Many homeowners take their sewer lines for granted until something goes wrong. This is a mistake, our sewer lines are a critical aspect of modern plumbing systems and we rely on them on a daily basis. Every drain, pipe and plumbing fixture in our homes is directly connected to that main sewer line. This line takes the waste and wastewater to transport it to the municipal sewer main under the street that borders our property.
A Brief Sewer Line Primer
Under normal operating conditions, a sewer line can last for 50 up to 100 years. The main determining factor is the materials that are used in the pipe construction and older pipes can wear out quickly at the end of their lifespan. But, a modern PVC sewer line pipe should last for at least 100 years before a replacement is required. Another key factor is the quality of the installation, and it should come as no surprise that a badly installed pipe will not last as long.
Many people believe that a sewer line is safe because it’s buried underground, but this is not true. Shifting soil, digging, yard work with machines, remodeling projects, tree roots, and many other threats can compromise the integrity of a sewer line pipe. Spotting these problems can be tricky because the pipe is buried, but it is possible to identify a problem if you know what to look for. Here are eight sewer line damage symptoms that you need to be aware of before you call your local certified plumber.
1. Sewage Line Backups
When a sewer line becomes clogged, it can have a dramatic effect on your home. The raw sewage and wastewater must be able to move and if it cannot travel through the sewer line, it can back up into your home. A common problem is when the toilet is flushed and the sewage line is blocked, which causes the raw sewage to come back up through the shower or tub drain. As you can imagine, this is a significant health hazard and it’s hard to clean the mess up safely. Another risk is that the wastewater can cause a lot of damage quickly, and this can be expensive to fix. If you have a sewage line backup, it’s important to contact your local certified plumber immediately.
2. Foul Smells
If your main sewer line is intact and functioning as intended, there should be no foul odors because the system is airtight. So, if you can smell sewage in your home, there may be a leak somewhere along the main sewer line. The usual places to notice these foul odors first are utility rooms and the basement. This “rotten egg” sulfur odor is hard to ignore and it will start to permeate your home via drains and plumbing fixtures. If you detect this odor, it’s important to call your local licensed plumber and get them to check it out for you.
3. Slow Running Drains
It’s very rare that a sewer drain line becomes blocked overnight. It’s more likely that the drain will run slower over time, and it eventually stops running entirely. This is more serious than a minor clog that can usually be removed with a simple cup plunger and some elbow grease. Surface clogs are pretty easy to remove with no formal plumbing training, but if they cannot be removed or they return regularly, there may be a deeper problem. A blockage deep in the sewer line drain is likely to be larger and harder to reach without specialized plumbing tools that most people don’t own. A local certified plumber will have access to equipment that can remove the drain clog safely without using harsh chemicals.
4. Mold and Mildew Growth
When a drain pipe or sewer line breaks, it can lead to the growth of toxic mold and mildew. The release of moisture and the presence of bacteria can create ideal growing conditions for mold, which creates a health problem for people living in your home. Mold damage is persistent, it’s expensive to repair and it’s usually accompanied by a foul odor. If you notice mold growth near drains and plumbing fixtures, contact your local licensed plumber for expert help and advice.
5. Multiple Clog Problems
A localized drain clog at a single drain or plumbing fixture is likely to be a surface clog that’s easier to remove. But, if you have multiple clogs in different areas of your home it’s a good sign that you have a main sewer line clog. This clog is deeper, harder to reach, and beyond any DIY removal method using a plunger, snake, or baking soda/vinegar mixture. If a sewer line clog is ignored it will only get worse over time leading to further cracks, leaks, and backups that are expensive to fix.
6. A Gurgling Toilet
It’s normal for a toilet to make noise when you flush it, but if you can hear an accompanying gurgling noise, it may be caused by a broken sewer line. The source of the noise is air that is trapped and released over and over again. This happens because the sewer line is no longer airtight, and the pipe has filled with water due to a deep clog or blockage.
7. Visible Foundation Cracks
A broken drain or sewer line can cause large visible cracks in the foundations of your home. This is evidence of a drain line leak that has been ignored for a long time and can lead to structural damage that’s hard to fix. In extreme cases, there may be sinkholes in your yard and the entire home can become unstable.
8. Lush Vegetation Growth
If your lawn and other plants seem to grow wild and lush in a smaller area of your yard, this may be an indicator of a sewer line break. The surface may be wet constantly and once you’ve eliminated the possibility of a faulty sprinkler system or overwatering, you need to call a professional plumber. The lush growth is caused by the extra release of nutrients in the sewage and the additional water.
If you think that you may have a sewer line clog or break, it’s important to contact your local licensed plumber immediately. They can inspect the line with a sewer line camera to locate the source of the problem quickly. It may be possible to clear the clog remotely or the pipe may need to be repaired.