Sewer Line Repair and Replacement
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A sewer line repair or replacement may be necessary if you have slow or clogged drains or smell foul odors around your plumbing pipes. However, it can be difficult for homeowners to pinpoint if these issues are because of sewer line damage. Read on for the top sewer line repair and replacement options, signs and causes of sewer line damage, and why you should contact a professional for repairs.
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Sewer Line Repair and Replacement
You have two repair options if your sewer line springs a leak or breaks: Dig a trench around the sewer pipe or use trenchless sewer line repairs. A trenchless sewer repair is time and cost-effective and requires little to no digging.
A technician uses a video camera to enter your sewer line and recommend repairs. Then, they’ll recommend plumbing repairs based on your situation. Learn about some common trenchless repair methods below.
Pipe Bursting Repair
Pipe bursting is a trenchless method of replacing underground pipes without digging above the ground. Plumbers use this method when an old pipe has become damaged or worn out. Pipe bursting causes minimal ground disturbance compared to traditional open-trench replacement. It also doesn’t require closing any parts of your street or sidewalk. This repair is well-suited for more urban areas.
The process involves sending a cone-shaped bursting head through the existing pipe. The head fractures the old pipe and displaces the fragments into the surrounding soil. At the same time, a new pipe, usually made of HDPE (high-density polyethylene) plastic, is attached behind the bursting head and pulled into place behind it.
There are a few key steps in a typical pipe-bursting repair:
- First, the plumbing service digs pits at entry and exit points along the pipe path. They lower the bursting equipment into the entry pit.
- They fuse the new HDPE pipe and attach it behind the bursting head.
- The bursting head is launched into the old pipe and breaks it apart. Hydraulic power pushes the head forward as it pulls the new line behind.
- Once the head reaches the exit pit, the old pipe has been replaced end-to-end with the new HDPE pipe.
- Finally, the plumbers fill in the entry and exit pits and restore the surface.
Pipe Lining Repair
Pipe lining repairs involve installing a new pipe liner inside the old, failing pipe. This repair doesn’t require any excavation or pipe replacement. The most common type of lining is called Cured-in-Place Pipe (CIPP). CIPP liners can extend the life of aging sewer, water, gas and industrial pipes by 50 years or more. The liner restores flow capacity, prevents infiltration and protects against further corrosion. Trenchless lining is less disruptive and less expensive than digging and replacing pipelines.
Pipe lining provides an efficient, long-term solution for damaged underground piping systems with proper installation by trained professionals. It’s a go-to rehabilitation method for municipalities and utilities around the world.
Here are the typical steps involved in a pipe lining repair:
- A plumbing service inspects the old pipe and cleans it using hydraulically powered devices with hydro-jetting. They then saturate a liner tube of absorbent felt fabric with a thermosetting resin.
- Then, plumbers insert the liner tube into the old pipe through an access point like a manhole. An inflatable bladder pushes and holds the liner against the inner walls. Circulation hoses inject hot water or steam to cure and harden the resin into a smooth, jointless pipe liner.
- After curing is complete, the technicians reopen the lateral connection points. They use robotic cutting devices that bore through the liner and reconnect service lines from your home. They then seal the ends of the liner and restore the access points.
Sewer Line Replacement
Your sewer line must undergo an extensive process that requires digging up the old pipe and installing a new line if it has substantial damage and requires a full replacement. Sewer line replacement follows these key steps:
- The plumbing company surveys the area and marks underground utilities. The technicians put traffic control devices in place if needed.
- Next, they excavate trenches along the sewer line path using backhoes or excavators. Technicians should shore up walls for safety when digging deeper than 4 feet.
- The plumbers disconnect and lift old pipe sections using clamping devices and chains.
- The new sewer pipe is laid in sections and sloped for proper drainage. The sections are fused or sealed together.
- Then, plumbers reconnect the lateral pipes from your home to the new sewer main using flexible couplings. They install any required maintenance holes at this time.
- The trenches are backfilled with gravel and compacted. Plumbers patch or repave the surface to match the surroundings.
- Final video inspections check for proper installation and drainage flow before activating the new system.
Sewer line replacement is highly disruptive to surrounding areas. Proper planning minimizes impacts on residents and businesses. The restored system will provide reliable wastewater conveyance for decades.
Sewer Line Repair Cost
Most pay around the national average cost for sewer line replacement of $5,000.* This figure translates to $50–$200 per linear foot of sewer line. However, the pipe material used and difficulty accessing the existing pipe can affect your price. Additionally, excavation, backfill, and landscaping may add extra expenses to your project.
You might only have 25–60 feet of sewer lines in a city or dense suburban area, and you might have lines of 75 feet or more on larger rural properties. Below is a breakdown of what you might pay for different lengths of sewer line repair and replacement:
- 25’–35’: $1,250–$7,000
- 35’–45’: $1,750–$9,000
- 45’–55’: $2,250–$11,000
- 55’–65’: $2,750–$13,000
- 65’–75’: $3,250–$15,000
- 75’–100’: $3,750–$20,000
- 100’–125’: $5,000–$25,000
*Cost figures are based on 2023 reports from multiple sources, including Angi and HomeGuide.
Signs of Sewer Line Damage
Check if your home experiences these signs of a damaged sewer system so you can immediately contact an experienced service technician.
- Draining difficulties: You can detect a blockage in the main sewage line if multiple draining areas in your home are clogged. Toilets can warn of severe blockages if strange gurgling sounds occur when air gets pushed back up the line.
- Flooded and foul-smelling yard: A flooded yard can signify a broken sewer pipe. Sewer lines are 2–6 feet below the ground, but colder climates call for deeper pipes. A broken pipe will quickly pool water that seeps through the grass and becomes visible on the surface. You may be able to smell the sewage before it surfaces because sewage gas can seep through your yard’s soil.
- Water damage: Water damage can occur if a drain line leaks or breaks in your home. One of the first signs is mold spreading on the floors or walls. This sign indicates a broken sewer line within the house, so you should call a plumbing service immediately.
Causes of Sewer Line Damage
Causes of sewer line damage include clogged pipes and normal wear and tear. Learn more about the top causes below.
- Clogged pipes: Your home’s sewage lines work only to handle human waste and toilet paper. Avoid flushing trash like wrappers and paper towels because they can’t disintegrate properly and cause blockages that drain cleaning agents can’t fix. You can take some simple steps to clear a clogged drain. Cooking oil and grease can clog pipes if poured into the kitchen sink. Pour these liquids into a container, let them cool, and then dispose of them in a trash can.
- Corroded pipes: Although galvanized steel and cast iron pipes prevent rusting, these pipes are at a high risk of eroding due to calcium and magnesium buildup from regular wear and tear. If corrosion is left untreated, it can leave the pipe susceptible to leaks and cracks.
- Extreme temperatures: Frozen pipes can burst due to expanding ice during extreme temperatures and cold weather.
- Tree roots: One of the most common causes of sewer line damage is tree roots. A tree’s roots follow sources of water as they grow. Roots are naturally attracted to sewer lines since they carry liquid waste—particularly when there is already a small leak in the piping. Once in contact with a sewer pipe, tree roots begin to wrap around and break into pipes, clogging, weakening, and even breaking the structure. Clay sewer pipes, typically found in older homes, are the most susceptible to damage from tree roots.
DIY vs. Professional Sewer Line Repair
The main advantage of a do-it-yourself (DIY) sewer repair is lower cost. You can purchase the necessary tools and materials for several hundred dollars. Keep in mind that you may not do the repair correctly without proper training and experience. You may even cause continued clogs, backups, and damage. Proper diagnosis of the issue also requires specialized camera equipment that most homeowners don’t have.
Hiring a professional plumber for sewer line repair has several key benefits. Licensed plumbers have years of technical training and experience in diagnosing and fixing sewer and drain problems. They have the proper equipment, such as sewer cameras, to correctly identify issues. Professionals can also access advanced tools and repair materials, such as trenchless or no-dig technologies. This can minimize property damage. A professional repair is more likely to be done properly the first time, avoiding recurring issues or half-measure fixes.
A professional sewer repair provides peace of mind that an expert has correctly resolved the issue. Many plumbers also offer warranties or guarantees on their work. Attempting a complex sewer repair without expertise risks worsening a bad situation through further damage or health hazards from sewage backup. Hiring a professional plumber is safer for most homeowners to permanently fix a sewer line problem. However, simple DIY methods may be suitable for minor clogs.
Handling a broken sewer line quickly is vital because of its unpleasant odors and possible health risks. We advise you to hire a professional to handle the repairs and help you understand what caused the damage in the first place. Working with a professional also guarantees you can take preventive measures to avoid a broken sewer line in the future.
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FAQ About Sewer Line Repair
How long will a sewer line last?
The life of your sewer line depends on your pipe’s material. Cast iron pipes last 75–100 years, clay and cement pipes last up to 100 years, Orangeburg pipes last around 50 years, and PVC pipes last over 100 years.
How do plumbing services determine the appropriate sewer repair method?
Plumbing services use video camera inspections to identify the cause and location of the problem. They may recommend trenchless sewer repair or traditional excavation and replacement if they discover that the issue is more severe.
Does homeowners insurance cover sewer line damage?
What is hydro-jetting?
Hydro-jetting is a method of cleaning sewer lines using high-pressure water streams. This technique can remove stubborn clogs and buildup and restore proper flow to the sewer line.
How long does trenchless sewer line repair last?
Trenchless sewer repairs such as pipe bursting and lining are minimally invasive sewer pipe repairs known for their longevity. The repair time depends on your pipe’s material and the method used, but most trenchless sewer line repairs last up to 50 years.
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