The Complete Guide to Replacing a Sewer Line From House to Street

By Emily Newton

The process of replacing a sewer line from start to finish is intricate. This does not go without purpose — each fitting and degree matters in preventing sewage backups.

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Conceptualizing every facet of the project, even if you don’t perform it yourself, will hold everyone accountable and ensure you can analyze if the job was completed satisfactorily. This will lead to a cleaner home and healthier landscape for your property.

1. Identify the Issue

Sometimes, it’s sufficient to repair a section of the sewer line instead of doing a whole replacement. If you see cracks or have issues with clogging, it may only be a small-scale job. Simply replacing a pipe or hydro jetting could suffice. Hydro jetting is great preventive maintenance, as even parks and recreation boards require it for regular plumbing maintenance.

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However, some other significant causes of pipe damage may require replacing a sewer line entirely, such as:

  • Invasive tree roots
  • Corroded piping
  • Freezing temperatures
  • Congested lines
  • Collected debris or foreign objects

These can vary in severity depending on how long the damage goes untreated. If you’re noticing sewage smells in your home or yard, it may be time to find the source of the issue. Other common signs are slow drainage or the presence of water damage. It’s essential to tackle the problem sooner rather than later. These issues can arise spontaneously or by gradual deterioration over time.

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For example, just because pipes are galvanized doesn’t mean buildup can’t form. Calcium and other minerals lead to leakage, allowing you to obtain greater insights into treating the piping and your water. Changes in seasons and soil movement can also cause incremental pressure on the pipes, destabilizing them.

2. Know the Demands

Hiring a professional to perform an inspection is helpful because they know the exact steps of replacing a sewer line per state and local regulations, which can vary depending on the area. If you’re doing the job yourself, you may need building permits from your local authorities.

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Replacing a sewer line yourself also requires physical demands. Though it could yield notable financial savings, ensure you can dig, adhere, level and replace the pipes. Take climate into consideration as well, since freezing temperatures could introduce different problems.

The most important demand is the financial one to cover the costs of repairs. Familiarize yourself with realistic expectations on the average costs depending on the source of the problem. This can help with creating a preventive maintenance plan in the future.

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3. Collect the Fittings and Tools

Tools like a level, PPE and adhesives are necessary alongside the fittings based on the measurements. Depending on tree roots or rock, you may also need a chainsaw or sledgehammer. You must know area’s regulations to properly place tees, reducers and outlets so they pass inspections.

Proper safety training or knowledge of these tools is vital, as accidentally ruining pipelines could exacerbate the issue. When collecting these devices, you may want to consider recycled construction materials to decrease the waste caused by replacements.

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4. Dig the Trench

You’ll need to locate the utility lines. Calling 811, the national call-before-you-dig phone line, can help you discover what’s below in a safe way.

There are two methods of attack when replacing a sewer line. First, you can dig a trench around the pipe, leaving adequate room to work. Depending on the severity of the damage, you may opt for a shovel or hire professionals to do more extensive digging on your land. Heavy-duty equipment may be necessary for excavation based on soil makeup and what else may be in the earth, like concrete or clay.

Alternatively, trenchless sewer line repairs use a camera to scope what’s needed. This prevents you from wasting time digging while taking advantage of modern technology with potentially greater knowledge.

5. Perform Pipe Lining or Pipe Bursting

Pipe lining or bursting is used to repair damage after creating access to the pipes. Pipe lining — or cured-in-place piping (CIPP) — can assist with minor wear. An inflatable tube with epoxy is blown up inside the damaged line. Over time, it will cure and harden.

There is also pipe bursting, a technique for when pipe lining won’t suffice. A cone-shaped bit will tear the damaged pipe from the ground. This is more labor-intensive, time-consuming and damaging to the land. However, it still is less intense than traditional sewer line replacement.

Extensive damage will require invasive digging to expose damaged lines. You may need to resort to this method if a pipe is fully collapsed or back-pitched. This is why preventive maintenance is crucial, so destructive methods like this don’t need to be employed.

6. Protect Your Sewer Line

The most efficient way to maintain your sewer lines is by having yearly inspections. This could save thousands of dollars in the long run by discovering smaller problems that are cheaper to fix over time instead of performing a massive overhaul.

These inspections can help identify trees that may be overgrowing or areas where cracks could form based on corrosion or soil pressure.

Practicing proper sewage hygiene in the home is also critical, such as not flushing any inappropriate materials down drains. Laziness often causes blockages and leads to colossal issues — and it is one of the most preventable. It’s easy to consult with others living in the home to keep drains free of clutter.

You can also look into what your homeowner’s insurance will cover. Most policies only protect your sewage lines if the damage is someone else’s fault. However, there may be additional coverage for septic systems that are separate or add-ons to existing homeowners’ insurance.

Replacing a Sewer Line

This is how you can take action on the issues in your sewage line, from house to street. New developments in the industry, such as robotics, are continuing to revolutionize replacing sewer lines, so it’s easier, less damaging and faster to perform.

When in doubt, reach out for guidance, whether for consultations or hiring contractors to execute the replacement. This knowledge for continued care and observation is the best way to spend less on sewage repairs.

Emily Newton is a construction and industrial journalist. She is also the Editor-in-Chief for Revolutionized Magazine. Keep up with Emily by following her by subscribing to Revolutionized’s Newsletter.