Three Signs You May Have a Breach in Your San Fernando Valley or LA Sewer Line
A main sewer line is an integral and vital component of a properly functioning plumbing system. The sewer line is responsible for collecting wastewater from your home’s drains and transporting it beneath your house and yard to the municipal sewer system pipe in the street. In many aging LA neighborhoods and the hills of West Hollywood as well as the Valley in Studio City, Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys, Valley Village, Encino, Tarzana etc., the infrastructure is well over 50, sometimes 75 years old and the sewage system is desperate need of a complete overhaul.
The most common cause of sewage backup is a blockage of some form in an intersecting service pipe between the city main and your house. This is principally due to the fact that as trees mature, in and around your property, their root structure can invade old clay pipes which is quite typical in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. Although a sewer line can also be compromised by the strain placed on the system due to residential or commercial growth or construction work in the area, the infiltration of tree roots is more typical and the chief cause of backups in this area of Southern California.
Tree roots usually look for water wherever they can find it and penetrate the old sewer clay lines at the joints (where, due to earth movement or seismic activity shift over time creating structural defects including cracks and breaks.) As the roots enter the lines they continue to grow leading to further misalignment of the pipes, which in time can actually cause them to sag or collapse altogether.
While in a few cases sewage backups are a city or county main problem, the lines from the street to your property and all the way into your home are solely the responsibility of the property owner, and you will need to conduct any repairs if you suffer any damage at all… and with an aging of home, rest assured, you will.
Since your sewer line is buried out of sight in a trench, detecting problems can be a little demanding until the damage becomes so significant that it affects the flushing of toilets and the flow of drains in your home.
What you Should Look for if your Main Sewer Line Becomes Blocked
There are usually three major reasons for blockages. Some are obvious, but some cannot be detected before damage occurs, unless you are pro-active and regularly maintain your lines. There are a few signs that can provide an early indication, however, of an impending problem that will require professional assistance.
If your toilets and drains are making gurgling noises, this could be a warning sign. Although you may not have noticed a clog in your drains, if a gurgling sound emanates when the water is flowing away, it could be a sign of a backup in the pipe. The sewer gases escaping out of the line would bubble in the water pressing down to make noise.
Commonly, the main cause of any blockage in your home or office plumbing, are objects unintentionally flushed down a drain or the accumulation grease, hair, dirt, and solid materials over time, such as disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, broken dishware, garbage and other debris that ultimately overwhelm the pipe system.
A single clogged sink is usually the result of such an obstruction in a drainpipe, but if you have clogged drains throughout the house, the matter is more serious. Multiple clogged drains or slow draining water, in different areas of the home, are a good indication that there could be something seriously wrong with your main sewer line. This problem could be an obstruction that is causing the water to backup, such as dirt resulting from a line break or a tree root. You may also notice that the clogs have a foul odor, which smells of the sewer.
Sewer Smells in Your Yard
Your sewer line runs under the property and under your yard to connect to the main city line. If you begin to notice an unpleasant smell in your yard or if you have a basement, it is likely to be the result of a break in the sewer line. You may also see your yard becoming soggy with foul smelling water that does not adequately drain away. This is more common in yards with mature trees. As the trees and their root system grow, they can invade older clay pipes, typical in the San Fernando Valley and LA, seeking water.
Preventing a sewer backup is far less costly and inconvenient than repairs, so it is important to be aware of any potential warning signs. This attention to detail will provide the opportunity for you to call in a drain and sewer professional and have the area inspected before the problem can escalate, causing further damage. At the first sign of any issues, you should have a professional inspection performed to highlight any areas of concern and avoid the inconvenience, stress and true mess of a sewer backup in your home.
By Giovanni Longo President Flood Brothers Plumbing
Giovanni Longo is a 3rd generation master plumber who has been practicing his craft and trade in the greater Los Angeles area for well over a decade and a half. A plumbing and hydraulics-engineering innovator, Giovanni’s particular world-class expertise focuses on dealing with challenging sewer system designs as well as resolving complex commercial and residential draining issues. As a certified Flood Mitigation expert, he is also well versed in a wide variety of water damage and remediation solutions.