What you need to know about sewer line problems

Plumbing and sanitary ware work away uncomplainingly in homes, workplaces and public buildings for years on end, so it is an unwelcome surprise when a toilet bowl, bath or sink gurgles loudly or drains only very slowly. These warning signs of sewer line problems might also include unusual drainage sounds from dishwashers, washing machines and waste water piping. A partial blockage will probably be preventing wastewater from leaving as it should.

If you are a householder or building manager and have noticed these symptoms or unusual smells from the drains, read on to find out more about sewer line problems and the actions to take.

The possible causes

In older buildings, the main cause of sewer line problems is invading tree roots. Conversely, the more common sources of sewer line problems in newer homes include paper towels, feminine hygiene products and thicker toilet paper.

When to call for help

Drainage problems can occur in the main or secondary sewer lines. If the main pipe is blocked, the toilet may sound like a percolating coffee pot; after flushing, the wastewater may come back into the bathtub or the basement drain. These warning signs of sewer line problems indicate that the blockage is in the main pipe. A clogged secondary pipe may involve just a sink; water still drains too slowly and may come back up into the bathtub, but not into the toilet. Blocked U-bends or secondary pipes usually need only relatively minor plumbing assistance.

Why it is important to act promptly

Apart from the inconvenience of slow drainage, a main sewer line clog is more serious. Raw sewage could come back up out of the drains and spill into the building interior. Unpleasant enough and unhygienic in itself, the resulting damaged floor material can be costly to replace. It is best, therefore, to deal with problems before emergency action becomes necessary.

When to organize a sewer line video camera inspection

When a main pipe problem is suspected or if symptoms are severe, a sewer line video camera inspection using specialist CCTV survey equipment is the quickest and most cost-effective way to evaluate the current piping condition and diagnose the problem. If there are tree roots in the pipe, it will be necessary to cut them away and then use a powerful jet pressure cleaner to restore the drainage flow and prevent any recurrence.

According to a report by Oklahoma State University experts, flushing the toilet with copper sulphate prevents further root invasion. Although the problem should not worsen, the existing blockage will still require removal. Timely repairs minimize the impact, inconvenience and cost. In certain cases, pipe relining or repair may be possible instead of sewer line replacement.

Insurance coverage

Homeowners’ policies usually exclude sewer line replacements that have become necessary due to gradual deterioration. However, some insurance does offer additional sewer and drain coverage. The extra cost is typically between $60 and $100 per year for consequential damage, such as to carpets or other flooring ruined by a sewage backup.

Additionally, some companies now offer special insurance terms for sewer lines. It is important to read the detail of your policy terms and in cases of doubt, check with the insurance company or broker and seek further guidance if required.

Help is at hand

To obtain prompt local advice and assistance with sewer line problems, please click the link to your nearest expert provider in the list below and call for help. The provider will arrange an inspection visit and a quotation to resolve the problem.

Finally, a useful tip: if possible, locate the sewer access points in advance and have a sewer diagram ready to save time.

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