Sewer line repair and replacement is a critical task that homeowners may need to undertake at some point in their lives. Sewer lines are the underground pipes that carry wastewater from homes to the main sewer system. Over time, these pipes can develop issues that require repair or replacement to prevent damage to the home’s foundation, potential health hazards, and environmental concerns. According to US EPA, exposure to sewage because of damaged pipe sewer overflows can even lead to causing life-threatening diseases like hepatitis and cholera. In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about sewer line repair and replacement (1).
Symptoms of a Damaged Sewer Line
The first step in sewer line repair or replacement is identifying the signs of a damaged sewer line. According to the the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) (2), two of the most common symptoms of a damaged sewer line include water backup and strong smell of sewer gas. Additional symptoms that can signal sewer line issues are listed below.
- Foul Odors: A broken sewer line will release unpleasant odors that are hard to ignore. If you start noticing foul smells emanating from your drains, this could be a sign of a broken sewer line.
- Slow Drains: If your sink or bathtub is taking longer to drain than usual, it could be a sign of a clogged or damaged sewer line.
- Water Backup: Water backup in sinks, showers, and toilets is a tell-tale sign of a damaged sewer line.
- Gurgling Sounds: If you hear gurgling sounds coming from your drains, it could indicate a blockage or damage to your sewer line.
- Wet Spots in the Yard: If you notice wet spots in your yard, it could be a sign of a broken sewer line. Sewage can seep through the cracks and damage the surrounding soil.
Causes of Sewer Line Damage
Sewer line damage can occur due to a variety of factors. Here’s information on three common causes of sewer line damage:
- Tree Roots: Tree roots are a common cause of sewer line damage. In fact, the National Association of Sewer Service Companies quotes the United States’ Environment Protection agency calling sewer line root intrusion as the biggest hindrance in sewer system maintenance. (3) Trees near sewer lines can cause damage when their roots grow into the pipes, causing them to crack or break. As the roots continue to grow, they can block the flow of water and cause a backup in the system. This can be prevented by planting trees away from sewer lines and by regularly inspecting and maintaining the sewer lines to catch any root intrusion early.
- Clogged Pipes Due to Debris and Foreign Objects: Another common cause of sewer line damage is clogs due to debris and foreign objects. This can include items such as grease, food waste, hair, and feminine hygiene products. Over time, these items can build up in the pipes and cause a blockage. This can be prevented by properly disposing of waste and avoiding flushing non-degradable items down the toilet or drain.
- Corroded Pipes: Corrosion can also cause sewer line damage, especially in older pipes made of cast iron or clay. Over time, corrosion can cause the pipes to crack or break, leading to leaks and backups in the system. This can be prevented by regular maintenance and inspection of the sewer lines to catch any corrosion early and replace damaged pipes.
Sewer Line Repair
If you notice any of the above symptoms, it’s essential to contact a professional plumber as soon as possible. A qualified plumber will assess the damage and recommend the best course of action. If the damage is minimal, the plumber may be able to repair the sewer line without replacing it. According to This Old House, the most common methods for repairing sewer lines include (4):
- Pipe Lining: In this method, a flexible tube is inserted into the damaged pipe and inflated. The tube will harden and create a new pipe within the damaged one, sealing any cracks or leaks.
- Pipe Bursting: In this method, a new pipe is inserted into the damaged pipe, causing the old pipe to burst. This method is useful for severely damaged pipes.
- Spot Repair: This method involves repairing only the damaged section of the sewer line. It’s ideal for small cracks or leaks.
Sewer Line Replacement
If the damage to the sewer line is extensive, the plumber may recommend replacing the entire sewer line. This can be a more involved and expensive process than repairing the line. The most common methods for replacing sewer lines include:
- Traditional Excavation: In this method, the plumber will dig up the old pipe and replace it with a new one. This method is suitable for shallow pipes.
- Trenchless Sewer Line Replacement: This method involves creating two access points and using a hydraulic machine to pull the new pipe through the old one, breaking it up in the process. This method is less invasive and ideal for deep pipes. According to Angi (5), this is also the best method in cases where streets, driveways or other critical utilities are located directed over the pipes.
Trenchless Sewer Line Replacement
Trenchless sewer line replacement is a method used to replace underground sewer lines without the need for extensive excavation. This method has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its cost-effectiveness, minimal disruption to the surrounding area, and quick turnaround time.
The process of trenchless sewer line replacement involves creating access points at either end of the damaged sewer line. A hydraulic machine is then used to pull a new pipe through the old one, breaking it up in the process. This method is suitable for replacing sewer lines that are deep underground or in hard-to-reach areas.
Advantages of Trenchless Sewer Line Replacement
Trenchless sewer line replacement is a non-invasive method that requires only two small access points. This means there is minimal damage to the surrounding area, and disruption to daily activities is kept to a minimum.
Trenchless sewer line replacement can be more cost-effective than traditional excavation methods. This is because there is no need for extensive excavation, which can be time-consuming and expensive.
Quick Turnaround Time:
Trenchless sewer line replacement can be completed in a matter of hours, depending on the length of the sewer line. This means homeowners can resume their daily activities much sooner than with traditional excavation methods.
The new pipe used in trenchless sewer line replacement is made of high-density polyethylene, which is highly resistant to corrosion, leaks, and root intrusion. This means that the new sewer line can last for decades, reducing the need for further repairs.
How often should sewer lines be replaced?
The lifespan of sewer lines can vary depending on a variety of factors. These include the material the pipes are made of, the quality of the installation, the age of the pipes, and the conditions in which they operate. Generally, sewer lines made of materials like cast iron, clay, and Orangeburg (a type of bituminous fiber pipe) have a lifespan of around 50 to 100 years. PVC and ABS pipes can last even longer-for up to 100 years or more. If you live in an older house or apartment, an inspection by trained professional can help you ascertain the status of your sewer lines. Depending on the results, you can choose to either replace your sewer lines or get them repaired.
How much does it cost to dig up and replace sewer line?
The cost to dig up and replace a sewer line can vary widely depending on a number of factors, such as the length of the sewer line and the depth of the line. Additional factors like the location of the line, and the type of material used for the replacement also have an impact on the cost. On average, according to Forbes (6), the cost to replace a sewer line can range anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 or more, but in some cases, the cost can exceed $20,000. The cost can also vary depending on whether the work requires excavation by hand or the use of heavy equipment.
How long does trenchless sewer line repair last?
The longevity of trenchless sewer line repair will depend on various factors, such as the material of the pipes, the severity of the damage, and the quality of the repair work. However, in general, trenchless sewer line repair is known to be a durable and long-lasting solution. Cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) lining, which is one of the most common trenchless sewer repair methods, typically comes with a warranty of 50 years or more. Other trenchless sewer line repair methods, such as pipe bursting, also have a long lifespan.
How long does it take to repair a broken sewer line?
The time it takes to repair a broken sewer line can vary depending on several factors, such as the extent of damage, location of pipe, and the method used for repair. In general, traditional sewer line repairs can take several days or even up to a week to complete. Trenchless repairs on the other hand can take as little as a few hours.
How to choose the best sewer line repair company?
When choosing a sewer line company, there are a few factors that you should keep in mind. The right choice of company will ensure your repairs last longer and you are assured of transparency in the repair or replacement process. Make sure to confirm years of experience and expertise that can be gauged through social media profiles, track record and online reviews. Also check to ensure the company has the proper licenses and certifications to perform the work and follow local codes and regulations. Insurance is another useful criterion to consider-a reputable company will offer insurance to cover any damages that may occur during the repair process. Last but not least, make sure you choose a company that provides references of past work, competitive pricing and reliable customer service.
Contact Us Today For a FREE Estimate
Are you in need of sewer line replacement but concerned about the damages and disruption that traditional excavation can cause to your property? With 60 years of experience, O’Grady Plumbing is your best choice for trenchless sewer line replacement in San Francisco. Our cutting-edge technology allows us to replace your sewer line with minimal excavation and disturbance to your landscaping, hardscaping, and structures. You’ll get the same high-quality and long-lasting sewer line replacement, but with much less mess and hassle. Best part, in many cases, trenchless sewer line replacement can cost you 30-50% less than traditional excavation methods. Don’t wait until a damaged sewer line becomes a major problem. Contact us today to learn about trenchless sewer line replacement and to schedule an appointment with our expert team for a free estimate.