Is Your Sewer Line Backing Up?

Anyone who has ever experienced a sewer line backing up in their home knows how unpleasant of an experience this can be. Of course there is nothing worse than when it happens to you again and no one has a truthful answer as to why?

There are many different reasons for a sewer line to back up, especially more than once. Usually the biggest reason for a sewer to back up is caused by age and its condition. Here in New Mexico the age of homes contributes greatly to the major problems we find with sewer lines. No matter how modern of a transition an older home or building has been through, one thing usually remains the same, the sewer line.

The most common types of sewer drain lines used in New Mexico are cast iron, Orangeburg, clay, plastic, and asbestos cement.

Common Failures:

Cast Iron: Typically it has a very long longevity but eventually rusts and either will develop holes, cracks, clogs, or will collapse.

Orangeburg: Is a product made of tarpaper to replace cast iron during its shortage over WWII but was not made to last. These lines will blister, there layers peel off, and because it was not designed to take weight will oval and then collapse.

Asbestos Cement: Although they are the strongest of the sewer drains and have a great longevity, building materials made with asbestos was banned in the late 1970’s. These lines will crack over time and although they may not leak initially over time they will, and roots are known to gravitate towards water and will eventually intrude into the line.

Clay: This line was installed one of two ways: with a tar wrap or without. The connections used on clay piping will leak and roots will flourish causing all types of major problems, they are best known for collapsing.

Plastic: This is a preferred choice in today’s new construction. Failure of these drain lines usually is from bad installation either from an unglued fitting, laid on top of rocks, crushed pipe, or damaged during landscape projects.

How Do I Know If There Is A Problem?

If the home or building is more than 20 years old, the sewer line may have some issues. If the clean outs on the main sewer line don’t have some wrench marks on them, the cast iron cap is rusted on, you can’t even find a clean out, or you smell sewer like odor. This is a tell tale sign that they probably have never been cleaned out. A good test that you can do is to fill the tub and then remove the stopper. A clean drain line will have the sound of air rushing down the pipes and a strong suction at the tub drain. If the drain suction is weak, if you hear gurgling, or if the water seems to drain slowly or in increments (starts, stops, and starts again) then the line may be clogged.

Note: These signs do not always mean the main sewer drain line is clogged. There could be other drain lines inside the home that are blocked. Most common issues are, tree roots, foreign objects, grease, sags in line, fatigue failure, structural damage, and damage done by a contractor un-intentionally are the most common problems with sewer lines. The only accurate way to know the condition of the sewer line is to see the inside of the pipe.

How Can I Find My Main Line or Septic Tank?

The most common thing that we get asked is “Can you tell me how deep my line is, where it goes, and where is my septic tank?” The answer is “yes”.

The nice thing about today’s technology is that it not only allows us to visually inspect the sewer lines and record it on DVD or by means of other digital recordings. We are able to accurately locate the lines and can even get a depth reading at the same time. This is especially useful when locating a problem in the sewer line it allows us to track the location so we are able to mark the area in which we will have to open up the ground. With this technology there is no longer guess work which saves time and money because we already know what to expect.

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