Do you think you might have a main line or sewer line leak? Okay, so you’ve had better days. I understand. And the only thing you want to know is: how much will it cost?
That’s a great question. And to be upfront, this is no $100 fix. The interesting thing about sewer and main line leaks is that there are a lot of places where the leak could be happening and the biggest part of the fix is the stuff that has to be torn up or replaced. For example, it’s a lot easier and cheaper to replace sod than it is to replace cement. So if the sewer line has broken under your cement patio as opposed to the dirt on the other side of the yard, it will be costlier. Hopefully that clarifies the reason why there is a spectrum of cost. And hopefully, the line has broken in a convenient place instead of your basement.
So the next issue to address is the location of the leak. We have stellar leak detection equipment that can spot the leak exactly where it is happening. Once we do a quick leak detection test, we can tell you the cost of the repair to fix the main line or sewer line since we’ll know what area of the house or yard this is happening.
But there are also some signs of main line or sewer line leaks or clogs that can tip you off. Here we’ll outline it for you so you can know if this is even a headache that you should be having.
Signs of a Main Line Leak
- Your water bill is unusually high. That water that should be getting into your house is just leaking into the soil or other structures. We’re all pretty familiar with how much our water bill costs and if that bill is climbing (and you’re not running the sprinklers all of a sudden), that can definitely be a sign.
- Your water pressure has decreased for some unknown reason. This could be due to the fact that a leak is in the water source feeding into your home. That means that the water pressure has decreased too since it is not building up in the pipes.
- Cracks in the pavement, either in your home or yard. Water that is leaking into the ground from your pipes can shift the soil or even cause expansion, and this will create cracking in the cement. So if you haven’t been hit with an earthquake lately and you’re wanting to know why your basement floor or sidewalk looks like you have, you may have a leak.
- The ground in your yard has water puddling in one area. This is one of the surest signs of a main line leak. It can even be so bad that you’ll see bubbling of water through soil or sod. I sincerely hope that it’s a leaking sprinkler line but if not, it’s a pretty sure guarantee of a main line leak.
- You can hear rumbling pipes in your house.
Signs of a Sewer Line Leak
- If you can see water or moisture in your yard or basement. This is especially a tip-off if the moisture smells like rotten eggs. What you have here is sewage escaping your pipes and as we all know, sewage doesn’t smell pretty.
- If you see a little mound forming in your yard (leaking sewage will create expansion in the soil). Gross, I know. But this is making the soil shift upwards.
- If your drains are gurgling and smell like rotten eggs, they may be struggling to empty out the waste due to sewage back-up. The reason why these odors are making their way back into your house is because they are sitting in the pipe with no way to escape.
- If you see spots of water forming on your carpet or on the cement—especially in the basement.
- If you notice that the drains in your home are taking a longer time to empty out the water. This could also indicate a block in the sewer line that is making it hard for the drains to let the waste through. A huge indicator is if all of the drains are backing up at once and none of them are letting waste through. This is especially a tip-off if the drains are in the basement.
Now, I know you’re face-palming right now—especially if you’re seeing the above signs and symptoms of a main line or sewer line backup or leak. Yes, you’re hating your life right now. But it will be ok.
There are some things you can expect when it comes to repairing either of these:
Expectation #1 – Digging or Trenchless Repair
Yes, there is likely going to be digging involved. There is such thing as trenchless sewer line repair and it can be either a cheaper or more expensive option and it all depends on the location of the leak. For example, remember how we talked about the sewer line breaking under cement? It may cost more to break up that cement and then repair it than it would to do trenchless repair. But if you’re just having to dig up sod, it would probably be a better idea to just do away with the trenchless idea because it would probably cost you more money.
Expectation #2 – Damage Assessment and Repair
If there is only a puncture or hole in the pipe (and hopefully there is), you may get away with just applying a gasket or repair clam after digging down to the pipe. This will seal off the leak and spare you money.
If there is a larger gash or crack in the pipe, part of the pipe will have to be cut out and replaced with repair couplings. Essentially, the portion of the pipe that is damaged is removed and replaced. Fittings are used to seal the new portion of the pipe with the rest of the old, undamaged pipe.
You might be asking yourself: Why is my sewer line leaking?
Here are some reasons:
- Erosion. If your house was built before 1974, it will usually have a sewer line made out of cast iron. This cast iron piping has fittings that can come undone over time with shifts in soil or the foundation and they can corrode over time as well. Houses older than 1974 can have more plumbing issues simply because of this cast iron and copper used as a means of plumbing piping.
- The long and short of it is this: the older the house, the more likely you are to having plumbing, sewer line and main line problems. Cast iron and copper piping were used more often back in the day and are most susceptible to erosion.
- Houses built after 1974 generally have PVC piping as the sewer line (and they’re usually used as other piping too in the plumbing structure). This thick plastic does not corrode like cast iron or copper piping and is less susceptible to damage and need of repair. But unfortunately, they’re not invincible. If there has been a lot of movement in the soil or foundation, even these PVC pipes can break. Another reason they can fail is due to tree roots.
- Tree roots are a common culprit when it comes to main line and sewer line issues. These roots will sometimes grow into the pipes and clog them up. Unfortunately, there are people out there who do not install main lines correctly and water will leak out of the joints of the piping. When that happens, the tree roots grow towards that leaking water and eventually find their way to the pipe and bam, you have a restriction in your main line. Tree roots are a real nuisance when it comes to main line problems. So if you have large, mature trees in your yard and are having main line issues, keep this in mind.
Okay, so now you know all of the annoying details about why your life is not fun right now because you’re experiencing a homeowner’s nightmare. Now, what do you do? Well, the first thing you must know is that you have to fix this issue. It can’t sit there because it will just get worse. We’re not saying this as a plumbing company that is trying to get business. We’re saying this as a plumbing company that sees people put it off as long as possible until they end up with a much bigger problem on their hands when their basement starts to fill up with sewage, or their yard floods with water.
Too often, we see people put this kind of repair off and they end up costing themselves a whole lot more in repairs because they didn’t want to address the issue when the warning signs were on the wall. And honestly, we feel bad for them because if they had just taken care of it earlier, things wouldn’t be as bad as they are. They wouldn’t be calling out a disaster cleanup team and wrestling with their insurance.
So, our advice is to bite the bullet and call a professional before things get really out of hand. There is only one way this water gets into and out of your house and that flow of liquid will only build up more. And if it can’t get through the pipes, it will go somewhere else inconvenient.
First, get someone with leak detection equipment out there. Any decent plumber will have this tool.
Second, after getting your answer about where the leak is, decide whether a traditional repair or trenchless repair is the best way to go. This goes back to our discussion about whether or not concrete and other expensive structures are in the way or if there is just sod or dirt that needs to be dug up.
Third, get it taken care of ASAP.
We wish you the best in this endeavor! It’s not fun but trust us, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We know this is a nightmare for homeowners and we work to help you out in the most affordable way possible.