Every plumbing pipe, fixture, and drain in your home is connected to the largest and most critical plumbing system in your home, and that is your main sewer line. If your plumbing fixtures, pipes, and drains, are used improperly or if other external factors come into play, your main sewer line can be placed under a great deal of stress. Over time, the line could become clogged, cracked, broken, and if can even collapse entirely. When there is a problem with the main sewer line, it will need to be inspected by a professional plumber and a repair or even a replacement may be needed. In this article, we will look at what causes main sewer line clogs, the warning signs to follow, and how you can prevent and fix the problem.
5 Leading Causes of Clogged Main Sewer Line
Many homeowners have experienced plumbing issues related to their drains, such as a slow draining sink or bathtub, or a clogged drain. When it comes to a single small clog, these problems are pretty easy to solve. In many cases, a simple cup plunger used with moderate effort for a minute can alter the pressure in the pipe and manually remove the clog. But, what happens if every single drain in the home starts to backup at the same time? This could be a sewer drain clog; a local licensed plumber will need to inspect the line to discover the source of the problem. If you’re lucky only a section of the main sewer line will be affected, but in other cases, a more extensive repair or replacement may be required. Let’s look at five of the main reasons why your main sewer line is clogged.
- Flushing the Wrong Material
Many people flush all types of items in their toilet, and this is very bad for your plumbing system. If you treat your toilet like a trashcan, it will create clogs eventually, and this can be difficult and expensive to fix. The only materials that should be flushed in your toilet are human waste and toilet paper. Anything else should be placed in the trash where it belongs.
- Pouring Fat, Oil and Grease in the Drain
Fat, oil, and grease are some of the worst materials that contribute to the clogging of drains and main sewer lines. Pouring these thick, sticky, and greasy materials into your drain is terrible because when it cools, it becomes hard and it will stick to the inner surface on your pipes. Grease is sticky, so other materials, such as hair, soap, mousse, gels, coffee grinds, hair, and other materials will adhere to it. Over time this will form a clog that will grow larger until it starts to inhibit the flow of water into the drain. You will notice that the drain starts to slow, and eventually, the water will have no place to go, and it will back up into your home. It’s a better idea to pour these materials into an old coffee jar, let them cool and go hard and then throw them in the trash.
- Broken or Ruptured Pipes
If the sewer pipe is broken, the sewage cannot drain through the system, and this will lead to a series of quick and frequent sewage back up issues. There are three common causes of damage to your sewer pipes, they are:
An older sewer pipe can corrode, causing it to rupture, break and collapse.
A sewer pipe can break due to settling, shifting soil and pressure from heavy machinery above.
The joints in the pipe can leak if the seals between each section of pipe have been compromised, and this will allow sewage and water to escape.
- The Sewer Line is Sagging
Over time the sewer line can sag creating a “bellied” pipe where a section has sunk down lower than the rest of the main sewer line. This can occur due to soil or ground conditions, and the sunken section will become an area where waste accumulates. This will cause sewage blockages, and the section of pipe will need to be repaired.
- A Tree Root Infiltration
Many older main sewer lines were made from cast iron, clay or a variety of other porous materials. The connections made between these sections of sewer pipe were not as tight as you would find with modern pipes made from PVC. These older sewer lines are prone to leaking small volumes of sewage and water from your home. Sometimes, this is easy to notice, and you may see more plant or grass growth above those sections of pipe. If you have larger shrubs or trees in your yard, they have long roots that are constantly searching for new sources of water. Over time, they can reach your main sewer line and start to feed on the water leaking into the ground there. Eventually, the root will begin to grow into the pipe to get at the water inside. This will break the pipe apart and block the main sewer line leading to a back up in your home.
4 Warning Signs of a Main Sewer Line Problem
There are four main warning signs that you have to look out for, they are:
- Multiple fixtures clogged at the same time.
- Frequent backups into your drains.
- Thicker growth on isolated sections of grass or smelly muddy patches.
- Strange behaviors when you use your plumbing fixtures.
If you notice one or more of these warning signs contact a professional plumber for expert help and advice.
Main Sewer Line Repair or Replacement Methods
A professional plumber is needed for a main sewer line problem, and they will start by carrying out a camera inspection. Based on the results, they will advice one of the following two repair or replacement options.
A Traditional Sewer Line Repair: The area surrounding the damaged section of sewer line will be dug out, and the repair or replacement carried out. Then the trench is backhoed and refilled to cover the sewer line up again. This is an intrusive method that causes a signficant amount of disruption.
A Trenchless Repair: This system uses smaller access holes to get to damaged sections of pipe and repair the pieces while laying new sections. This causes less damage and disruption to your yard, but this cannot be used for certain types of sewer line repairs.
If you have problems with your main sewer line, contact a local licensed plumber
for expert help and advice.
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 solution.