Many homeowners in the 5 boroughs experience complications with their sewer lines but not many have experience in diagnosing and taking the proper steps towards resolving their sewer issues. The first sign of a problem with your sewer line may be a sudden gurgling or roaring noise, poor odor or a slight backup of sewage water. A homeowner should call a plumber to perform a detailed analysis on what the sewer line, it is best to try and catch any sewer related issue in the early stages as there are precautionary measures to be taken to avoid an all out failure of the sewer line.
Most sewer problems start with one of the three most common issues such as tree roots, cracks or separations in the pipe and a back pitched sewer line.
Cracked or separated sewer pipe
A crack or separation in a sewer pipe can occur throughout any portion of the sewer line and most commonly occurs with old clay sewer pipes. Sewer pipes are more prone to breaking if there was a prior repair on the sewer line where the old clay pipe was connected to a new extra heavy cast iron pipe. A sewer pipe may also break if there was a poor backfill on the roadway, which would compromise the support and integrity of the pipe leading to a potential crack or separation. A poor backfill may also result in rocks crushing the pipe as they are placed back in the ground. It is also common for a leak to cause the soil to wash away which is the most common reasoning for a separation in a sewer line.
Tree roots in a sewer line
Roots from nearby trees is the most common problem that Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Manhattan homeowners face when dealing with backed up sewer pipes. The invasion of tree roots usually occurs with clay sewer pipes as clay pipes are much easier for roots to invade then extra heavy cast iron which is currently used for all sewer line installations. Roots act like a bad disease; if they are not properly treated they will only get worst over time ultimately leaving the pipe completely non functional. Roots will start entering the pipe as small 1-“2” roots and will continue to grow as they meet all of the necessary nutrients they need to survive upon entering the pipe(Minerals, Water & oxygen). Read here for additional details on how roots enter sewer pipes and how they should be treated.
Back pitched sewer line
All sewer lines work on gravity and must contain proper pitch for the waste water to run downhill from the house sewer line to the city sewer line. The most common reason for inadequate pitch on a sewer line is the lack of available pitch upon the initial installation of the sewer line. There must be sufficient elevation in-between the house sewer trap which is usually located at the foundation wall, to the public sewer which is usually located in the roadway. It is very common for the initial contractor to make a subpar installation which will allow the sewer to function for a period of time before an all out failure occurs. The sewer line will fail once it experiences daily usage, this may take a month or ten years, and there is no way to determine the period of time before it becomes an actual issue.
A less common factor causing a back-pitch problem is the settlement of a section of pipe which may be caused by inadequate back-fill of soil in a nearby area.
Facts on sewer lining
Homeowners must be aware that any type of sewer lining is 100% illegal in NYC and does not meet NYC plumbing code. There are many situations where a contractor suggests a sewer lining inside the pipe to resolve the homeowners broken sewer problem. Sewer liner is not only illegal but is a short term fix, a sewer lining will only last a short period of time before the sewer line must be replaced. At this point in time the homeowner will have spent several thousands of dollars on a sewer lining with no permanent resolution to the break in their sewer line, the pipe will still need to be replaced.