house sewer pipe in the ground trench

Understanding Sewer Line Replacement: A Comprehensive Guide

Have you ever wondered what it takes to replace a sewer line and when it might be necessary? Do you know the signs that indicate your sewer line may need replacement?

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into everything you need to know about sewer line replacement and sewer line repairs, from the warning signs to the different methods used in the process.

By the end of this post, you'll have a better understanding of sewer line issues and be able to make informed decisions about maintaining and repairing your home's sewage system.


Signs You Need Sewer Line Replacement

Bad Smells In The Yard, In-Home, Or Coming From Drains

A person experiencing bad smells coming from their drain

If you notice unpleasant odors coming from your drains, yard, or inside your home, it could be a sign that your sewer line needs replacement. Sewage leaks, often caused by a broken sewer line or sewer line backup, can cause these smells.

Sewage vapors are composed of many compounds; the most common three are hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, and methane, which can be harmful to your health.


Flooded Spots Or Standing Water In Yard

Standing water in yard

Pooling water in your yard can be an indicator of a damaged sewer line. This occurs when a broken pipe releases wastewater into the surrounding soil, causing saturated areas.


More Rats Or Pests Are Attracted To Your Home

Rat near dirty dishes on table indoors

A damaged sewer line can attract rodents and other pests due to the availability of food and water sources. If you notice an increase in pests around your home, it's worth investigating your sewer line.

On occasion, rodents have been known to directly cause the clog. Rodents can burrow into and through older lines. Loose gravel and surrounding dirt enter the damaged area creating dams in the line.


Multiple Draining Areas In The Home Are Clogged

A woman tries to unclog a sink with a plunger.

If multiple drains in your home are experiencing backups, gurgling sounds, or long periods of standing water in a tub or sink, these are common warning signs of more significant issues such as a main sewer line root clog, broken or sagging lines, or a severe offset in an old connection in your sewer line.


Water Damage In The Home

Mold and moisture buildup on wall of a modern house

Water damage in the home, such as swelled or rising flooring and staining that appears to be creeping up the drywall, extending from the baseboards, is another sign of a sewer line issue.

Mold and mildew, as well as bacterial contamination, can result from seeping sewer lines. Leaking sewage can cause moisture to build up in your home, leading to structural damage, sags, rot, and fungal growth, over time.


Gurgling Or Bubbling Sounds From Pipes

Toilet filled up to the rim with brown water, stuck debris in a home toilet

Unusual sounds, such as gurgling or bubbling, coming from your pipes or gurgling toilet flushes could indicate that your sewer line needs attention.


Cracks Appear In Your Home’s Foundation

Cracked building foundation

Depending on your native soils or possible foundation back-fill materials, a damaged sewer line can compromise your home foundation.

Long-term drainage into your soil can cause your home's foundation to shift, sag or crack due to shifting soil and sewage infiltration.


Causes Of Sewer Line Damage

Corroded Pipes Or Couplings

corroded sewer pipe

Older sewer lines made from materials such as cast iron, concrete, or clay can corrode and crumble from erosion over time. This leads to leaks, soil contamination, and eventual failure.

Here is a brief list of the types of pipes that were used in the past but should be replaced if your home is still using them:


  • Clay: Used in the early 1900s up through the 1950s


  • Concrete: Used in the 1950s through the 1970s


  • ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene)--black in color.


Plastic/PVC (polyvinyl chloride)--white or green in color--is the industry standard today.

ABS was introduced before PVC and was commonly used to replace older pipes.

ABS is composed of plastic regrinds and resin. It was a lighter product, but it was also a brittle product subject to fatigue and failure. It is not as durable as engineers and designers thought. Many municipalities have banned it.

Today, modern construction relies on the standard dimension ratio (SDR) metric to ensure a pipe is strong and durable enough. Pipes with an SDR rating of 35 or 40 are typically used in new construction or for repairs.

The common, over-the-counter, terms for these PVC grades of piping are Schedule 35 or Schedule 40. There are glue-fitted pipes and gasket-fitted pipes.


Extreme Temperatures

Although uncommon, temperatures can affect the function of sewer lines.


Tree Roots

Tree roots that have infiltrated a sewer line

Tree roots are notorious for winding their way into the little cracks and crevices of sewer lines. Especially pipe joints. They plunder their way into and infiltrate sewer lines in search of water and “Super Nutrition.”

Roots create an almost Velcro-like tentacle maze that holds onto paper, fecal matter, and flushable wipes. Over time they create sophisticated little dams that cause some pretty substantial blockages and damage.

Blockages can be fully across the diameter of a pipe at joints and, in really bad cases, fill several yards of the interior of sewer lines with tight root-barrels that, like an arterial plaque blockage in a human heart, fill the entire space in the line.


Clogged Pipes Due to Debris and Foreign Objects

A pipe clogged with thick fats, oil and grease

Debris, such as grease, flushable towelettes, hair, some detergents, and foreign objects, can clog sewer lines, leading to backups and potential damage.


Methods For Sewer Line Replacement And Repair

Trenchless Sewer Repair

Trenchless sewer repair methods, such as CIPP (cured-in-place pipes) pipe-lining and HDPE (high-density polyethylene) pipe bursting, are becoming increasingly popular due to their minimal impact on your property.

These methods can often be done with minimal digging in your yard, driveway, or landscaping, making this unique method of sewer line replacement a very attractive option for many concerned homeowners.


Pipe Lining

Pipe lining is a trenchless method that involves inserting a flexible, resin-coated tube into the damaged pipe, creating a new pipe within the old one. This method is less invasive and often more cost-effective than traditional excavation. The exciting thing about this process is that it eliminates the need for joints over long expansive stretches of pipe.

Pipe lining is a less invasive method of repair, and because there is not any excavation equipment, your neighbors will hardly realize we’ve been there.

Homeowners experience peace of mind, knowing that joints will not be invaded by roots, rodents, and especially being susceptible to separation or offsets. A Win-Win result


Pipe Bursting

Another trenchless option, pipe bursting, involves pulling a new pipe through the old one while simultaneously breaking the damaged pipe apart.

This method is suitable for severely damaged pipes and can save time and money compared to traditional excavation.

Once again, homeowners like the peace of mind, knowing that joints will not be invaded by roots, rodents, and especially being susceptible to separation or offsets. A Win-Win-Win result!


Excavation For Sewer Line Replacement

Excavator digs deep pit to replace sewer line.

Traditional excavation involves digging up the damaged pipe and replacing it with a new one.

This method can be more disruptive but may be necessary in some cases when damage to the sewer pipe is extensive.

Excavation can also be used in combination with other sewer line repair methods when a trenchless option is not feasible.


Sewer Camera Inspection

Man using sewer inspection camera

A sewer camera inspection is a valuable tool for diagnosing sewer line problems.

By inserting a specialized camera into your sewer line, professionals can quickly identify the location and extent of damage, allowing them to determine the most appropriate repair method.

This can save time and money by avoiding unnecessary digging or guesswork.

Camera inspections with Dirt Cheap Sewer allow for the client to also view the screens to see for themselves exactly what is happening with the line--that’s exciting!


Sewer Line Replacement Costs

Sewer pipes exposed in a hole in the ground

Sewer line replacement costs can vary depending on factors like the length and depth of the line, the method of replacement, and your location.

On average, homeowners can expect to pay between $3,000 and $25,000 for sewer line replacement.

However, it's essential to get multiple quotes from reputable contractors to determine the most accurate cost for your specific situation.

Keep in mind that trenchless sewer repair methods may be less expensive than traditional excavation in some cases.


How Does A Sewer Line Work?

What Is A Sewer Line?

A sewer line is an underground pipe that transports wastewater from your home's plumbing system to the municipal sewer system or a septic tank.

Sewer lines use gravity to move the waste from your home to the main sewer line, which then carries it to a treatment plant.


How It Works

Skeletal image of a house sideways view showing a toilet drainage pipe of the toilet pipe connected all the way to the soil pipe outside the house top to the bottom of the house

Fresh water enters your home through the water main and is directed to various fixtures and appliances, such as faucets, dishwashers, washing machines, hot water heaters, and toilets.

Once you've used the water, it flows into your home's sewer line, which is responsible for handling both gray water – the water resulting from laundry or dishwashing – and black water--or sewage, which comes from your toilet.

These different types of wastewater are combined and exit your home through the home's sewer service lines, eventually reaching either the main municipal sewer system or a septic tank if your home is not connected to the main grid.

When your sewer line is functioning properly, you probably won't even notice it. Toilets flush without any issues, drains quickly clear liquids, and the water pressure remains consistent.

However, if there is any damage or blockage in your sewer line, you'll start to experience problems that can negatively impact your home's plumbing system.


How To Protect Your Sewer Lines

Annual Sewer Line Inspections

A working plumber opens a sewer hatch.

Regular inspections can help detect potential issues before they become major problems. A professional can assess your sewer line's condition and recommend necessary repairs or maintenance.


Tree Removal

Removing trees or planting them away from sewer lines can help prevent root intrusion, one of the leading causes of sewer line damage.


Correct Sewage System Use

Avoid flushing foreign objects or pouring grease down your drains, as these can cause clogs and damage to your sewer line over time.


Contact Dirt Cheap Sewer For All Your Sewer Line Needs

Understanding sewer line replacement is crucial for maintaining a healthy and efficient home plumbing system. By recognizing the warning signs and knowing the common causes of sewer line damage, you can take preventive measures to protect your investment.

For all your sewer line replacement and repair needs, you can trust Dirt Cheap Sewer to provide top-notch service and expertise!

We specialize in sewer line repair, trenchless sewer repair, and sewer camera inspections, ensuring that your home's plumbing system remains in optimal condition.

Fill out our contact form today, or give us a call to schedule an appointment with our experienced professionals.