An expert guide to sewer pipe replacement

November 14, 2014

If you're a homeowner with recurring sewer problems, every visit from the drain doctor hangs over you like the Sword of Damocles. You never know when he's going to say, "I'm sorry, but we've done all we can to maintain this broken, rusting pipe in a functional state. It's time to replace it."

Before you take the costly step of digging under your house to replace the sewer, make sure you've done all you can to keep the existing pipe alive.

An expert guide to sewer pipe replacement

Get visual confirmation

Never let anyone persuade you to spend $10K-plus without seeing indisputable evidence. Plumbers have a great sense of where things are going wrong and why, but you absolutely need to send a video camera down the drain to properly assess the state of the sewage outflow.

Hire a reputable plumber or a drain inspection service to examine the pipe from the inside. The video record will show you if pipes are rusted, broken, or have tree roots growing through them, and it also measures exactly how far the damage is from the central drain point. That's important to know because if the damaged pipe happens to be on the far side of your property line, fixing it might well be the responsibility of the municipal sewer system.

Consider your options

The old pipes might look like a mess in need of replacement, but there are some remedial techniques to consider first. Tree roots can be bored out mechanically, after which a rooticide is applied to limit future growth.

High-pressure water jetting is a similar cleaning technique where the focus is on removing grease and other soft forms of build-up. Another solution, albeit one that diminishes pipe capacity, is a procedure that involves cementing a liner pipe into sections where pipe segments are dislocated or outright rusted apart, in the case of steel pipe.

Get a second opinion

Even if your first inspector declares the pipe broken beyond repair, look around for a plumbing service that specializes in old sewer pipes. Some old pros are ingenious about finding clever solutions that don't involve digging under your foundation.

If worse comes to worse

Finally, you're ready to bite the bullet. By this point, you should know exactly where the entire sewer is located on your property. Can it all be easily dug up by a backhoe? Or is it, indeed, under your garage, outdoor deck or some beloved landscaping? Not only will that cost more, you may have to sacrifice perfectly good yard features.

Once you have a handle on what it will take, get at least three professional quotes for a full sewer replacement. Armed with those numbers, now ask yourself: Is the expense and disturbance justified when opposed to, say, a total pipe re-line? The age of the home and your plans for staying there will dictate your best course of action.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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