Collapsed Sewer Line: 10 Things You Should Know

By |Published On: July 27th, 2021|Categories: Residential Plumbing, Sewer Systems|

Do you have a collapsed sewer line? Are you unsure of what to do next? This article talks about 7 signs you have a collapsed sewer line, the best solutions, and how much a fix should cost. Follow along!

collapsed sewer line

6 Signs You Have A Collapsed Sewer Line

Take a look at each of these and see if you notice similar traits in your home.

  • Constant Backups – Your sewer line is connected to all of your toilets, sinks, showers, and bathtubs. If you notice that you have clogs and backups in all of your fixtures, the main culprit will likely be your sewer line. An overflowing toilet is not something you want in your house!

  • Sewer Odor – Smell that? Does that smell get worse near your walls or bathrooms? If you smell sewage in your home, and ruled out your trash can, you can be confident that your sewer pipe is damaged. Don’t let that smell linger long!

  • Slow Drains – Do you notice water takes its time going down your drains? Is your shower filling up with water, or your sink pooling up? If all of your drains are slow, it’s the sewer line again!

  • Unnatural Yard Growth – What is going on with your grass? Do you have spots of crazy growth? When your underground sewer line collapses, or leaks, or anything, grass loves the “fresh fertilizer” that your pipe is feeding it. You are going to notice specific areas of growth, almost like a trail of breadcrumbs leading your home. Say no to extra lawn cutting!
  • Foundation Issues – Believe it or not, a collapsed sewer line can affect your home’s foundation in ways you never would have thought. When a drain pipe leaks sewage, the excess water will cause the soil to expand and shrink (if the foundation was built on top of expansive soil) causing your foundation to shift.

  • Insects or Rodents – If a drain pipe is damaged, rats, mice, sewer flies, or cockroaches can enter your home. Calling pest control may eliminate the current invaders, but the pipe is still cracked, and they will come back.

a clogged toilet is cleaned. with yellow latex gloves.
Common turf grass in the spring. Natural unkept lawn with a little weed.
rat in drain pipe

4 Reasons Why Sewer Lines Collapse

Below are some common reasons why sewer lines collapse.

  • Tree Roots – Older trees on your property are bound to have long, invasive roots. They seek out nutrients, sensing pipes flowing with waste or water. The roots attack the joints where the lines are their weakest, such as cracks. Once they’re inside, they drink and drink until the roots clog up your pipes.

  • Old Pipes – Old sewer lines made from cast iron or terracotta are more likely to fall apart or leak. Metals corrode and rust over time, while terracotta pipes are very susceptible to roots and leaks. Modern pipes are made with PVC, but the pipes used in homes built before the 70s are usually made from an outdated material.

    Learn more about – How to repair cast iron pipe

  • Soil Failure – Soil shifts around your property can cause pressure on the sewer lateral, causing them to crack, leak, and collapse. Soil can shift due to rain, floods, drought, freezing temperatures, and more.

  • Clogs – Oil, grease, and fats tend to build up inside your pipes, shrinking the area waste can flow through. Things like “flushable” wipes, paper towels, too much toilet paper can build up at these sections where there is no room to escape. Only flush toilet paper and bodily waste down your toilets, and don’t dump grease down your sink.

tree roots in drain pipe
Closeup of an old rusty metal drainpipe

These are not things that you want to live with long. Don’t wait to react to any of these clear signs of a collapsed sewer line.

Parts of A Sewer Line

Broken up into two parts, your sewer line is split between, Upper and Lower.

Upper Sewer Lateral – The upper lateral is the section of pipe that’s closest to your home. The upper starts from where your pipes leave your home to a cleanout at the sidewalk or property line. These lines run underneath your yard and foundation.

Lower Sewer Lateral – The lower lateral starts where the upper ends, and goes to the city-owned mainline? The lower is usually underneath the public road.

Learn more about – How to repair lateral sewer line 

Note: If there is no cleanout where the upper lateral ends, the lateral sewer line is not usually considered split between upper and lower portions.

How To Fix A Collapsed Sewer Line

Below are the best methods of sewer line repair using trenchless technology.

Pipe Lining (Trenchless)

A unique, epoxy-impregnated liner is inserted into the old pipe and inflated. This creates a new pipe inside the old one. Pipe lining can be considered replacement or repair depending on whether the whole pipe length will be lined or just a section.

If only a section of pipe (a spot repair) is lined, it is considered a repair. If you line the whole pipe from start to finish, it is basically like getting a brand new pipe installed (aka replacement).

A unique, epoxy-impregnated liner is inserted into the old pipe, inflates, and creates a new pipe structure directly inside the old one.

Pipe Bursting (Trenchless)

Pipe bursting is where a new HDPE (high-density polyethylene) pipe is attached to a winch with a cone-shaped bursting head and pulled through the damaged line. The damaged pipe breaks apart as the new one takes its place.

Note: Sometimes, a drain pipe is so severely damaged that no trenchless method is viable. Plumbers cannot use trenchless technology on pipes that are back-pitched, which means that the original contractors failed to use the proper slope for your sewer line to your city connection. Also, if the pipe has collapsed onto itself, you will have to go the conventional trenching route.

Pipe bursting is where a new HDPE (high-density polyethylene) pipe is attached to a winch with a cone-shaped bursting head and pulled through the damaged line. The damaged pipe breaks apart as the new one takes its place.

How Much Does It Cost?

Trenchless sewer repair can cost anywhere between $4,000-$15,000 for the average single-family home. Jobs range from a few feet of repair to hundreds of feet, changing the pricing per amount of needed work. There will always be a base cost starting at permits, contractor mobilization, project minimums, and then prices move on from there.

Conventional sewer repair, on average, costs $50 to $450 per linear foot. The price to install brand new pipes throughout your home or yard could run to $15,000 because of all the extensive work, such as trenching and excavation. Conventional sewer repair quotes will be lower than trenchless, but they don’t include the cost to clean up the mess and repair the property damage.

Who Can Fix A Collapsed Sewer Line Near You?

It’s time that New Flow Plumbing comes in to save the day. We’ll get you started with a CCTV sewer camera inspection to determine where your problems come from. Then, we give you a free repair estimate, followed by available repair options. Whatever the issue, New Flow Plumbing will have your plumbing running perfectly again.

About the Author: New Flow Plumbing Inc.

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