Dealing with a Broken Sewer Line
Time to Replace a Broken Sewer Pipe?
Sewer lines are one of those things we don't think about until something goes wrong. You start noticing the problem when you hear gurgling noises from the toilet, or when water drains more slowly than usual, or when a smelly sinkhole appears in your yard.
So, how do you deal a broken sewer line? Who do you call? How much will it cost? We'll attempt to answer some of those questions here...
Why Do Sewer Pipes Fail?
Nothing lasts forever, and sewer lines are no exceptions. The older the pipes are, the more likely you're going to have problems with them.
Although properly installed PVC pipes are supposed to have a lifespan of well over 100 years, older pipes are usually made from clay tile, steel, or some other material that may only last 50 or 60 years. If you have an older home that was built before the late 1980s, there's a good chance you're dealing with clay pipes.
It's common for tree roots to wedge their way into pipes. Trees love the moisture! After a while the roots grow so dense and matted that they plug up the pipe completely.
Sewer pipes can also get clogged up with an accumulation of grease, muck, and other nasty stuff that gets washed down there day after day.
And sometimes sewer lines just plain break, collapse, or rot away. Tree roots have a way of hastening this process. The bad news is that every time you run a snake through your pipes to clear out the tree roots, you damage the sewer line even further.
Black & Decker The Complete Guide to Plumbing
To be honest, I don't mess with plumbing if I don't have to. I don't even like unclogging my drains--it's disgusting. But if you want to really understand the plumbing in your house and tackle some repairs yourself, you can't go wrong with Black & Decker's Plumbing Guide. Can't go wrong with any Black & Decker book, really--they're always full of photographs and excellent step-by-step instructions.
When Does a Sewer Line Need to be Repaired or Replaced?
If you start smelling sewage, if there are patches in your yard that are always wet, and/or you see a wet sinkhole, you probably need to replace your sewer line.
Unfortunately, replacing a sewer line can be very expensive. We're talking at least a few thousand dollars.
Many people who face this kind of price tag wonder if they can get away with patching their pipes. But if the sewer line is old, there are almost certainly other bad spots that will give you problems now or in the near future. A series of patch jobs isn't cheap. In the long run, it just makes more sense to replace the entire line.
The best way to find out the condition of your sewer line is to have someone run a camera through it. This may cost around $300, but it will show you what you're up against.
Sewer Problems: What to Watch for!
An informative video about sewer lines and the problems they cause. Clogged up sewer lines can be a nasty business.
How Much Does it Cost to Replace a Sewer Line?
What'll it cost you? That depends. It could cost anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000. Here are some factors that can affect the price tag:
- Trees: If someone has to chop down some trees and grind up some stumps just to dig up the sewer line, this will bump up the cost.
- The gas line: There should be plenty of space between your gas line and sewer line. But if you're unlucky enough to have your gas line right on top of your sewer pipe like ours was, the price tag goes up A LOT.
- The hook-up: If the city's sewer hook-up doesn't go right up to your property, you may be forced to tear up the road. This can easily ramp up the cost to $5,000 or more.
We were unlucky enough to have all three of those problems. So, we had to shell out $10,000 to get our sewer line replaced.
How to Hire Someone to Replace a Sewer Line
Many licensed plumbers can dig up and replace a sewer line for you. However, instead of hiring the first one you think of, you should get an estimate from at least three plumbers. It's best to get recommendations from friends and family if possible.
This is not just about choosing the best price. Replacing a sewer line is a big job, and you don't want to hand it over to just anyone. Interviewing each plumber will give you a feel for their knowledge and competence.
You won't get an estimate over the phone, because the plumber has to see what he's dealing with first. You'll need to schedule a time for the plumber to come over and look at your property.
It's a good idea to ask questions, such as how long his company has been in business and whether he's done this kind of work before.
When you talk to him, does he seem confident and knowledgeable? Is he alert to the kind of problems that might come up while replacing a sewer line? Does he ask questions and try to get a good feel for the situation so that he can give you the most accurate estimate possible? It's worth it to pay attention to all these details.
Tips for Preventing Clogs and Sewer Line Problems
A little prevention and maintenance can save you a ton of money and grief in the long run. Here are some things you can do to help keep your sewer line in good shape:
- Find out where the sewer line is located. This will help you make the best decisions when it comes to landscaping, parking your vehicles, etc.
- Don't plant trees or shrubs near your sewer line. The roots will eventually seek out the line.
- Don't park a vehicle over your sewer line. The weight of the vehicle could weaken and crush the pipe below.
- If you suspect that roots are invading your sewer line, flush some copper sulfate down the toilet.
- Apart from copper sulfate and toilet cleanser, don't flush anything down the toilet that isn't toilet paper or human waste. The toilet is NOT the place for disposing of your dental floss, old nail polish remover, tampons, cigarettes, or kitty litter!
- Don't pour any grease down the drain. Instead, pour the grease in a cup or a can and dispose of it.
So, have you ever had to deal with broken sewer pipes?