Caccia Plumbing is San Mateo County’s Sewer Expert
Soggy yard? Sewage odors? Noisy pipes? These are all signs that you may need a sewer line repair. Other indications that your sewer line is leaking are slow drains and toilet bowl water level being unreliable. Worst of all indicators, your water bill is increasing! The most apparent signal that you have a sewer line issue is a blockage or backup of sewage into your home. If you notice any of these symptoms in and around your home, you should call an experienced plumber to inspect your sewer line and advise you on repairs or replacement
What are causes of sewer pipe backups? Older technology is a frequent culprit of sewer pipe deterioration. Materials used in the past, such as clay, cast iron, concrete, and Orangeburg (a pipe composed of paper and tar, yes paper!) are prone to erosion over the years causing leakage. The typical life span for these materials is 30 years before they become brittle (clay) or corroded (cast iron). Tree roots, which are drawn to water and nutrients, often contribute to the process of pipe breakdown. Tree roots may grow into pipes and cause blockages and they may also press down on pipes causing pipes to collapse. A further source of pipe breakdown is known as a “pipe belly,” which is a gap below a pipe (into which a pipe will collapse) produced by water leakage from tree root invasion into the pipe or simply from the pipe materials degrading, leaking, and weakening.
The question of whether a sewer pipe should be repaired or replaced may be answered by videoing the pipe. An experienced plumbing technician is capable of extending a small camera mounted on a cable through your sewer line, either from a “clean out” outside of your home or from a pipe inside your home. The video will provide the plumber and you the detail you need to decide whether you need to repair your sewer line or replace it. Repairing a leaking sewer pipe is advisable if the area to be repaired is easily accessible, the pipe is the correct size for the current home, and your sewer line is constructed of material that has a reasonable life expectancy. Replacing your sewer line is practical if the sewer line is undersized for the current home and the materials are limiting the pipe’s lifespan. Obvious reasons for replacement are a collapsed, bellied, deteriorated, or deformed pipe.
Note: It is recommended that any and all Orangeburg piping should always be replaced, and owners should remember that thin wall PVC is particularly vulnerable to collapse and therefore a good candidate for replacement and not repair.
The traditional practice for replacing a sewer main line is the excavation method. As it sounds, this method requires excavation of the area above and around the sewer main line. This method is labor intensive and extreme care must be taken to avoid disruption and/or damage to landscaping and property. At times, excavating is the only solution, as when a pipe has fractured and is not connected in a straight line or the pipe has been crushed and no longer exists!
For sewer pipes that are not that far gone, the homeowner has the option of the trenchless method. Replacing your pipe using the “Pipe bursting method” reduces time, labor, and disruption. Using a “cutter head,” a same size or larger diameter pipe is pulled, hydraulically, from point A (your home) to point B (the connection to the city main, typically in the street) breaking apart the older pipe and leaving in its place a seamless, shiny new pipe. Only two access points are required, and the new pipe will be solid, no joints or opportunities for tree root penetration. Best of all, the polyethylene pipe is rated for a 50 year life!
Living in San Mateo County where the infrastructure is aging, sewer main line replacements have become commonplace. Though no significant plumbing job is ever a pleasure, with a skilled plumber on the job, sewer repair or replacement can be a straightforward and stress-free experience.