How Do Sewer Lines Break?

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Sewage backup—every homeowner’s worst nightmare. Not only is it disgusting, but it can also be expensive to clean up. What’s more, if it happens often enough, your home may start to smell rather unpleasant and fixing the problem can be expensive.

So, how do you know if a sewer line collapsed? If you’re worried about sewer lines breaking or potential leaks, then you’re in the right place.

Read on for tips on how sewer lines break, how to tell if a sewer pipe is leaking, and how to identify potential leaks.

How and Why Sewer Lines Break

There are many reasons a sewer line may break, and they all boil down to deterioration and other external factors.

Pipe Settlement

Pipe settlement is one of the most common causes for sewer lines to break. It occurs over time and is something that a homeowner can’t control. This is because the pipes start to sag and shift when the waste accumulates in one section and sinks due to ground conditions.

The sunken section will then begin to collect more waste resulting in fairly frequent blockages. Pipe settlement can also result in several cracks and breaks in one or more sections.

The only solution to broken sewer lines due to pipe settlement is to replace the faulty pipe. This is because the pipe’s most likely damaged from the weight as well.

Improper Installation

Improper installation is another common reason why sewer lines break. Common installation mistakes include:

  • Installing pipes without enough slope
  • Not covering pipes with enough dirt and soil
  • Using joints and/or pipes that are made from different materials

These types of installations can quickly lead to problems down the road, as they may not be able to properly handle the weight of the waste and the pressure from the water flowing through them.

Tree Growth

All plants need the same seven factors to grow:

  • Space
  • Light
  • The right temperature
  • Water
  • Air
  • Nutrients
  • Time

And sewer lines provide 6/7 factors that tree roots love. If the pipes are not maintained, the roots can easily get inside—especially if there’s a crack. In most cases, cracked pipes are associated with clay pipes due to a weakened connection. On the other hand, cast iron pipes are less likely to experience root infiltration.

When roots gain access to a sewer pipe, they will continue to grow and eventually break the pipes. Tree roots also tend to grow in several locations, so if tree growth is suspected of a broken sewer line, a complete inspection is required.

In many cases, if tree growth is recognized quickly, you may be able to solve the problem at its early stages by treating it will root-killing chemicals and avoiding costly repairs.

Pipe Deterioration

However, frequently treating pipes with chemicals will ultimately cause corrosion and deterioration. The deterioration process is hastened due to the underground environment and moisture contributing to the rot.

The first solution to pipe deterioration is pipelining. This is the process of installing new pipes within old ones without actually replacing the entire system. The new pipes can be added to only the damaged area or the entire length.

The second solution is pipe bursting. Pipe bursting follows a similar process, but rather than installing a new pipe within the old one, this method involves breaking apart the old pipes and replacing them entirely.

The last solution is called spot repairs. This is only possible if the sewer line is broken in a particular spot and if the crack can be easily located.

Identifying a Leak in Your Yard

If you suspect that your sewer line is leaking in your yard, there are a few tell-tale signs to look out for. First and foremost, you should perform a visual inspection of the area around your yard.

This is because yard sewer leakages typically stem from a disruption in the pipe flow, like a rupture. The disruption causes erosion in the pipe’s interior and exterior, and the area surrounding the pipe will show signs of pooling and moisture. 

Also, pay attention to any unusually lush patches of grass or plants, as these could be signs that water is slowly seeping in from a damaged sewer line.

Mold Growth

Mold growth behind a wall, in the basement, or in the base of your home are also signs of potential sewer leakages. The presence of moisture and standing water due to a broken pipe creates an ideal environment for mold spores to thrive and spread quickly throughout your home.

Additionally, you should always take cracks in your walls and foundations seriously before a sinkhole forms under your home.

Sewer Gas Odors

An immediate sign of a potential sewer pipe leakage is the presence of sewer gas odors. Sewers smell so strongly because the wastewater is treated by hydrogen sulfide, a gas detectable that’s extremely low concentrations.

Often times these orders stem from the basement, but they can also be present outdoors. This is because mold and mildew tend to contribute to the smell as well.

Have a Professional Inspect for Sewer Line Breaks

If you suspect that your sewer line is broken or leaking, it’s important to take the issue seriously and have an Alpha Environmental specialist inspect for potential sewer line breaks. Not only is the smell unpleasant, but sewer gas can be flammable.

It’s best to leave any repairs or inspections to the professionals to avoid any potential safety hazards. With years of experience, you can trust our specialists to repair your pipes using tried and true methods like pipe bursting and horizontal directional drilling. 

Our team of experts will be able to identify any pipe breaks and use the most up-to-date methods to fix them quickly, so you can get back to living your life with a fully functional sewage system.

Get in contact for your sewer inspection and repair today.

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David D.
Lake Oswego, OR
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My wife and I experienced a hot water pipe busting in the crawlspace. It has been a total nightmare. However, Chris and his team provided expert quality care, with timeliness and the greatest degree of professionalism. I would HIGHLY recommend Alpha Enviornmental!
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Beaverton, OR
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