Unless you’re a plumber, you probably don’t know much about your sewer line. That’s OK, it’s usually not at the forefront of folks’ minds. However, here at InSink Plumbing, we’ve noticed that people ask a lot more questions when they’re having issues with their sewer line. So, today, we’re taking some time to address those questions. Let’s take a look at signs of a malfunctioning sewer line, who is responsible for a sewer line, what is involved in an inspection, what can damage and block a line, and when sewer lines need to be replaced.

What Are Some Signs of a Malfunctioning Sewer Line?

A visible leak: If you notice a leak within the walls of your home, your sewer line may have cracked or broken. Sewer line breakages within a home are most often caused by sewer lines that are old and outdated. Clay and cast iron pipes (which were popular sewer line options several decades ago) slowly decay. In addition, if a home shifts a significant amount, a sewer line can become pinched, cracked, or completely severed (however, this is an uncommon problem). Sewer lines will, of course, be far smellier than broken water lines, which brings us to our next sign…

Bad odors: If you notice bad odors in or around your home, your sewer line may be leaking. Do your best to look for leaks, and if you can’t find the source of the odor, it’s time to contact your plumber. Since much of your sewer line isn’t exposed (most of it will be buried outside of your home), the odor caused by a leak may be the only sign of an issue.

A backup: This is the most obvious sign of a sewer problem. If you have sewage seeping up through a drain or drains in your home, you’ll know it. Regardless of the issue at hand and the sign that you notice in your home, it’s best to refrain from using water. Any fluids that are flushed down the drain throughout your home can come up out of the drain or through a leak.

Who Is Responsible for the Sewer Line?

Since sewer lines are buried deep within the yard of a home, often people assume that they fall under the care of the city. After all, power lines and other utilities are treated this way. However, this is a misconception. Unfortunately for homeowners, sewer lines that span from a home to the sewer main (which is usually located underneath the road) are the responsibility of those homeowners. This “lateral” line must be maintained by the owner of the property. It is not the city’s responsibility to fix damaged or blocked lateral sewer lines. Instead, the city is only responsible for maintenance of the sewer main that resides underneath the road. A sewer line inspection can help to reveal where a sewer line is damaged, and whether or not it is the homeowner’s responsibility to repair that damage.

What’s a Sewer Line Inspection?

Thanks to relatively recent advances in technology, it’s possible to inspect sewer lines with a specialized camera. Plumbers often arrive at a sewer line complication with a sewer line camera. Here at InSink Plumbing, we have a 300 inch fiber optic cable spool that ends with a camera eye and light. Alongside our camera, we bring a color monitor and recorder to view the sewer line at hand. In this way, it’s possible to assess a problem without moving an ounce of dirt. That’s great news for homeowners, because we can offer up a quote for a repair or blockage removal. We also have a handy tool, called a locator, that provides sewer line depth and location information. So, if we do have to dig, we won’t have to tear up the whole yard to get to the source of the issue.

What Can Damage My Sewer Line?

Well, there are many things that can damage a sewer line. Most often, sewer lines are damaged by roots. Tree roots may seem innocent enough, but given enough time, they can create and infiltrate tiny cracks in your sewer line. And once a root has infiltrated your sewer line, it can grow enough to clog the line entirely. In this scenario, your line will need to be removed and replaced. In addition, as mentioned before, a line might just be too old. Cast iron and clay sewer pipes disintegrate over time. Expect clay sewer pipes to last 50 to 60 years. Cast iron pipes can last up to 100 years with proper care. If you have a PVC pipe, you’re in luck! These pipes are built to last for 100 years or more. However, take note, if you’ve resorted to using a liquid chemical drain cleaner, you may have damaged your sewer line. Ask your plumber for an enzyme clog remover for light clogs, or use a snake for more demanding clogs.

What Can Block My Sewer Line?

Grease, toiletries, and other objects can clog sewer lines. Be sure to keep foreign objects from going down the drain. Kids often flush handfuls of Legos or their favorite stuffed animal, and that can cause an immediate clog. In addition, hygiene products can cause a clog. Be sure to read the label on any product that’s being flushed—it will inform you if it is built to deteriorate when flushed. Never wash grease down the sink. Grease will solidify within your pipes, and over time that can cause a clog. Finally, don’t abuse the garbage disposal. While it’s OK to send bits of food down the sink to be devoured by the disposal, overusing your disposal can cause a clog down the line. Moderate your use of the disposal, don’t grind up large food chunks, and run water down the drain while you run the disposal.

When Do Sewer Lines Need Replacing?

If your sewer line is cracked or severed, it’s time to replace it. In some instances, when most of the sewer pipe is in good shape, sections of the sewer line can be replaced. However, if you have an old pipe that is deteriorating, it’s best to replace the whole line in one fell swoop. Your plumber will assess the damage that your piping has incurred, and he’ll let you know how much of your line needs replacing.

InSink Plumbing Sewer Line Services

Here at InSink Plumbing, we provide a suite of sewer line services. We can inspect and assess sewer line issues, and then we’ll get to work fixing them. From drain blockages to collapsed and cracked sewer lines, we’ve seen it all—and we’re prepared to fix your lines to get everything flowing as it should. Contact us and book an appointment online!