Problems in a home’s sewer system and how to avoid and fix them.
Most people don’t give much thought to their home’s plumbing and sewer systems until something does not work. A great way to save money and eliminate expensive headaches is to have professionals inspect your sewer. An inspection ensures sewer pipes are in good condition and draining correctly, without restrictions. To keep things short and sweet for you, below are ways to prevent issues, and beyond that are causes if you are further interested.
How to Prevent Sewer Issues
- Only put toilet paper into your toilets.
- Use flushable wipes sparingly, if at all. Give a second flush if you use them.
- Never put feminine toiletries in the toilet; they have caused many plumbing service calls.
- If you have a second floor, fill a bathtub full of hot water and let it drain. The increased velocity of the water can propel solids out of your sewer line. Do this every week, mainly if you use flushable wipes.
- Pour hot water and bleach down kitchen drains periodically to dissolve grease.
- If you have trees around your main sewer line, Pour root killer in your pipes, like this 5 Star 4,000 Review Foaming Root Killer.
- Get a cleanout installed in the front of your home. A cleanout allows for easy rodding, jetting, and camera scoping access. The cleanout eliminates the need for dragging plumbing equipment into a basement, through your home, etc.
- Get the plumbing lines in your home inspected by a professional. Camera Scoping is the only way to see inside your pipes to assess their condition. Foreknowledge of an issue will help you keep the problem away.
- Get the sewer power-jetted. We use a 4,000 PSI jetter that uses 12 gallons per minute to pressure-wash the inside of your pipes clean. Jetting removes all roots and grease from your sewer line to ensure the worry-free operation of your home’s sewer system.
Let us know if you use chemicals as it burns the skin. We must be cautious with our equipment when people use chemicals in drains to prevent burns.
Causes of Sewer Breaks, Clogs, and Backups
The issues contributing to sewer damage are:
- Tree Roots: Tree roots penetrate the joints in older clay pipes and make an obstacle course for water sewage exiting a building. Eventually, those roots will destroy the line entirely. If a sewer line is in the vicinity of a tree or crown (how far its branches go), the sewer line is at risk. There are solutions for this before the tree destroys the line.
- Corrosion: Corrosion is mainly a problem with cast iron pipes. Although PVC is modern construction’s most commonly used sewer pipe, code still requires cast iron below ground in many localities. Over time, corrosion can close off a line until normal sewage begins slowing. When flowing sewage slows, clogs follow.
- Settling ground: Settling ground is the culprit behind many sewer problems. Settling ground causes a common issue called bellies. A belly in a sewer line is an area of the pipe that sinks below the level of the other piping, causing a “belly” that never completely empties. Bellies will hold liquid and solid waste and only empty as water in the belly is replaced with new water and solids.
- Shearing: Shearing is the other issue, where ground that has settled beyond a home or a pipe joint allows a pipe to sink, disconnecting from the other pipe. If it drops below the line flowing, the water may still drain. If the draining pipe falls, it becomes a problem faster, as the water will now stop at the shear. A typical “shear” point is at the building’s sewer exit, where the foundation stays solid. The ground beneath the pipe attaching to the structure settles, allowing the line attached to the home to “shear” down. Finding these issues before your home does not drain is better than seeing the problem while water is in the pipes, with no way to escape.
- Horizontal Drilling: Horizontal drilling is how utility companies, namely gas companies, run new gas lines underground. As the drill bits run underground, they can puncture underground plumbing. Gas companies avoid these issues by plotting clear lines. Still, they occasionally hit sewer lines, which causes a problem once the gas line is active. If the gas line goes through a sewer line, it will likely cause a blockage. If it causes a blockage, a plumber’s rodding cable will puncture the line, causing gas to fill the sewer. Thankfully, it does not happen often.
The main culprits behind clogs are:
- Flushable wipes: Companies market all “flushable” wipes as safe for sewers. “Flushable” is true if the wipes make it out of the sewer to the street. Since they are so thick, they require a greater water flow velocity to carry them out of a home’s sewer system. There is often low velocity, and the wipes will sit in the pipes, potentially creating a stoppage.
- Improperly pitched pipes: A lack of pitch can discourage water and solids’ movement, eventually leading to a clog.
- Grease: Grease from a kitchen sink can build up in elbows, eventually causing a blockage.
- Construction: If you have a remodeling project in your home, ensure any drywall compound “mud” or paint is not emptied down your drains, as they will not flow properly, harden, and create problem spots.
- Sharp elbows are 90-degree pipes that become problem spots. Grease can build up in low-flow areas without proper water velocity, creating a stoppage.
Your city’s sewer can back up into a building as well. If there is significant rainfall, the water can end up in the city’s sewer system and eventually into your basement if proper measures are not in place.
Solutions to a city’s sewer backing up on you
If you live in a flood zone or the city’s sewer has known issues, your best options for preventing backup are a backflow preventer or an overhead sewer.
An overhead sewer system is where a plumber elevates the main sewer line exiting the home, eliminating the ability for water backing up to rise above the piping. Water will not rise above the ground when it backs up in a city’s storm or sewer system. Our plumbers route any basement plumbing into an ejector pit, which pumps the sewage up to the new drain level, removing the level connection to the city’s drainage system.
A backflow prevention valve is a check valve that only allows water to flow out of the house and not back into the building. Install these valves inside or outside the building. An easy solution is a removable check valve that doubles as a cleanout for the outside of your home. The device is removable inside of a cleanout and is your backflow valve. A plumber can remove it for maintenance, rodding, or jetting the sewer line.
Cost of Ignoring Your Sewer Piping
- The problem will worsen: Ignoring sewer lines allows any unobserved issues within a sewer to continue growing until it becomes a problem that requires attention. Many sewage issues are slow in development, meaning addressing the problem sooner is much easier than later, as most things in life go.
- Expensive Repairs. Issues found and fixed early are cheaper than problems allowed to fester.
- Damage to Building. Ignoring sewers allows significant issues to spread beyond the scope of a mere plumbing issue. Sewer damage may lead to leaks and sewage flooding, which causes severe damage to homes, furnishings, and appliances. On top of the damage it causes, the smell alone is something that will make you wish you had addressed the issue earlier.
Hopefully, this information will save you time and money in the future. If you would like to schedule a sewer inspection, click here, or call our office at 630-733-9000.