If your sewer line breaks, it’s a good idea to take immediate action to fix the problem. The leaking from the sewer line can lead to a number of serious problems, including health risks, sewage backup into the home, and property damage. If you’ve just purchased your home and you’re not sure about the condition of the sewer line, it should be inspected. The sewer line could be partially clogged or it may have cracks or root intrusions that will cause a break sooner or later. In this article, we will take a look at the four signs that you have a sewer line break and what you can do to fix the problem quickly.
A Brief Primer on Sewer Lines
The sewer line is the pipe that connects your home to the main sewer system under the street. This pipe is typically buried underground and for that reason, it’s often forgotten until something goes wrong. Many people believe that sewer lines are impervious to damage because they are “protected” underground” This is not true, shift soil, root intrusions, construction work, and other factors can all cause damage.
A prime cause of sewer line problems is the material that is flushed into the drains from your home. The sewer line is designed to remove human waste, toilet paper, wastewater, and nothing else. When other items are moved into the drain line they can become trapped and form clogs with other materials. Eventually, this clog can block the sewer line entirely and the wastewater cannot move to the main sewer system. This can cause a sewer backup into the home which creates a great deal of mess that’s hard to clean and it represents a health hazard. Let’s take a look at some of the warning signs of a sewer line failure.
1. Slow Running Drains
The drains from sinks, appliances, and plumbing fixtures are a good indicator of the health of your sewer line. If you have a slow drain on a single fixture the probable cause is a smaller localized clog at the drain line of that fixture. These smaller clogs can usually be removed with a plumbing snake or a cup plunger. But, if you have a slow drain at multiple locations at the same time it’s more likely that the problem lies in the main sewer line.
2. Mold and Mildew Growth
If you see the rapid growth of mold and mildew in your home it can be caused by a blocked sewer drain line. This is particularly true if the growth is present in your basement or other underground location. The backup of sewage and wastewater provides an ideal breeding for the growth of mold. When the mold spores are released into the air, they can lower the indoor air quality (IAQ) which can trigger allergic reactions and affect people with pre-existing breathing difficulties.
3. Strange Grass or Organic Odors
When a sewer line breaks, it’s often accompanied by strange “grassy” or organic odors that are hard to miss. The smell may be very obvious around the various drains in your home and they are toxic. The buildup of sewer gas caused when the wastewater cannot reach the main sewer will increase over time. Eventually, you will be able to smell this odor throughout your home and it will be impossible to ignore.
4. Pests and Vermin
Another common phenomenon that occurs during a sewer line failure is an increase in the number of vermin, bugs, and other pests in the area. Some rodents live in the sewers and they can squeeze into your home via small cracks in the line. Insects are also attracted to a broken drain because the warm stagnant water is an ideal breeding ground. In a short period of time, insects can multiply at a rapid rate leading to a full blown infestation problem.
The Severity of the Problem
As you can see, a failing or failed sewer line can be identified by a number of problems in your home and most of them are pretty serious. Ignoring the problem is a bad strategy because it will only get worse over time and it will be more expensive to fix. Initially, you may deal with the mold growth and increase in vermin with cleaning and pest prevention measures. But, these strategies will not handle a sewer backup, which can be very hard to clean and does represent a serious health risk for your family. These problems will continue until the underlying problem is identified and fixed.
What Can You Do to Fix the Problem?
The first step is to realize that this problem cannot be fixed with a DIY approach and you need help from a professional plumber. Pouring a chemical drain cleaner into your drains will not remove a deep clog in the sewer line and it damages your pipes anyway. Using a plumbing snake will not be effective because it won’t be long enough to clear the deep clog and if the pipe is damaged, it won’t make any difference. The first thing that you need is a plumbing pipe inspection to determine the cause of the problem. A professional plumber can insert a fiber optic sewer line inspection camera into the drain to locate the source of the problem. Then they can suggest a course of action to remove the clog and/or repair the sewer line and minimize the disruption to your home.
The Sewer Line Inspection
This is a useful exercise if you’ve recently purchased a home because a home inspection typically will not cover the sewer line. Many older homes have aging plumbing systems that include outdated construction materials that don’t conform to modern sanitary standards. They may be prone to failure and an inspection will evaluate the condition and help you to make informed choices.
The Sewer Line Repair
If the sewer line is damaged, it may be possible to carry out a trenchless repair to fix the break. This is desirable because it involves less digging in the yard and it reduces the repair time considerably. Another option is repiping which involves inserting a new pipe into the existing pipe to upgrade the line to modern standards.
If you suspect that you have a sewer line problem, contact your local professional plumber and schedule an inspection today.