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Basics of Sewer Repair: What Every Homeowner Should Know

Sewer lines are silent killers.

Think about it. Unlike other household structures and fixtures, sewer lines and underground drains are invisible. You never truly know if you are living in a haven or are harboring a broken sewer line underground.

It’s inevitable that every homeowner deal with sewer line repairs at least once in their lifetime. But once you understand the basics of sewer repair, you truly know what you’re up against. Believe us, the sewer repair costs are not the most significant issue you have to consider.

This complete homeowner’s guide to sewer line repairs aims to change that.

In this article, discover the signs and causes of underground drain damage and explore your sewer line repair options. By the end, feel equipped to make informed decisions about your sewer repairs.

Understanding Sewer Repair Basics

The basics of sewer repair revolve around this trifecta: the signs, causes and repair options for sewer problems. Most homeowners feel blindsided by sewer repair costs because they do not understand these three concepts. But only some questions or complaints arise when residential homeowners fully understand the reality of the situation.

But before we dig into these, what are sewer line repairs for in the first place?

The United States sits over 1.6 million miles of aging and degrading sewer lines. With increased age comes weaker structural integrity and susceptibility to damage, hence, sewer problems. It’s not surprising if your home’s pipeline belongs in this category.

This is what sewer line repairs aim to address. But knowing the root cause, telltale signs and solutions to these drain problems matters more.

Causes of Sewer ProblemsCauses of Sewer Problems

Sewer problems can happen for a variety of reasons. Awareness of these sources helps you preemptively track and maintain sewer lines, impacting longevity. Below, we’ll look at the four primary reasons behind sewer snags and drain line problems:

  • Age

Pipes have an average lifespan of 50-100 years, but that is the ideal scenario. As pipelines age, their structural integrity declines, leading to cracks, leaks or collapse. Exposure to elements and underground degradation may expedite this process.

Do a little research on your property and find out your pipe’s age. If it hovers over the 50-year mark, expect pipe problems to arise— it’s inevitable.

  • Tree root intrusion

While championed as nature’s defenders, trees are enemies of pipelines. Perennials surrounding your property will pose problems on your pipes. Tree roots are hydrophilic or affinity to water, so they inch closer to conduits of fluids.

Roots will go to any extent to facilitate their growth. That includes penetrating through your sewer lines to siphon the liquid, clogging your drains.

  • Clogs from non-flushable items

Sometimes, homeowners themselves are the ones to blame for their sewer problems. 

Flushing down non-flushable items, like cloth and diapers, is a common cause of sewer damage. These items can block the line, disrupting the fluid flow and causing backups. In extreme cases, the clogs can force pipes to crack in search of an exhaust.

Aside from non-flushable items, pouring items like oil or grease damages pipelines. Hardened fats may deposit on the interior of underground drains, creating a layer of fat that restricts flow. Fats are hydrophobic, so they won’t react or move even with flowing water.

  • Ground shifting

Lastly, ground shifts caused by earthquakes and soil disintegration often lead to sewer line problems. These seismic activities can cause pipelines to crack or fold in half, resulting in wastewater spillage.

Weather can also influence ground shifting. Heavy rainfall increases the weight of soil, increasing the pressure over underground drains, which causes them to dislodge or flatten. The same applies when heavy objects, like cars, run above the pipe system.

Signs of Sewer ProblemsSigns of Sewer Problems

Unless you are actively tracking sewer problem causes, there is no direct way to determine them. That is precisely why they are called silent killers. But knowing the telltale signs that you have a broken sewer line under your nose helps you stay ahead. Below are four of the most common symptoms of sewer problems:

  • Foul odors

Can you visualize the smell of rotten sludge at the end of your pipeline? Imagine that same sewage flowing through cracks and penetrating your home or lawn. Foul odors are your first clue to call in a sewer repair contractor. It’s easy to spot, too, because sewage smells like rotten eggs.

If you whiff rotten eggs on your home or lawn, you might have a sewer line problem on your plate.

  • Slow drains 

Slow-draining sinks or toilets are the visual signs of piping damage. While they are easy to spot, they don’t necessarily suggest sewer line damage. If you suspect your drains are running slow, check the other sinks of your home. This will help you understand if the issue is localized or prevalent— it’ll also save you a lot of money in repair costs.

  • Gurgling sounds in the plumbing

Gurgling noises in your plumbing are also signifiers of damage. Bubbles escaping through cracks, crevices, or loose portions in your pipelines are responsible for the gurgling noise. The vibrations caused by the bubbles are amplified when they move through the pipes, creating a low rumbling sound.

  • Sewage backups

Sewage backups in your drains or toilets are dead giveaways of a broken sewer pipeline. In most cases, the water that backs up is clean and odorless— it’s just a sign of clogged pipes. But if you notice puddles of grey-colored water around your sinks or toilet, chances are it’s sewage.

Sewer Repair Options

The biggest point of contention among homeowners is the sewer repair process. Aside from high costs, sewage pipe repair also entails excavating your lot and damaging pipes, right?

Not exactly. Sewer line repair comes in two forms, each with advantages and disadvantages. Understanding your sewer repair options help you make informed decisions on your preferred solution.

  • Traditional sewer line replacement

Traditional sewer line replacement is what most homeowners are familiar with. This practice ascribes to conventional methods of fixing underground drains, which include excavation. Drain contractors must dig up your yard using shovels and backhoes to locate and fix the problem. Only then can they replace the damaged pipes with brand-new materials.

While seemingly wasteful, traditional sewer line replacement is ideal for a complete overhaul. That means removing all aged pipelines and installing new tubes.

  • Trenchless sewer line repair

Trenchless sewer line repair is the modern-day approach to fixing sewer lines and underground drains. As the name suggests, this process eliminates the need for trenches or excessive digging. Moreover, it uses devices like push cameras to perform sewer camera inspections and locate the issues.

Trenchless sewer repair comes in two forms: pipe relining and pipe bursting.

Pipe relining involves inserting a flexible tube into the existing pipe system and coating it with a water-resistant sealant. This is ideal for minor pipe leaks and cracks, requiring minimal digging.

Pipe bursting is a more intensive method that involves breaking down old pipelines and replacing them with new ones. This is an ideal solution for completely collapsed or dislodged pipes. It also requires minimal excavation and effort.

Trenchless approaches are ideal for repairing damaged or replacing pipes. However, they are not ideal when dealing with extensive damage that covers the entire pipeline.

Hiring a Professional

Hiring a Professional

There are more layers to sewer repair than just fixing or replacing pipes. It’s possible to mitigate damage by tracking the telltale signs behind pipe damage. Otherwise, knowing your sewer line repair options helps you choose the ideal solution for your problem.

Drain Magic recommends hiring a professional to give you a professional assessment. And feel free to contact other service providers for a second opinion.

If you live in South Central Pennsylvania and need a service, call Drain Magic. We are the number one partner of Pennsylvania residents for trenchless sewer line repair and replacements.

Book an appointment here.