Hands in gloves holding a visibly dented white SDR35 pipe

Fixing A Failed Older Sewer Replacement

A customer from Baltimore County’s Timonium neighborhood called us because he had an urgent sewer backup issue. Water had backed up out of his downstairs laundry area, flooding the lower level of his home, and he could not use any of his plumbing without causing further damage. He had had both another plumber and Baltimore County come out and try to open his sewer line from an exterior cleanout near the edge of his property. Both teams of technicians had failed, and excavation was his only remaining option to get his sewer line working again.

Our Initial Assessment of the Sewer

When we initially looked at the job, we saw that it would begin as a reasonably straightforward excavation around the cleanout at the edge of his property. The other plumber and the County could get at least that far with their equipment. But they could not get his pipe open and draining at the very edge of his property. An issue had obviously developed inside the line buried right at the inside edge of his front sidewalk. Although we were waiting on an emergency plumbing permit application, we got the go-ahead from Baltimore County to proceed with work so we could get this customer flushing again.

Exploratory Sewer Excavation

Neither of the previous teams onsite could get past the drop in the exterior cleanout, which was a few feet from the edge of the property. Because of this, we could only guess which direction the pipe was headed. Did the line continue on the angle it left the house? Did it turn at this cleanout and run directly towards the sewer main across the street? We decided to gently excavate on both sides of the cleanout to get to the bottom of the plumbing problem.

As we dug down, we had to dig through massive amounts of roots from several nearby trees. Although we were close to the drip edge of each tree, their roots had still sensed a sewer issue and had burrowed down to investigate over time. Eventually, we reached the sewer line and discovered that not only did it turn at that point to head across the street to the sewer main, but the main problem was crushed SDR35 drain pipe.

A section of crushed SDR35 plastic drain pipe

Root Intrusion and Inferior Piping Materials

Roots had gotten into the Plastic to Terra-cotta pipe transition right at the property edge. They were able to enter the pipe because the SDR35 plastic pipe had flattened, giving roots the space to enter. We were about 10 feet deep at this point, and although some manufacturers claim that this pipe is safe to install at this depth, we have found the opposite is true. The weight of the dirt on the pipe had flattened it to the point that wastewater had a hard time draining. Toilet paper and other debris sent down the drain was getting caught and causing a backup.

A Sewer Camera Inspection for More Information

After we removed the problem section of the pipe, we investigated both runs of the sewer line using our sewer camera equipment before we installed any new piping. We first examined the terra-cotta line under the street connected to the sewer main. Everything inside this pipe looked good, and we were okay to tie on at this point. Next, we examined the remaining SCH35 pipe coming from the house. We discovered a few more trouble spots nearby that looked crushed from rocks, and we would have to dig back to and address them. Beyond those spots, the sewer looked in good shape. The rest of the sewer was buried at a much shallower depth and did not have to withstand as much pressure as the deeper cleanout at the edge of the property.

A camera inspection revealed a section of crushed SDR35 drain pipe

The Improved Sewer Repair

After exposing the nearby sections of the problem pipe, we used the correct transition fitting to change from SCH35 to SCH40 and installed our repair with one new cleanout. We were able to investigate and install our new work by noontime, and our customer could again use all of the plumbing in his house. Over the next few hours, we backfilled the sewer and cleaned up our surrounding work area. We completed the project in under one day, even under emergency conditions. If you are experiencing a sewer emergency, we can help you out fast. Call us to discuss your sewer problem, and we will get you the help you need!

Our properly repaired section of sewer

Key Take-Aways

How long should a sewer replacement last?

A sewer replacement should give a homeowner many decades of happy flushing. However, the longevity of any home repair work comes down to the quality of the material used and the technical expertise provided during installation. Sewer replacement is not cheap, but it should also not be bank-breakingly expensive. You deserve good value for your money. If you receive a quote for sewer replacement, ask what material the plumber typically uses. Not all estimates provide the same level of quality. You most literally “will get what you pay for.”    

How deep are sewer lines usually?

Most sewer lines around the Baltimore area are buried somewhere between 3 to 14 feet deep. In a conventionally plumbed house, the sewer line needs to be deep enough to pick up the lowest plumbing fixture in your home. For instance, if you have a basement toilet, the sewer line must be below that point to work correctly. To get a rough idea of how deep your sewer line is, figure out how deep your basement is below the surface of the ground outside. Your sewer line is typically 1-2 feet deeper than that!    

Do all sewer repairs and replacements need to be permitted and inspected?

Yes! If your plumber is not going to get their work permitted and inspected, how can you know it is correct? True, not all forms of sewer repair need to inspection. Some types of sewer lining do not have to be permitted and thus don’t require an inspection. However, all traditional sewer repair and replacement methods require a permit and, therefore, an inspection.

It is sometimes tricky in emergencies to get a permit processed in time for work to proceed with all of the paperwork completed. Even in these situations, a qualified plumber will keep the local government’s plumbing department in the loop so they can stop by and check how work is going. Most local governmental permitting authorities allow permits to be applied for during, or sometimes even after, emergency work has been performed.        

How soon can you get to a sewer repair or replacement?

We purposefully keep one to two days open every week for emergency jobs. If you contact us as soon as possible, we can fix your sewer problem either the same week or early next week. Sometimes we can move jobs around to fit customers experiencing a plumbing emergency. If you are experiencing a complete backup, we will do our best to help you as soon as possible.

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