As a homeowner, you’re probably aware of how important it is to maintain your home. You have your air conditioning system checked, you clean your gutters, and you winterize your heating system. But, what about maintaining your main sewer line? Your sewer system is vital for keeping your home running. If you develop clogs in your sewer line from tree roots, hygiene products, toilet paper or something else, you will need to call a plumber to remove the blockage in the sewer line.
Many homeowners forget about cleaning their main sewer lines, or they’re not even aware that their plumbing system can and should be maintained. Little do they know that this single step can avert clogged drains, costly water damage, and cleanup expenses. You don’t want to find out the hard way that you haven’t kept up with your sewer line maintenance. (Let alone needing a sewer line repair, or worse yet, a sewer line replacement!)
If all of your drains are backing up and overflow at once, kitchen sink, bathroom sink, tubs, showers, or you continually hear gurgling when flushing your toilet and draining your sinks or tubs – then these may be signs that you have a blockage in your main sewer line.
Causes of Sewer Line Problems
Residential main sewer lines backup for a variety of reasons, specifically tree roots, grease and pipe scale buildup. Drain cleaning, TRUE DRAIN CLEANING (versus drain clearing – drain clearing simply pokes a small hole through the blockage, which restores flow only temporarily. When this is done, it’s usually so the plumber can come back out for the same clogs, again and again and push for a sewer line replacement that may not be needed. We have a page explaining this: Beware of the $99 Mainline Special), can and should remove the clog, assuming the plumbing problems are from a type of buildup or lack of regular maintenance and the sewer backups are not from a break in the line or damage.
Main types of sewer line problems are:
- Tree roots
- Human waste
- Hygiene products
- Cast iron drain line scaling
- Food waste that was not fully groundup in the garbage disposal (not running cold water from the faucet before putting food in the garbage disposal, or hot water after running certain food types)
- Grease buildup causing a blockage in your sewer pipes
The cause usually has to do with the type of sewer that a home has.
Drain Cleaning Methods for Main Sewer Lines
After you’ve discovered you have clogged drains, and it’s your main sewer line, there are only a few options to get it cleaned out (unfortunately, it’s too late for drain cleaners or DIY fixes). The available fixes are:
This is a high-pressure device that has a nozel on the end of the device that can literally cut through grease, or other liquids that are hard to clean.
This is the traditional method we think of when we think about a plumbing service performing drain cleaning. There is a blade or sets of blades on the end of the cable that spins while it is pushed through the line. We use the CORRECT sized blade for the sewer pipes, so instead of poking a small hole in the blockage, we completely clean the line.
Types of Main Sewer Line
Generally, homes built before the mid-1950s are made of clay. If tree roots grow in clay sewer lines, not only do they become thick, but solids, such as toilet paper cling together over time creating a blockage.
Depending on the severity of the tree roots, we may suggest an environmentally safe chemical treatment with a follow-up treatment to kill any remaining roots and to inhibit re-growth.
These supposedly newer and improved sewer lines were built between the late 1950s and the 1960s. Manufactured out of the rolled wood pulp and tar is known as “Orangeburg,” over time these lines are known to become deformed, creating an egg shape that inhibits how the sewer flows.
Our Kansas City plumber can carefully examine the problem and choose the correct cleaning method, which may involve using high-pressure water jetting to effectively clean the sewer. A camera inspection can determine if the sewer is in fact made of fiber conduit. Depending on how bad the line is deformed, we’ll probably recommend having the lines cleaned at least once a year.
Since the 1970s, sewer lines have been made out of heavy-duty cast iron piping. While cast iron is incredibly strong, the material has a tendency to form pipe scale, which is made of hard rusty deposits that accumulate inside the pipe.
Essentially, solids can get caught on the pipe scale, which ultimately leads to a blockage. If your cast iron line hasn’t been cleaned in some time, we recommend high-pressure water jetting to scour and smooth out the inside of the line. Additionally, cast iron should be snaked once a year, and a video inspection can help put your mind at ease after your regular maintenance.
Sewer Line Replacement Options
If your sewer line has a break in it and you need sewer line replacement, then you have a few options. Some of these options may require new landscaping, while others are less invasive on your home’s grounds. Here are some wastewater pipe replacement options:
Sewer line replacement: the traditional method of digging up the current sewer line, and replacing it, then filling the dirt back in (this is where the new landscaping may come into play!)
Trenchless sewer line replacement: This newer method has two main options – pipe bursting and pipe lining.
Pipe bursting: this trenchless method has a hardened head that is pointed and slightly larger than the pipe diameter that is being replaced. A pneumatic system pushes this head through the old pipe, which “bursts” it and breaks it apart – while also pulling a NEW SEWER LINE behind it, replacing it as it goes.
Pipe lining: when going with this trenchless sewer line replacement option, an epoxy type resin is pushed through the old line with pressure, and comes out of the other side, when it is connected and allowed to cure in place.
Septic systems or city sewer can both benefit from these methods. The plumber pros at A-1 can review your situation and provide a quote for the best method to get your plumbing system flowing again!
After a mainline sewer clog emergency, how do you prevent your sewer from backing up again? Our response is always the same, “Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance!”
Contact A-1 Sewer & Septic Service Inc. to schedule a service call for drain cleaning, as well as a new hot water heater, faucet, garbage disposals, and so much more!