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Issues with Sewers on Residential Properties

Sewer issues are a very common occurrence in older homes and even in newly built homes. When making one of the biggest investment decisions in your life, it is a very good idea to ensure your new home is in good working condition.

Home inspectors are often hired to do a complete evaluation of your house. From leaks in the foundation, condition of the roof, general plumbing under sinks, etc. One item that is often overlooked and not completed by a home inspector is a complete evaluation of your sewer leaving your property. These inspections can only be performed by a licensed plumber. If you have never had a problem with a backed-up sewer, consider yourself lucky. It is amazing how many issues there are in the City, and the costs to repair these issues can be staggering.

Let’s look into what a sewer line looks like leaving your property and the common issues that affect its proper function.

Sewer lines are relatively simple. It is a 4” line that leaves your house, usually 8-10ft deep and goes across your property until it runs into the street where it meets with the City Sewer Main. What is important is that if there are any issues with the sewer line that are on your property, the home-owner is responsible for the repair. The City is responsible for the portion of the pipe once it leaves the private property.

The main issues for sewer failure are:

• Tree root intrusion • Line material deterioration • Offset joints • Connection separations • Blockages • Corrosion • Collapsed lines

If there is a sewer backup at your house it usually happens due to one of these issues. A camera is required to fully inspect the line to determine the cause of the backup and where it is. Once the cause is identified, the exact location and depth needs to be found. This involves very advanced equipment and properly trained technicians.

The repair of the broken line can be performed in one of 2 ways.

1. Excavate at the location of the break and replace the broken pipe. This option can be destructive to landscaping and/or structures above the break, like a garage. It is, however, the most cost effective method of repair.

2. Hire a specialized company to replace the sewer pipe without digging up large areas of the property. This does have its restrictions, though, and can only be successfully completed if the conditions are right. It cannot be done with every sewer line. Basically, a hole is dug in the basement and at the street or alley where your sewer line is. A breaker chain is pulled through the existing sewer and a new sewer line with it. This option can cost upwards of double that of option 1.

In summary, we have learned that there are many issues to sewer failure and it is a common occurrence. It is very prudent to protect your investment from this type of disaster by having your sewer verified before buying your home.

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