilets when they drain.
A partial blockage can still cause some wastewater to back up in your floor drains, but the water may not completely overflow and flood the surrounding area. However, you will still often see a white residue around the floor drains that indicates water has backed up in them fairly recently.
A blocked sewer line can also cause the water level in your toilet to slowly lower on its own over time. Contrary to popular belief, a clog won’t always cause your toilets to overflow. Instead, sometimes a clog can create a siphon effect that pulls water out of the toilet.
Spotting the Signs of a Broken Sewer Line
A broken sewer line is sometimes more difficult to spot. A major break will usually become quite noticeable quickly, but a minor break where there is only a small leak can easily go undetected for months or possibly even years. One issue is that, unlike a blockage or clog, a broken sewer line often won’t have any noticeable effect on your plumbing system as all of your drains and fixtures may still work normally.
Nonetheless, there are a few signs that can still help to indicate if your sewer line is broken. For instance, a broken sewer line will often cause the grass and vegetation directly above the pipe to be much lusher and greener than the rest of the yard as all of the waste leaking out contains nutrients that act as fertilizer. If the sewer line runs underneath a driveway or sidewalk, the concrete or asphalt may also start to sag or look damaged.
A broken sewer line can also result in your yard suddenly having many more pests as they can be drawn in by the smell of sewage. Speaking of smells, a noticeable sewage odor in your yard is a fairly obvious sign that your sewer line is broken and leaking. The same is also true if your yard suddenly has lots of standing water or if the ground feels soft, spongy or soggy in the area around your sewer line.
Getting to the Root of the Problem
Sewer lines can break due to the ground shifting or even because of heavy rains. However, the number one cause of broken sewer lines is rooted. Roots from trees, bushes and shrubs constantly spread out in search of water and nutrients, and your sewer line has everything they’re looking for.
If your sewer line has enough minor damage, roots can easily get inside it. Larger roots can also start to push on the sewer line as they grow and eventually cause the pipe to break.
Once roots do get inside a sewer line, the water and nutrients flowing through it will nourish the roots and cause them to grow quickly until they overtake the entire pipe. When this happens, you’ll likely start having issues with slow drains and sewage backups in the home in addition to the other signs of a broken sewer line.
Making sure not to plant any trees or bushes directly above or near your sewer line can help, but roots can still travel a long way in search of water. If the problem is fairly minor, a camera inspection and rooting or hydro jetting may be able to fix the issue without needing to dig up the sewer line. However, it is always best to try to prevent issues with regular sewer line maintenance and by using root killers to eliminate any roots that could pose a problem.
If you suspect you have a problem with your sewer line, the skilled plumbers from Hope Plumbing specialize in camera inspections and all types of sewer repair. We can also assist if you need any other plumbing service in the Indianapolis area. Whether you have a broken sewer line or need any other plumbing work performed, give us a call today and we’ll be happy to help.