What Causes a Broken Sewer Line?

Understanding what causes a broken sewer line is crucial for homeowners in order to prevent potential plumbing disasters. The main sewer line is an essential piece of plumbing that connects every pipe and fixture in the home. While not all breaks warrant immediate repair or replacement, it’s important to be aware of the potential causes.

Some common causes of a broken sewer line include ground settlement resulting in back-pitched pipes, improper installation, tree roots infiltrating the pipes, and pipe deterioration due to chemical treatments. It is crucial to be proactive in maintaining and protecting the main sewer line to avoid costly and time-consuming issues.

What Causes a Broken Sewer Line?

A broken sewer line is a significant problem that can cause serious damage to your home and yard. Understanding what causes a broken sewer line can help you take preventive measures to avoid potential issues in the future. In this article, we’ll discuss the common causes of broken sewer lines and what you can do to prevent and address them.

Broken Sewer Line Due To Pipe Settlement

One of the most common problems causing a broken sewer line is ground settlement. When the ground around the pipe has settled, the pipe can sink and create a downhill slope in the wrong direction. This is called back-pitch. Waste and water that should flow downward, away from your home, will stop in the sunken area or flow back toward your home. Over time, waste will accumulate in the settled pipe, causing a blockage. The only solution to a back-pitched pipe is to dig and repair the slope of the broken sewer line.

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Improper Sewer Line Installation

A sewer line works based on the principle of gravity. The water and waste need to run downhill. Improper installation can lead to settling and back-pitched pipes. Most plumbing codes require sewers to have a downward slope of 1/4-inch per foot — from the house to the city’s main sewer line in the street. Your city’s plumbing code may require the plumber to place gravel underneath the entire run of pipe. It’s a good standard practice regardless. If the main sewer line is not installed with proper fall (the amount of downward slope) or the proper support, the pipes will eventually settle and break.

Tree Roots in Sewer Line

Another common cause of a sewer line break or damage is tree roots. Tree roots grow toward sources of water, making them naturally attracted to the sewer lines. Once the roots make contact with the sewer pipe, they will begin to wrap around and break into the pipes. Over time, the pipes will become weakened and lead to cracks. Roots will grow through the cracks and continue growing inside the pipes, eventually leading to clogs.

A camera inspection can locate exactly where the breaks are. It will also indicate if a spot repair or full sewer line replacement is recommended.

Sewer Pipe Deterioration

Many people turn to chemical treatments when they have a backed up drain. Frequent treatments with chemicals will inevitably cause corrosion. If your water is discolored, there is low water pressure, or you are finding signs of leaks, you may have failing pipes due to pipe corrosion.

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In conclusion, understanding the causes of a broken sewer line is crucial for homeowners. Issues such as ground settlement, improper installation, tree roots, and deterioration from chemical treatments can all lead to sewer line damage. Identifying the cause of the problem is the first step in determining the best course of action for repair. While some issues may not warrant immediate repair or replacement, it is essential to address any issues promptly to prevent further damage. Hiring a professional plumber to conduct a sewer camera inspection and make necessary repairs can save time, money, and frustration in the long run.

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