Main Sewer Line: Do Your Homework Now to Prevent Problems Later

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Nothing lasts forever. On a long enough timeline, every plumbing pipe and fixture in your home will need to be replaced -- including one of your plumbing system’s primary arteries, the main sewer line leading from your home.

Buried underground, this is the line that connects your household plumbing to the municipal sewer system. You might not know its age, its length, its location or even the material from which the pipe is made, but this information may come in handy even if your sewer line has decades of service left in it.

From washing the dishes to flushing the toilet, it all depends on the main sewer line. When that line experiences a problem, it affects every plumbing fixture and appliance in your home. And should the line collapse or become damaged beyond repair, running water is off-limits until a repair can be completed -- usually a process taking several days.

Considering how disruptive and costly it can be to replace the main sewer line, it’s best to have as much lead time as possible before replacement becomes necessary. The smart way to stay on top of this is to schedule a camera inspection of your sewer line about once every two years. The greatest threats attack your sewer line very slowly, and the head-start offered by a camera inspection can put you in charge of the project timeline.

You might assume your sewer line is fairly well protected under all that dirt, but it faces threats from the outside and the inside. From the outside, the greatest threat is often tree roots. They creep toward the pipe over a matter of years, sometimes breaching it and causing leaks or collapse. And if anyone digs in your yard without knowing exactly where that line runs, it could be a shovel doing the damage.

From the inside, sediment buildup can effectively make the pipe smaller and smaller until the line is completely clogged. And rust can form on virtually any metal pipe material after decades of water flow.

If your sewer line is made from iron or clay, a plumber will recommend replacement. Iron lines are prone to rust and clay lines can crumble. Today’s new water lines are primarily PVC. If you have an active breach, time is of the essence. If your line is in fairly good shape overall, a repair may be preferable to replacement. But since either job can involve digging up the lawn, breaking up concrete and even cutting down trees, it’s often best to pursue total replacement if there’s a reasonable chance you’ll need to take that step within the next 10 to 20 years.

The best time to prepare for this job is when everything is working well. Call Benjamin Franklin Plumbing to help you locate every foot of your sewer line, assess its condition and verify the pipe material. With this homework done and biennial inspections, you’ll be ready for the worst when replacement time arrives.

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