A white pipe with a cap sticks out from the ground

Fixing a Failed Sewer Repair

A customer in Baltimore County’s Stoneleigh neighborhood asked us to come out and help with his sewer problem. He was experiencing a total backup and could not use his plumbing without flooding his basement with sewage. Although he had had another plumber on-site to try to get his sewer working with drain cleaning, they had yet to be successful. This other plumber graciously recommended us for sewer line repair, and we came out to see what we could do.

Step 1: Investigatory Sewer Inspection

When we arrived, we could see from the age of our customer’s home that it had most likely been on septic at some point. The sewer line exited the rear of the building before looping around to the sewer connection at the front of the property, which is common in these types of situations. Since the sewer line left the rear of the home, it had a much longer run than usual. Thankfully there were accessible clean-outs at each turn of direction.   

Before we began digging, we used our sewer camera to help us develop a plan of attack for the sewer repair. Although the sewer line was clogged to the point where we couldn’t see anything with our camera, we could still trace how the sewer ran and found a spot we could not push past. Thankfully, this point was just beyond a stone retaining wall running through his property, and we could avoid disturbing his hardscaping.

Up top in his yard, we could see one more clean-out past this point about 20 feet away, right before the sewer exited the front of the property. Our customer had called Baltimore County to drain clean from this last clean-out right after the previous plumber had left, but they could only go a few feet before hitting a dead end. We decided to trench between these two points and expose the two known issues.

Step 2: The Sewer Excavation

As we went along, we discovered two distinct problems. First, there was some severe root intrusion at the first point our camera could not get past. Secondly, someone had incorrectly repaired a small portion of the sewer line at some point in the past. This failed repair consisted of a PVC reducer facing the wrong direction instead of the proper adapter to tie onto the terra-cotta piping at the municipal connection. By using the wrong fitting for this connection, the previous plumber created a choke point in the sewer line that caught sewage waste that built into a sewer backup and let serious root intrusion into the pipe.

The previous plumber’s incorrect installation of the adapter created a choke point in the sewer line
Here you can see the terracotta line leaking sewage

Step 3: The Sewer Repair

We were able to get our customer’s sewer line working again by replacing this older incorrect repair and removing the few other sections of root intrusion nearby. All in all, we connected everything and got our customer happily flushing away again by 1 pm. Although backfilling the open trench and cleanup took a few more hours, we still accomplished all the needed repair work within one day. If you have a sewer issue that you need help with, call us! We are here to help!

The repaired sewer line and added clean out for maintenance access in the future

Key Take-Aways

How long does a sewer repair take?

Most sewer repairs only take one day to complete, and this timeframe includes repairing the broken section of sewer piping and cleaning up the work area. In a worst-case scenario, some sewer repairs do take longer. However, in these situations, the line is fixed and usable again on the first day. Any remaining time is dedicated to clean up, property restoration, etc. Repairs often require less property disruption and destruction than a complete sewer replacement, so they typically take less time.    

Do I need to replace my entire sewer line if only one spot is bad?

In many cases with older sewer lines, spots with no problems remain that way for many years. Issues typically develop from original installation errors that slowly degrade over time. As such, if a portion of the original pipe does not have any problems after 50-60 or more years of service, it has many more decades of life left.  

Of course, all materials eventually degrade over time, even pipe. A complete sewer replacement for peace of mind can make sense if you plan on staying in your home for many years. However, if you plan on moving soon and there are no other obvious sewer issues beyond 1-2 problem spots, a repair is probably the better choice.  

Most homeowners would agree that replacing a whole roof wouldn’t make much sense if only 1-2 shingles need repair. The same goes for a sewer line. A sewer line consists of many feet of pipe and fittings, and 1 or 2 issues mean only some parts need replacement.      

Can a plumber tie onto older pipes in my sewer line for repair?

A qualified plumber can tie onto older piping during a repair. In fact, this is extremely common when dealing with older homes’ plumbing problems. After all, if there were no way to reuse portions of a plumbing system anytime a backup or leak popped up, plumbers would have to repipe entire houses!

The critical point is using the correct adapter fitting to connect to the older piping sections. There are many types of plumbing fittings for many different purposes. However, many of these fittings, although similar looking to the untrained eye, are for very different jobs and are not interchangeable. We see many failed repairs where an inexperienced installer used a fitting meant for an entirely different plumbing system, and their work failed rapidly. Only a trained and qualified plumber will know the proper connection to provide a solid and long-lasting repair.           

Why do older sewer repairs sometimes fail?

Older sewer repairs fail for the same reason that original sewer lines fail; installation errors and material defects. All plumbing will break at some point. Drain pipes have an especially tough job if you think about everything you’ve ever flushed down a toilet, washed off in a shower, or sent down a sink. Although plumbing will break eventually, using high-quality materials and trained workers give you the longest lifespan possible. Problems and failures will occur if you don’t.

Do you need a qualified plumber to help with your sewer problems? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us:

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